Marriage as a Competitive Sport

By Dustin | Communication

Marriage and CompetitionEditor’s Note: This is a guest post by Susan Mallery.  I’m excited to help Susan kick-off a guest writing tour on a series of relationship and marriage sites in support of her latest novel (details below).

Susan is a best-selling romance/fiction writer and a strong supporter of marriage and our efforts here at Engaged Marriage.  Please welcome her and her fans to our community!

Everyone’s gone to dinner with a couple who just don’t seem to like each other.

As you fidget uncomfortably, Mr. Mean complains that his wife washed a red sweater with the whites, then he flashes his pink socks. Mrs. Mean snaps back that if he worked harder, they could afford new socks. They pretend the character slams are all in good fun, but you can hear the vein of bitterness beneath their words.

Worse, you can feel that bitter energy in the room. Spend time with Mr. and Mrs. Mean, and your soul shrivels a little more with every minute.

What Happened to This Couple?

The Means didn’t start out that way. Like most couples, they were giddily in love on their wedding day. So where did they go wrong?

Somewhere along the way, marriage became a competitive sport for this couple. He forgets her birthday, so she “forgets” his on purpose to teach him a lesson. He makes dinner, then figures it’s her job to do the dishes alone, even though he knows she had a tough day at work. She fails to fill up the car, so he deliberately leaves the toilet seat up, which he knows drives her crazy… and then she withholds sex.

They each focus on what their partner is not doing or not giving to them, and they try to balance the scales through retribution or neglect. Couples get into a downward spiral by deducting a point for every slight, intentional or accidental.

Then begins the name calling or a more subtle form of undercutting, such as making the other look foolish in front of their friends. One dig here, another there, and eventually all that acid causes love to erode away.

Let the Games Begin!

Looking at marriage as a competition is not the problem; the problem is the method of keeping score. We need to apply new math. Take the “subtract” key off the calculator, and marriage becomes a fun, positive game of one-upsmanship.

Here’s how the score keeping works:

  • Undesirable behaviors: 0 points

He folded the towels wrong, even though she’s taught him the “right” way several times. Under the old rules of score keeping, she would chastise him. Under the new rules, this is not a big deal. Zero points. She can refold the towels if it’s important to her, or she can start folding towels his way. It’s not worth wasting any negative energy on such trivial matters. Remember, no subtracting!

  • Desirable behaviors: 1 point

Each partner should be on the lookout at all times for opportunities to award and reward – award points, and reward the effort to earn those points. The reward can be as simple as a warm smile or a kiss on the cheek, or as elaborate as one wants to make it. The point is to notice the good things your spouse does for you, and then try to top them. It couldn’t be simpler. Try to do more for your spouse than your spouse does for you.

In other words, try to ignore everything you don’t like and focus on everything you do like about the wonderful person you married. When you stop deducting points for perceived wrongs, everybody wins the Marriage Game!

Please read Susan’s opening comment below and join in the conversation!

Photo by no lurvin here.


Susan MallerySusan Mallery knows a thing or two about love that lasts forever. As the New York Times bestselling author of funny, sexy romance and women’s fiction novels, Susan believes that happy endings are possible for couples who treat each other with love and respect, and who approach life with a sense of humor. Visit Susan online at

Her latest book, Chasing Perfect, is the first book of her new series of Fool’s Gold romances. Fool’s Gold is a charming California wine country town. The town has everything – breathtaking scenery, tree-lined streets, world-class resorts, friendly neighbors… Everything, that is, except enough men. Fool’s Gold is suffering from a man shortage, and no one knows why. Go to to read a free excerpt, meet the people, send an e-postcard, and download some fabulous freebies such as a puppet knitting pattern and a cookbook filled with delicious family recipes.


About the Author

Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.

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