Keeping Score

Apr 21, 2009

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…”

This is the familiar first line of an Elizabeth Barrett Browning masterpiece. If you haven’t read the poem she wrote for her Robert, please do. It’s brief, but beautiful. Full of the passion and innocence of new love.

As I’m reading poetry today, I’m wondering this: Why can’t old love stay a little more like new love? I hear people say stuff like “love changes”, “love matures”, “love is a choice, not a feeling.”

I may be idealistic, but that sounds like a cop out. I understand love changes over time and there are times when you choose to love even when it isn’t easy or fun. Um … I’ve had some experience with that. Still, I believe love can–and should–have feelings, be full of passion, and be wildly fun. No, maybe not every moment of every day, but it could be more often than it is.

So, back to poetry … After reading Barrett Browning again, I wonder if old love’s juice is lacking because we stopped “counting the ways?” When relationship gets tough, the first response is to start keeping score. Our successes verses the other guys failures.

Years ago I used to keep a list of the things I loved about my love in my wallet. Tucked behind pics, I kept the list folded and stashed in an easy-to-get-to place. Whenever loving grew tough, I yanked that baby out. Even if hurt or frustrated, I tried to remember the ways and reasons I loved. Again, and again, and again. Until the issue blinding me started to fade in light of the goodness underneath.

Now I wonder when and why I stopped doing that.

Whether in friendship or romance (and the two are not all that different), we’re all good at keeping score. But the wrong kind of score. And keeping the right kind of score might mean the difference between a ho-hum relationship and one that reads like poetry.


  1. Deana OHara

    Excellent thoughts Michele – a friend/mentor taught me that years ago. It’s easy to forget to do those things and I do wind up keeping the wrong kind of score and letting that build bigger than the good feelings.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Ashleigh

    I wonder how much longer relationships would last if we loved without counting each others faults- I know that keeping score has ended many of my relationships- because it brings in a sense of pride, the I’m better than you factor- which is most definitely not included in God’s definition of love. Crazy how much that can destroy love for one another- and in my experience it hit’s the most important relationships. Great Post Friend!

  3. Susan

    You have given a new insight to the phrase of the immortal love poem – let me count the ways. It’s about keeping the right kind of score. As St. Paul said in I Corithinians 13 – “Love … keeps no record of wrongs.” (NIV)

  4. Michele

    “…keeps no record of wrongs.” Perfect addition to this post. Thanks, Susan.

    I wonder why it seems so much easier to keep a record of the wrongs than the rights? One seems to come natural while the other requires intentionality.

  5. mandythompson

    These thoughts and questions are my own, Michelle.

    I’ve been married 6 years, which isn’t long for most… But it’s long enough to settle into a familiar everyday kind of love. A comfortable kind of love. A “how was your day” kind of love. We don’t have kids to distract us or glue us together, all we have is this everyday love.

    I can grow dizzy by the counts of who-wronged-who. Likewise, I get over the moments of frustration by recounting the reasons why I love him so much. It’s the good kind of counting. It’s the kind of counting that makes a marriage count…

    We may not stay up until 3 in the morning anymore, lost in each other’s eyes… We may no longer rehearse the positive “count” of things that brought our heart to crazy love. But we know what the other is thinking before a word is spoken. We know the depth of shared heartache and the rise of shared joy.

    When I start up the count again, and consider those points up there… They count BIG towards my hope for 6 more years, and 6 after that, and 6 after that.

    I hope to count the years for a long long time.

  6. Michele

    So beautiful, Mandy. Your words inspire me. I don’t think it necessarily matters so much how long we’re married. Six years or sixty … I’ve seen the old and the young squandering their love, and I’ve seen the old and young savoring it. It can happen either way, at any time, depending on what kind of score we’re keeping.

    Thanks for investing so much in your man and your marriage. I can hear your love in your voice. And it’s beautiful.


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