Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Spouse Points!

So my husband and I have devised a system in order to 'get our way' more often. 

Tell me more!
It started out as a joke, because I would let Andy sleep in and then ask "so how many Good Wife Points did I earn for that? Do I get a dew?"  But the more I joked about earning Wife Points, the more I thought it was brilliant and should be implemented in every marriage.  Obviously Wife Points morphed into Spouse Points, because the husband should be able to earn and spend them as well.

It's kind of a delicate system though.  It loses a lot of it's value if either party starts doing things only to earn spouse points.  You have to WANT to let your husband sleep in, or it's a pointless point-earner.  It's not about who's being the better partner, it's about making it a point to do something nice for your partner that THEY appreciate.

I read a book called The Five Love Languages.  It's pretty popular, and just about everyone I know has read it, so I'm not even gonna go into details.  If you live under a rock and somehow haven't heard about and read this book, here are some links:

The Website
Take The Test
Buy The Book

Spouse Points kind of goes along with the idea of two partners having mismatched Love Languages.  Sometimes we need to go out of our way to speak our partner's Love Language, and Spouse Points is a fun and amusing way to do it.  At least for us, anyways.

How it Works
Each Partner makes their own lists.  Things they don't particularly ENJOY doing, but things they don't MIND doing on occasion make up the ways to earn points, and things they want their partner to do are the rewards.  I think it goes without saying that neither spouse is allowed to pick a reward that negatively effects or makes the other spouse unhappy.  If you need to be told to be considerate to your spouse, you need way more than Spouse Points can ever do for you.  I recommend therapy as a first step.

Here's As Example
Ways for Andy to Earn Points
** Let me sleep in in the mornings, or let me take a nap in the afternoon
** Skip a raid in World of Warcraft
** Watch some lame show on TV that I like but makes Andy want to poke out his eyeballs

Rewards Andy Will Earn
** I'll run a WoW raid with him
** I will get up with the kids at night
** I won't buy soda for a week

The points earned and the cost of rewards are totally up to you and your partner.  If you want each task to be one point, and a reward to be worth 5, that's fine.  Or each task can be worth 10-30, and a reward worth 100-500.  That really doesn't matter, and it's just whatever you want to do.

Why Points Don't Really Matter
Remember the show Who's Line is it Anyway?

"Welcome to Whose Line is it Anyway, the show where everything is made up and the points don't matter!"  Yeah, it's exactly like that.

The purpose of the whole system is to ensure that you are doing things your spouse appreciates - things that have personal meaning; things that matter to them, and to you.  It's about making gestures towards making your spouse happy, in ways that may be unnatural to you.  My husband doesn't naturally want to sit on the couch and watch The Secret Life of the American Teenager (let's face it, it's an awful show, but I love it), but I love watching TV with him, so it's important to me.  Am I making sense?

But the system also requires you and your partner to REMEMBER these gestures, even when you're mad.  Cute elephant picture, huh? I don't recommend ever calling your partner an elephant, though.

It's super easy to remember the time that your husband didn't dry the floor after he mopped it, and you slipped and cracked your knee cap (trust me, I know).  But when you're angry about your busted knee, it's easy to forget that he mopped the floor because YOUR dog, the one he didn't want but let YOU rescue, had peed on the floor.

When you're mad that your husband hasn't done the dishes in a week, it's easy to exaggerate your claim and scream "you never do anything to help me around here!" because you're super pissed off about the dishes.  You've forgotten that he did the dishes three times last week, and that he took care of the kids and straightened up the living room while you took a nap.

This is why the point amounts don't really matter.  It's just a way to remember what your partner did for you last week, when all you see is red over something they DIDN'T do this week.

Don't Misuse It
This seems so obvious, and I shouldn't need to tell you this!  Like I said earlier, it's not about being the better spouse, and it's not about condescendingly reminding your spouse of how you earned points.  It's about showing love, and remembering ways that love has been shown towards you.  It's not about developing love and respect - you already need to love and respect your partner for Spouse Points to be even remotely useful.  If you're lacking either of these two qualities in your marriage, then you need to look way deeper than this mostly-joke of a system.  Fo' real.

How It Works For Us
Slightly more personal example goes here.  I'm sure lots of people think this system is totally lame and unnecessary, because doing things for your spouse is pretty much a given.  But as it turns out, we're back to those darn Love Languages.  Because sure - doing something for your spouse is a given.  The problem comes when the things you THINK they love aren't, in fact, the things they love.

After a day of scrubbing your floors, doing all the laundry, cleaning every inch of your house, you not only feel accomplished but you feel like you did something amazing for your husband.  You would LOVE to come home to a spotless house that smells like an Early Morning Breeze candle, especially if you weren't the one to clean it.  Your husband gets home, and doesn't make a single comment about how amazingly wonderful the house looks and smells.  Your feelings are hurt, you feel under appreciated, and maybe taken advantage of.  He didn't notice all this work you did for him? WTF, right?  Well, it's not that he didn't appreciate a clean house, it's that he wanted a hug and a kiss when he walked in the door, rather than a tour.  The book I mentioned earlier explains this a lot better and in a lot more detail, but hopefully you understand the way I say it.  If not, click one or all of the links above and find out for yourself.

By each spouse making a list of the things they WANT you to do, in the form of what is essentially a game, they get to tell each other how to demonstrate love without coming off as demanding, superior, unappreciative, or picky.  When my husband told me that playing a video game with him was as important to him as mopping the floor six times in a row is to me, it was a real eye opener.  Even if we stopped there, and never counted points at all, the lists themselves are pretty valuable.

Assigning point values to the rewards is how we demonstrate which activities have a higher importance.  A reward worth 100 points is like a small favor (since most point earners are 10-20 points), but something worth 500, or even 1000 points would be a much larger sacrifice on the part of the rewarder.  We discuss each reward's point value, and come to a consensus based on both importance and level of sacrifice.  Again, if we just stopped the game here and didn't keep going, we're already way past where we were when we started.  We now know how important each display of affection is to our partner, and we now understand how our partner feels about the things that are important to us.

Honestly, we could stop here, and just call it a conversation or an "exercise," but my husband and I just don't work like that.  We're analytical people.  We need numbers, we need charts, we need organization.  This is just another way to have an open, honest conversation with your partner.  Communicating needs is obviously important to a marriage, but a lot of people have trouble with it.  Now it's a game, and that makes it easier.  At least for me, and for us.

And that's pretty much Spouse Points.  It's not a set game - there are actually going to be a lot of "House Rules" that go into it.  It's adaptable, and for a lot of people I'm sure it's completely unnecessary, and you're thinking it's ridiculous that we need this "system" in order to know what our partner wants.  But whatever. =)  So, utilize the system, or think I'm ridiculous, that's totally up to you!

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