Why Keep Score? A Quick Way to Find Out Who Is Important in Your Life

At three in the morning, I was awake thinking – again. I was remembering how my ex kept score of everything. If he did someone a favour, he’d put that in his books and later he’d call it in and say, “He owes me one.” He kept score of everything – unbeknownst to me, even in our relationship. When the balance tipped too far, he left.

“Well. At least I don’t keep score,” I thought.

But then I realized – I do keep score.

My scoring system is simple. Everyone is either a 0 or a 1. People I show my “real” self to, I consider 1’s. People in the 0 camp, I am polite to but not close to. I keep my opinions to myself as much as I can and will steer conversations away to “safe” subjects like the weather.

I want to be clear – I don’t consider the 0’s less than the 1’s in any other way. In fact, just because they are a 0 to me, doesn’t make them a 0 everywhere. To their intimates, they are 1’s.

The problem for me was that I treated everyone as a 1 in my life for the longest time. I put expectations on our relationship that wasn’t fair – to either of us.

I think that’s what has been so hard about my divorce.

I had a whole extended family of 1’s who became 0’s overnight. Hundreds, actually, when you include close couple friends. I had only a smattering of 1’s left to talk to about how I was feeling. To all the former 1’s who would ask me how I was doing, I would chipperly chime, “Fine.” What else could I say? That their brother / friend had hurt me so deeply that I could barely function and was near hysteria at every moment? No. They went firmly into the 0 column, where it is comfortable for mere acquaintances to visit.

It takes a toll, hanging around 0’s. The inability to express my feelings wears on me so that I become physically exhausted from the effort of hiding them. I distance myself. Often without realizing I’m doing it. Sometimes more gracefully than others. Yeah, I’ve botched up more than a few “exits.”

Finding Out How Important You Really Are to Co-workers

Losing my job turned a slew of former 1’s into 0’s in the blink of an eye. People I spoke to every day, who knew me, became strangers overnight. Man, that is so tough for me to deal with. I find myself, usually at 3AM, saying, “How could they do that to me?”

The answer is this: I am now a 0 to them. No longer a person they share anything meaningful with. Sometimes I wonder if there isn’t a certain fear that what happened to me, could happen to them. I have become a kind of cautionary tale. I get it – I really do. Especially when I remember former co-workers and the guilt I felt when they were offed. Did I reach out? Only politely and not very often, I am ashamed to admit. When I asked how they were doing, they said, “Fine.” Of course. That’s all I wanted to hear.

0 People Sap Your Energy and Time

This score keeping system helps explain a weird thing that kept happening in my life when I was in my 20s and 30s. I met a bunch of new friends and put them in the 1 column but the relationships ended up one sided and unbalanced. They unburdened themselves to me and constantly relied on my help but if I needed them, they disappeared. I had to force myself to return their calls.

Slowly, I’d inch them over into the 0 column and avoid their phone calls entirely. This was before texting. Much of this was before call display so many times I ended up on long, long calls, sympathizing with someone who had no intention of letting me get a word in edgewise, who wanted no advice, and who was a master of turning the conversation back to themselves and their own worries. Sometimes they guilted me into doing outrageous favours for them and I would end up feeling resentful. (A piece of advice I love: “If a refusal saddles you with guilt, while consent leaves resentment in its wake, opt for the guilt. Resentment is soul suicide.” ~Gabor Maté, MD)

Am I Just a Rotten Person?

I chastised myself. I must be a terrible person if I can’t even be bothered to listen to these “friends” and have trouble picking up the phone when their name comes up on my call display. Yet, I happily picked up if others called and found that I was energized after speaking with them.

Texting has really enabled my ability to keep the 0’s at a distance. I am much wiser now and realize what a good friendship entails – that subtle give and take that allows me to feel “heard”, even if my friend does not share my viewpoint. Now that’s a 1 in my life!

BC – Before Covid

BC – Before Covid – I had many people in my life that I thought were 1’s. These people were acquaintances who I could call up to go on walks with or to the movies or a concert. Mostly, we talked about silly, mundane things like upcoming vacations or cool new coffee shops we visited, etc. As the government began encouraging people to shame and blame those who chose to remain vaccine free, I found myself in a minority position and became defensive.

How can I talk about a vacation when I am not certain I’ll ever be allowed on a plane? After the walk, I could not even go with them into the pub for a beer. My isolation from society was unfathomable to them – why didn’t I just capitulate? (My reasons are here and here.) This began another max exodus of 1’s from my life. Most of these people were on my Facebook “friend” list. Here is the post on my decision to leave Facebook.

Losing Friends and Influencing No One

Sadly, with this whole divisive vaccination issue, I’ve had to zero out other closer friends, too. It is just not safe enough for us to talk about – yet. I feel the tide turning and have noticed that on a walk, they will broach the subject. Actually, they have been inviting me on more walks, too. I hope they have realized that my views and opinions do not threaten theirs – I have never insisted that anyone share my own views. That’s not something I demand of anyone.

I am passionate in my views, though. Perhaps that is too much for most people to deal with. Especially when their own views are not so passionate and have been co-opted from some other source. A source, I undiplomatically point out, with a fiduciary interest and not their own at heart. That is a dangerous (if not downright foolish) thing to do, in my opinion, to rely on a government, the mainstream media, or Facebook for your own views. Like I said, I am a bit of a handful for friends. Or anyone else, really.

I guess it’s no wonder that I have maybe six or seven true 1’s in my life, total. And that includes my two kids, thank goodness! Not my parents, though. I have rarely asked my parents for emotional support and they have never wanted to know what I really think. Maybe I need a whole new number for my parents – who are important to me but who I simply cannot be honest with. The feeling is mutual.

From 0 to 1 in Seconds!

Happily, there have been times in my life when someone in the 0 group has reached out to me and been honest. A connection is made and I’ve gotten to know someone better – and vice versa. They become a 1 in my life and I am delighted when I feel I can share some of my thoughts and feelings on issues that are controversial.

That happened with my next door neighbour, Dale. I knew he and his wife were religious and my views on religion are not exactly mainstream so I kept them in the friendly 0 column.

I attended a protest and saw Dale there. We exchanged pleasantries but it wasn’t until later, when Dale confided in me over the fence, that we began an honest relationship. His wife was terrified to open her emails every morning for fear that she’d be fired over her decision to remain unvaccinated. I could readily sympathize, having received one of those emails myself.

We had something in common and immediately could share views and opinions that we had never dared to say openly to other neighbours. Well, it turns out Dale knew another neighbour who ran a home-based massage therapy business up the street who didn’t support mandatory vaccination and I’d recently met another on the corner who was fighting for a freer government, also vaccine free, out on my daily walk.

Having a couple 1’s next door is comforting. I know they understand my feelings of isolation and worry. What draconian measures will be coming next?

Why Keep Score?

Keeping score like this keeps me from the pain of being hurt by someone I thought was a friend or trusted co-worker. It also helps me to avoid hurting others that I don’t know well. I can maintain my balance more easily when I know where the person fits into my life. It is a shortcut that helps me to see who is truly important in my life. This way I don’t expect too much from others and don’t feel guilty for not providing support to those I’m not particularly close to.

Even in personal relationships, I can see where I have pulled someone back from the 1 side over to the 0 side and stopped sharing my true feelings and thoughts. I remember a friend once telling me that she was going to march over to her ex’s place and tell him exactly how he was making her feel. I was mortified and said so. “He doesn’t care what you think anymore and besides, he no longer deserves to know how you feel!” He lost that right when he went into the 0 column.

Of course, she is now in a committed relationship with plans of moving in together and the whole nine yards.

I am not.

But for me, there is no choice. Keeping score is my emotional safety net.


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