Are You Too Competitive in Your Relationship?

Many Diethics.com readers have a healthy sense of competitiveness. It’s what helps you succeed with your weight loss goals or in competitive sports or even at work. Unfortunately when that competitive drive is turned on your romantic relationship, the results can be disastrous. How should competitors channel their drives in ways that enhance, instead of harm, their romantic relationships?


competitivity in relationship

People draw much of their self-esteem from achieving goals that are important to their identity. The easiest situation for couples occurs when partners share broad interests such as a healthy lifestyle, but differ in their specific endeavors. For example, one partner might be interested with succeeding in marathons and the other partner wants to compete in tennis tournaments. In this case, your partners success boosts your self-esteem, something social psychologists call basking in the reflected glory of others.

I always cringe a little bit when I see people take on new interests that put them in direct competition with their partners. Sometimes sharing similar interests is unavoidable, but keeping some interests separate allows couples to avoid awkward competition and sets up opportunities to bask in their glorious achievements. So where do you fall on the competition spectrum? If you do any of these five things, you may be a bit too competitive:

  1. You actively hope your partner doesn’t succeed (and are kind of happy when he or she fails)
  2. You feel angry at him or her after a victory
  3. You question your own talents and value if he or she outperforms you at something you do well
  4. You see him or her as someone to beat, not a teammate
  5. You find yourself thinking of ways to beat him or her – even at menial tasks

Any of these sound familiar? When partners value success in the same domain, whether it’s in sports, career, or social life, even the most secure partners can feel a brief twinge of insecurity or competitiveness when the other succeeds in the same area. There is extensive research about how to cope with these situations, but it all boils down to keeping your eye on the big picture – the life you’re building with your significant other – instead of being dragged into the kind of ugly criticism or belittling that can happen to many couples in the face of competing successes.

In this big picture, finding the strength to be a humble winner or a gracious loser, is never more important than when your competitor happens to be the person you love.

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