Sometimes competition can be a good thing, because it motivates us to do better and allows us to have fun. For example, you might compete with your partner if you go bowling for your date night, as long as you know that the outcome doesn’t truly make one of you better than the other. But if you start to think too much about gaining a competitive edge, you may be undermining your relationship.
This is especially true when competition extends to other areas of your life. Competing over who makes more money, is a better parent, or makes the better dinner party guest when your friends invite you over is never smart because when you’re in competition, you’re not treating your partner as an equal and you may even say or do something to undermine them.
So how do you avoid making everything into a contest if you’re a naturally competitive person? Here are a few ideas.
Tips to Keep Damaging Competitions Out of Your Love Life
Look for activities that put you on the same team. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean being on the same team when you play another couple at Pictionary or when you go down to your local bar for trivia night. Find new activities you can try together, such as taking a cooking class or going to yoga. Look for activities where you can help each other, rather than trying to one-up each other.
Think about—and discuss—why you compete. There are many reasons why you might feel the need to compete with your partner. Maybe you feel like you need to prove you’re “good enough” for them, or that they have had more recent successes than you. Once you identify the source of your desire for competition, talk to your partner about the issue and work together to come up with a resolution that doesn’t involve a head-to-head battle.
Reaffirm what you like about your partner. If you’re feeling competitive because you feel that your partner is better at you than something, learn to think of your partner’s skill as a good quality rather than a threat. Let your partner know that you appreciate these things about them—you’ll most likely find that they think you have a lot of admirable skills too.
Look for healthy outlets for competition. Maybe you’re really into game night, or you were a varsity athlete in college and always want to keep pushing yourself. You don’t have to give up competition entirely, just keep it out of your relationship. Look for ways you can compete against yourself—such as striving to run a faster 5K time than you did last year.
If competition has already started taking a toll on your relationship, it may be time to consider talking to a Houston relationship counselor. I would be glad to work with you and your partner and to help you set goals (rather than competitive benchmarks) that you can work together to achieve.