Relationship Issues: Is Your Relationship A Competition?

Relationships with partners are often competitions in disguise. Don’t want that? Here’s a little relationship advice,

When you really step back and look at them–perhaps, with a little relationship help–the main event in a relationship is the constant battle for supremacy, control, and maybe, even a little domination. Not healthy. It doesn’t feel good, but couples do it all the same.

Competition. It’s got the not-so-good, not-so-loving trifecta. It’s:

  • tension-producing
  • fear-inducing
  • trust-reducing

What’s attractive about that?  It’s destructive and exhausting. Yet, it persists.

How do you stop competing in a relationship you say is based on loving each other? It requires a good deal of self-reflection!

When couples come to work with me, I can almost see the bubbles over their heads. Each bubble says, “If my partner would just see the errors of his/her ways, and change, we would be great.”  Unfortunately, although that may seem amusing for a moment, it’s the way it often is.

You want the issues to be because of the other person’s failings, flaws, and frustrations. Why? Because you don’t want to think that you are part of both the issue and the solution! It is highly likely that both of you have some changes to make.

Here’s the good news and the bad news: Change starts with you, not with your partner, if you want to put an end to the destructive competition in your relationship. 

Take some quiet time. Sit down and ask yourself these essential questions:

  • Is there a way that I am inviting competition in my relationship by my words, my actions, my demeanor, or my stance in life, and in my relationship particularly?
  • Do I turn everything into a debate?
  • Is my first inclination to find fault, rather than see the good?
  • When I’m really honest with myself, do I have a big need to be right?
  • Am I only happy when I am winning?
  • Am I on guard and look for ways to prove my partner is wrong?
  • Do I have a glass half full or half empty outlook?
  • How much of the time am I focused on what I appreciate and love about my partner? Is that enough?
  • Do I have my back up and something to prove that keeps me concerned, vigilant, and on edge?

Sit with that list. Come back and re-visit it. Let these possibilities sink in completely. You’re doing this to get better acquainted with yourself so that you can bring those insights to improving your part in your relationship.  It can help you release the need for competition.

Now, what if you read that list and your immediate thought is “That describes my partner perfectly!”

That’s a good moment to look at yourself clearly and ask:

  • Am I fueling it?
  • Am I matching it?
  • Am I enjoying it?
  • Am I wanting to run from it?

We were shaped. We come by our traits, behaviors, and patterns from the people who raised us, and others who influenced us, usually before we were twenty years old.  That’s why we begin by looking at the various cookie cutters we met in life that left us in the shape we’re in. No, not through deep psychoanalysis, but by having an insight or two that can help us realize we can choose to do life differently.

We do not have to stay in the shape we were stamped with. It doesn’t have to be what we were “cut out” for any longer. We can change, grow, and transform.

If you only focus on your partner’s shortcomings, nothing will change. You’ll defer the blame, but it doesn’t stop the pain. Only looking within makes that difference.

If your relationship is a courtroom, boxing ring, or jousting tournament, you’ll never be happy. Where there is a focus on winning or losing, you cannot find love, safety, honesty or respect, and those are the cornerstones of a healthy relationship.

What does competition and “one up(wo)manship” do? 

  • It is destined to leave you single, lonely, or at least, with a lack of the intimacy you likely crave.
  • People will shy away from you because they feel unsafe with you.
  • Constant debate leaves you exhausted, worn down, and wounded.
  • The need to be right means that no one around you can also be right, and that is a losing strategy.
  • The need for control leaves others wanting to cut the strings and stay far away from the puppeteer you want to be.

If your relationship is a competition, you two need to be discussing, understanding, setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. Otherwise, no one will be happy–especially in the long run.  The self-reflection required to set and establish your personal boundaries is imperative. There is no quick fix or easy solution to that.

For now, be aware. Is your relationship a competition? If so, is it what you want? If the answer is no, get the relationship help and relationship advice you need to put an end to the tournament. You are best to get some professional relationship advice, because it’s almost impossible to put an end to the competition on your own.


Here’s today’s Relationship Advice Coupleology Podcast: Is Your Relationship A Competition? 

RIGHT NOW: You can also get a great start with my book, Kaizen for Couples: Smart Steps to Save, Sustain, or Strengthen Your Relationship,  and you can subscribe to Coupleology: Vital Tips for Relationship, coming to your inbox weekly.