There are several factors that can lead to an unhealthy or toxic relationship. One of these factors is being too competitive.
Learning about the signs of competition in relationships and how to stop being competitive can help you to improve your relationship with your significant other or avoid competitive relationships in the future.
What is a competitive relationship?
Competitive relationships occur when two people in a relationship are actually competing with each other, seeking to win or be better than the other, instead of operating as a team.
Some playful competition, such as challenging your partner to a race or a board game, can be harmless, but if you are truly competing to one-up your partner and do not want them to succeed, you have probably fallen victim to the traps of competitive relationships.
Competitive relationships move beyond the healthy, playful competition. People in competitive relationships are constantly trying to keep up with their partners, and they ultimately feel quite insecure.
Competition vs. partnership in a relationship
A healthy, happy relationship involves a partnership in which two people are a united front and a true team. When one of them succeeds, the other is happy and supportive.
On the other hand, the difference in competitive relationships is that the two people in the relationship do not form a partnership. Instead, they are rivals, competing on opposing teams.
Competitive signs in a relationship include constantly trying to outdo your partner, feeling excited when your partner fails, and finding that you are jealous when they succeed.
Is competition healthy in relationships?
Competitive couples may wonder if competition in a relationship is healthy. The answer, in short, is no. Competitive relationships usually come from a place of insecurity and envy.
According to experts, being too competitive leads to resentment in relationships. With competition, partners view each other as rivals. Often, competition is a quest to see who can develop more success or power within their careers.
Since competition comes from a place of envy, competitive relationships can become hostile when one partner perceives that the other is doing better or has something they don’t have—feeling hostility or resentment toward your partner because being too competitive is not healthy.
There are other unhealthy aspects of being too competitive in a relationship. For instance, when in competitive relationships, people may boast or taunt their partners when they feel they are winning, which can lead to hurt feelings and arguing.
Not only is competition harmful and unhealthy; in some cases, it can also be abusive. If your partner feels competitive with you, they may try to control you, manipulate you, or sabotage your success in order to promote their own accomplishments or to feel superior.
Competitive relationships can also result in put-downs or belittling each other, which can cross the line into emotional abuse in a relationship.
In the video below, Signe M. Hegestand discusses how people in relationships fall prey as they do not set boundaries and have a tendency to internalize the abuse, that is, demand an explanation from themselves why it happened rather than blaming the doer.
20 signs you’re competing with your partner
Since competitive relationships are not healthy and can lead to relationship problems, it is important to recognize the signs that you and your partner are being too competitive.
The following 20 competitive signs suggest that you are in a competitive relationship:
You aren’t happy when your partner succeeds at something. Instead of celebrating your partner’s success, if you are being too competitive, you likely feel envious and maybe a little hostile or insecure when your partner accomplishes something, such as getting a promotion or winning an award.
Similar to the last sign, you actually find yourself getting angry when your partner does something well.
Since you feel angry and resentful when your partner succeeds, you may actually begin to hope they will fail.
You feel the need to “one-up” your partner in multiple areas of life.
You secretly celebrate when your partner fails at something.
When your partner succeeds at a task that is within your area of strength or expertise, you begin to doubt yourself and your abilities.
You feel that when your partner does something well, your own talents are diminished.
It seems as if you and your partner are not on the same page, and you tend to do most things separately.
You find that you and your partner keep score on everything, from who made more money last year to who ran the kids to soccer practice the most times last month.
While you may be unhappy when your partner succeeds if you are being too competitive, you might notice that your partner is not happy for you when you accomplish something either. In fact, your partner may belittle your successes, acting like they are not a big deal.
Your partner may make you feel guilty about working extra hours or puting what he or she believes to be too much time into your career. This is usually because of envy or resentment over your career success.
Another one of the competitive signs is that you and your partner may actually begin to sabotage each other, doing things to prevent each other from being successful.
If you’re being too competitive, you or your partner may do things to make each other jealous. For instance, you may flaunt your successes or talk about how a mutual friend complimented your recent promotion at work.
It seems that you and your partner are constantly pointing out each other’s flaws, not in the form of constructive criticism, but rather to hurt each other’s feelings.
The relationship may involve lies or secrets because you are afraid to tell your partner when you fail at something. In addition, you may exaggerate your accomplishments in order to appear superior.
Your partner brags to you when someone attractive flirts with them or compliments their appearance, or you feel the need to gloat to your partner when someone else flirts with you.
Instead of trying to reach a compromise when in the midst of a disagreement, you and your partner fight to win. You do not truly have a desire to come to a mutual agreement as a team, but instead, it’s more of a sport, where one person loses, and another wins.
Similar to the previous sign, you are being too competitive, you and your partner may find that you are incapable of arriving at a compromise. You or your partner, or perhaps both of you, want to have everything on your own terms instead of meeting in the middle.
Your partner seems annoyed rather than happy for you when you tell them about an accomplishment at work or a good day that you had.
You or your partner make an effort to dominate or control the other.
The above competitive signs are red flags you or your significant other are being too competitive and need to make some changes.
How do I stop competing with my partner?
Since competitive relationships can be unhealthy and damaging, it is important to learn how to deal with competition.
The first step toward overcoming competition in relationships is to find the source of it.
In many cases, being too competitive is a result of insecurities. So, beginning to overcome competition requires a conversation surrounding why you or your partner feel insecure. Perhaps you are worried that when your partner succeeds at something, your career accomplishments are not meaningful. Or, maybe you are worried that if your husband has a positive interaction with your children, you are no longer a good mother.
Once you establish the root causes of being too competitive, you and your partner can take steps for how to stop being competitive.
Have a conversation with your partner about each of your areas of strength and weakness, so you can establish that you both have talents.
Instead of trying to belittle your partner’s successes or outdo them, you can make an agreement with each other to focus on your areas of strength. Recognize that each of you will contribute to the relationship in some way.
You can also channel your competitive drives into more appropriate outlets. For instance, instead of competing against each other, experts recommend that you compete together, as a team, to have a successful partnership.
When you sabotage your partner’s career success because you are being too competitive, for instance, you actually harm the relationship. Instead, mentally reframe this and view your partner’s success as being the same as your own success since you are on your partner’s team.
Once you have established a partnership mentality within your relationship, you can start to move forward from the damage of being too competitive. Make an effort to compliment your partner, express gratitude for what they do for you, and celebrate their successes with them.
You can also make an effort to be a more supportive partner, which requires you to be empathetic toward your partner, try to understand his or her perspective, and support your partner’s dreams. Other aspects of being a supportive partner include taking time to really listen to your partner, being helpful, and being considerate of your partner’s needs.
What are the ways of dealing with a competitive spouse?
If you feel you have made an effort to stop being too competitive in your relationship, but your partner continues to be competitive, you may be wondering what you can do for dealing with a competitive spouse or partner.
Communication is key in these situations. Sitting down to discuss with your partner, how being too competitive makes you feel can help to improve the situation. The chances are that your partner is feeling insecure, and an honest discussion can remedy the situation. If having an honest discussion does not help your partner learn how to stop being competitive in the relationship, the two of you may benefit from the couple’s counseling.
A healthy relationship should involve two people who view each other as a team, respect each other, and support each other’s hopes and dreams. If your partner continues being too competitive after you have attempted to remedy the situation, it may be time to walk away from the relationship if you feel unhappy.
Partners who are competitive with each other do not view each other as partners but rather as rivals.
If you start to notice these signs of being too competitive in your relationship, you can resolve the situation by having an honest conversation with your partner and viewing them as being on the same team as you.
From there, you can begin to create shared goals and focus on the strengths each of you brings to the relationship.
In the end, getting rid of competition in relationships makes them more healthy and makes each member of the relationship happier. When two people in a relationship stop viewing each other as rivals and begin to see each other as teammates, it is easier to celebrate each other’s success since individual success also means success for the relationship.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Sylvia Smith loves to share insights on how couples can revitalize their love lives in and out of the bedroom. As a writer at Marriage.com, she is a big believer in living consciously and encourages couples to adopt this principle in their lives too. Sylvia believes that every couple can transform their relationship into a happier, healthier one by taking purposeful and wholehearted action.