All humans are competitive to one degree or another. When you think of competition you probably think of trying to best others in sports, academics or jobs. You may even compete with loved ones for attention. So it’s not hard to imagine your teammates, colleagues, friends, siblings and even parents as your competitors. But do you consider your spouse or partner a rival? Your first response to that question may be: “No, I’d never compete with him.” But if you give yourself a moment to think about your relationship, you might be surprised to find that you do indeed feel a little competitive with him. All spouses compete with each other on some level. Who’s the better parent? Who’s more successful at work? Who has more friends? Who’s the better cook? Almost anything that matters to you can be a source of rivalry.Competition can be healthy; it can spur you to try to do your best. Sometimes, however, competition can run amok. If you have insecurities about your sense of identity and talents, then you may feel he’s treading on your turf. And this can make you feel angry and hurt. For example, if friends compliment his cooking, do you feel as though your culinary talents have been diminished? Does that make you say to yourself: “Hey, if he’s such a good cook, then who am I?” If so, then you may have been bitten by the competition bug.If you always try to be the “winner,” you may wind up the loser. To keep your relationship healthy, make efforts to bring out the best in each other and be supportive of each other’s talents. Remember there’s room for more than one winner. The more secure you make your partner feel, the less likely he will be uncomfortable with friendly competition — and the stronger your relationship will be.
Here are six signs you’re too competitive with your partner:
- You are hoping he doesn’t do something too well.
- You feel angry at him after he has a success.
- You feel panicky about your talents, after he does something you consider your strength.
- You are often trying to outdo him on various tasks.
- You see him as more of an adversary than as a teammate.
- You feel happily superior when he fails.
Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to TODAY. Her latest book is “Anatomy of a Secret Life: The Psychology of Living a Lie.” She is also the author of “Amazing You! Getting Smart About Your Private Parts,” which helps parents deal with preschoolers’ questions about sex and reproduction. Her first book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” was published in 2004 by Riverhead Books. It is now available in a paperback version. For more information, you can visit her Web site, .