Competing with your partner can often be written off as silly and fun. And sometimes it is— couples that get competitive during a board game or at a rock climbing wall probably are just having a great time. But what's worrying is when a couple is really in competition with each other, rather than working as a team. "People who communicate effectively in their relationship collaborate and are truly a team," Lisa Concepcion, Life Coach, Relationship Expert, and Founder of LoveQuest Coaching, tells Bustle. "There's no feeling of competition and no desire to be right but a big desire to be happy. There's agreement, respect, more connection sexually, and the ability to problem solve, set goals and meet them."
Because a little competition can feel sexy and fun, but if you're actual in competition all the time then it can destroy your relationship. But you might not always catch yourselves doing it. The signs aren't always easy to see, because it can be wrapped up in passive or aggression— or maybe you've never really allowed yourself to acknowledge the resentment you have in your head. But when a relationship goes wrong, competition can rise up. And that's just not a fun place to be. So how do you know? Here are the signs that you need to look out for.
1. Your Fights Feel Like A Sport
Fighting is totally normal, but you should feel like you're working towards finding a mutual place of respect and a solution. But if you're trying to win, that's a worry. "Whether that is an argument, an idea to do something together, a sport — you go from being on the same team to wanting them to lose," clinical psychologist Joshua Klapow, PhD tells Bustle. That's when you know that there's a real competition happening.
2. You Can't Be Honest With Each Other
If you feel the need to hold something back from your partner, it may be that you're trying to compete with them with a version of yourself, rather than being comfortable being the real you. "This will vary from couple to couple, but a good foundation for healthy and strong communication begins with honesty at all times," relationship expert Ben Weaver tells Bustle. "There is no exception here. The moment either of the parties begins to try to mold a relationship around lies it is eventually destined to fail. From honesty comes good communication in understanding and practicing vulnerability and active listening." If you two are both trying to present yourselves in a certain light, you may wonder if you should be in a relationship where you can't be yourselves.
3. You Can't Be Genuinely Happy For Their Success
Oh, the resentment. "Some folks ... start feeling annoyed or resentful when they spend time with their partner," marriage and family therapist Shadeen Francis tells Bustle. "This is a major clue that things are changing in your relationship." You want to nip resentment in the bud by talking to your partner about what you're finding difficult. Don't just let it brew.
4. You Can't Compromise With Each Other
5. You Try To Make Eachother Jealous
It's normal to be attracted to other people, but using this attraction to make each other feel like crap is definitely a sign of competition— and toxicity. "When you make a partner jealous, their jealousy is an emotion that masks insecurity and fear," New York–based relationship expert and author April Masini tells Bustle. "So, whether it’s flirting with someone else, beyond the comfort zone for your partner, or remarking about how great someone else is at something, that jealousy and envy you’re inadvertently stirring up may make your partner mad — and kill their confidence as a partner." And if you're both doing it to each other, that sounds like a competitive disaster.
6. You Belittle Each Other
Belittling is a lazy way to make someone feel small— but it can be very effective and hurtful. If you two are cutting each other down at the knees, that's not healthy. "Good communication isn't long-winded lecturing, it isn't critical or judgmental," Concepcion says. "When someone describes communication with their partner as such, they're in big trouble with deeper issues."
7. You Throw Out Ultimatums
Ultimatums are never a good sign. "I feel that ultimatums are a form of emotional and mental abuse; if you feel the need to bring one up, regardless of why, get to a therapist and work out your issues before you work out the relationship," zen psychotherapist and neuromarketing strategist Michele Paiva tells Bustle.
If you and your partner are throwing around "If you don't X, then I'll Y..." statements or, even worse, "If you loved me you would X..." you're testing each other. And that's not a good sign.
All of this spells a really unhealthy relationship. So what do you do if you're competing? Well, like Concepcion says, it's about communication. Talk it through with your partner and find out what insecurities are at play. Competition is the symptom, but you need to work out what the root cause is.