In pop culture, married couples are usually fluent in sarcasm. Today, in a world of memes and GIFs, we find ourselves laughing along with the couples who tease and fight, argue and compete. Comedy is subjective but it can become problematic when the template for married couples always involves a lack of cooperation.
Why is Competitiveness Bad for Couples?
This isn’t about healthy, motivating competition. You and your spouse may join a gym or sign up for a local 5k race. In that case, it’s fun to challenge and push each other. There are other kinds of competitiveness that are more insidious and potentially damaging to your bond. Here are some signs and examples to look out for:
- You Try to Make Each Other Jealous: Of course, we may feel an attraction for others and others may be attracted to us. Exploiting this reality is not a healthy relationship choice.
- Your Arguments Become More Common and More Like a Sport: It’s no longer about finding solutions or common ground. The fights exist until one of you “wins.”
- Insults Are a Form of Communication: This is the classic sit-com style. It can be funny (sometimes) on TV. In real life, it’s demeaning and sabotaging.
- Black-and-White Thinking: You give each other ultimatums and engage in phrases like “my way or the highway.”
- Even Misery is a Contest: “You think you’re tired, what about me?”
- You’re Not Happy When Your Partner Succeeds: When our spouse gets a raise, wins a race, or signs that book deal, we should be celebrating right along with them.
4 Ways to Make Your Marriage Less Competitive and More Cooperative
Your relationship is not a contest. Your partner is not your rival. It takes teamwork to remain a team.
1. Have a Meeting — Followed by Regular Meetings
At your job, meetings are the norm. If your favorite sports team is struggling, they may call a players-only meeting. Setting aside time and space for the sole purpose of discussing the state of your union is essential — and cannot be a one-time deal.
2. Choose Cooperation Over Compromise
If one partner simply chooses to compromise more, it doesn’t mean you’ve ended competition. You just re-branded it. Yes, compromise is sometimes necessary. However, it’s always best to first aim for cooperation.
3. Create New Goals Together
Love is enduring. Compatibility can get stale. Refresh things by setting some new, collective goals to work towards. A great time for goal-setting is at one of those regular meetings you’re now having.
4. Hone Your Communication Skills
Even when you hit a stalemate, your status as a team remains intact when your communication is on point. There is no final destination with this skill. We are a perpetual work-in-progress when it comes to learning and implementing new and more effective ways to communicate.
Three’s Good Company
In every form of professional competition, there are judges or umpires or referees. In other words, it’s understood that moderation is necessary. If you find yourself in a relationship that’s lacking in the cooperation category, you probably need a guide.
A couples counselor is someone with the skills to hear both sides, identify patterns, point out blind spots, and suggest new strategies. You and your partner will spend non-competitive time in therapy. Grievances will be aired. Concerns will be validated. But most importantly, mutual goals will be agreed upon.
These goals are based on the foundation of love, trust, and respect that brought you together in the first place. Your goals may be diverse and wide-reaching but they will all share one important factor. All of your couple goals will require cooperation in order to be attained.