I don't want to be in a competitive marriage or friendship. I want to be in a supportive one, but I'm realizing that competition comes more naturally to most people, including myself, than encouragement and support. Is our society to blame for this? Or deep down are we so insecure within ourselves that we feel we must compete to see who is the winner and who is the loser?
This type of competition in relationships breeds anger and frustration. It also escalates quickly, with a sort of jostling for the top of the heap in many different areas. And it never seems to end. If one person makes more money or has more qualifications than the other person, the division becomes magnified when it's referred to, even in a joking manner, and festering resentment is often the result.
I don't know how to stop competing with people. Well, I suppose if I'm being honest, I could easily stop comparing and fighting for position, as that is within my control, but then I worry I'll be walked on or left behind in someone's dust. The only way to stop being competitive is to stop competing. When I state it like that, even to myself, it sounds simple and obvious.
It's just much harder in practice. I don't want to be the person who has something to prove all of the time. I can spot chips on other people's shoulders, and I'm mortified when I recognize that I have one too. I really thought that Jason and I weren't competing with each other, and for awhile all has been calm in this area, but when it suddenly rears its ugly head, we have to deal with the fallout.
Carving out your own niche in any relationship and feeling supported and valued for your contribution is the highest goal that any two healthy people can strive for. It's not enough simply to love each other. We have to also be kind, and supportive, and sign a theoretical non-compete agreement with each other. At my worst, I am ultra competitive. I choose to fight instead of acquiesce, virtually all of the time.
This is my task: to learn when it's healthy to compete, and when it isn't. Just because someone wants to compete with me doesn't mean I have to rise to the challenge. If I feel secure in myself, in my own sense of value and self worth, then I can decline to compete and still feel good about who I am and what I do. The other person in the relationship might need time to come to the realization that endless competition is not going to improve the dynamic. If anything, it just makes everything more stressful and challenging.
In my moms group, we recently began a program of pairing moms up who wanted to support and encourage each other. The entire relationship is based on that. In some ways, it's a very simple thing, and in other ways, it's entirely radical and counter-culture. I want to bring that spirit of support and partnership into my other relationships and watch them flourish and grow in an entirely new way, and leave the competitive nature behind me.