Coping with a competitive partner

While a competitive nature can be an attractive trait, the desire to compete in a relationship can be harmful. Here are seven tips on how to cope with a partner who always has to win…

Resist the temptation to tease
It is important to realise that overly competitive personalities often hide deeper insecurities. It can be tempting to tease their failures or disappointments, but remember these setbacks are the things which threaten them and ultimately drive the competitive streak of their personality, so resist the temptation to antagonise this. Instead use these times as an opportunity to help your partner let go of their anxieties.

Don’t be afraid of praise
The ability to praise your partner can be severely tested if they are competitive, as it might seem obvious that this will just egg them on even more. But actually, it could work in the reverse. By letting your partner know that they’re actually quite good, it might calm them down a bit and stop them feeling they constantly need to prove themselves as ‘good enough’ for you.

Keep a perspective
It can be easy to feel exasperated, as you face being constantly downtrodden by your partner, but keep a perspective on the wider picture and don’t get caught up in the minutae of competition. Obviously don’t allow your genuine achievements to be brushed aside, but sometimes, consider if them beating you in something will matter in three months time. If it won’t – which is normally the case – shrug off their will to win and let them have their moment.

Accept the inevitable
Although your partner’s competitive nature may be grating, at some point, you have to accept it as part of their character. Don’t try to fight or change it, just look at ways you can adapt to it.

Tell them… then show them
Sometimes, people have fallen into bad habits they don’t even know they are doing, and it could simply be that your partner behaves competitively because that is their normality – maybe they had intense sibling rivalry, or an ex who criticised them a lot. It could be that to stop their urge to win or be right all the time, you simply have to tell them it’s annoying. If that doesn’t work, start (for a short period, otherwise it’s exhausting…) showing them how they act by doing it yourself. Speak over them, brag about your work meeting, tell them how fast you ran at the gym – and see how they like it…

Know your limits
You can learn to cope with a competitive partner all you like, but at some point ‘cope’ might become ‘dread’. If you find that their relentless need to beat you at everything starts to drain you emotionally, and you start to resent doing anything with them because of the constant competition, then it’s time to accept that perhaps, on this point, they have won and the relationship is beaten.