Love is one of the most elusive yet widely recognised concepts that can describe the level of emotional attachment to another.
Love makes the world go round, and joins couples together to live, work, laugh together and even compete with each other.
There are two types of competition in relationships:
Healthy, growth driven that brings out the best in each partner; and unhealthy competition that is jealous, creating an atmosphere of rivalry and mean-spiritedness.
This type of relationship sometimes deteriorates to a level where the parties involved become “intimate enemies” people who share a bed, but are not always on the same side and may even work against each other.
Birds of a feather flock together, therefore when coupling, it is only natural to be attracted to those who hold the same aspirations as your own. Ambitious and driven people tend to be attracted to each other.
The challenge they present is enough to cause a potent love chemistry that makes them very desirable in each other’s eyes. Two type A personalities (competitive, ambitious, go-getters, who have an urgency to succeed) have enough adrenaline to propel them to great heights, if they channel this energy the right way.
The same energy can produce disaster if it is used to undermine and envy. When a man and a woman get together as a couple, one of the main considerations of suitability is the prospects each party holds.
Ambitious people will carefully weigh what the other is bringing to the table now and in future. This is determined during courtship by observing, listening, and evaluating the other parties “modus operandi.”
It soon becomes obvious to them whether they are dealing with a non-starter, or a go-getter. A young man who is confident and working towards his goals to become a CEO in future will most likely set his eye on a woman who looks like she too is going places.
When they are dating, and in the early bloom of love, they are fascinated by strides the other is making. They enthral each other with stories of their corporate conquests and plans.
They decide that they are made for each other – two beautiful people on the fast track to success. Their admiration for each other is not just based on ambition alone; their physical appeal adds more energy and chemistry to the mix.
As time wears on, the relationship dynamics start to change. Somewhere along the way, they subconsciously begin to compete. It often commences with just a feeling.
“Goodness, she looks very seductive today, I wonder if other guys will notice her. I am going to join a gym so that I can also keep her on her toes.” The man feels he needs to be physically fit to make her feel worried about admirers.
If the man is promoted and perhaps offered a brand new company car as a benefit, as much as the woman may be excited for him, she cannot help thinking:
“Wow, with a ride like this, this guy is really starting to feel confident. Young girls have started checking him out, I had better up my game. I think I will apply for that car loan that I have resisted for years, so that I too, can look and feel successful.”
In a case scenario of couple competition gone bad, one woman named Carol, was rather taken aback when she finally realised why her husband of five years had started criticising and undermining her.
This couple met and dated for two years before tying the knot. Her husband initially admired her drive and desire to climb up the corporate ladder.
They often talked and dreamed of how they were going to raise a family with her as a successful administrator working with the United Nations, in a lucrative position. She pursued her dream and made it happen, by landing a job at the UN.
He too joined the banking sector and worked his way up to a middle level manager’s position. Carol decided to embrace further studies and her efforts were rewarded with a promotion.
These days, to her utter surprise, her husband has taken to criticising everything she does. He even tries to keep her in the house in the mornings by bringing up irrelevant matters, so that she can arrive late for work and thus ruin her mood and punctuality record.
“He claims that my job means more to me than my family, an untrue accusation. He even accuses me of infidelity just because I dress very stylishly. He doesn’t like the way I look, and says that I should stop wearing trousers and braids, as I look more like a single girl and not a mother. According to him, this is “unafrican.”
This is very bewildering because I look and dress exactly the way I did when we first met. Since I got the promotion, everything I do has become a reason for him to raise contentious issues. He sees me as a threat.
He ought to be happy and proud of me because I am doing well, I am healthy and attractive, but he has really changed and I’m seeing another side of him and I wonder why,” she ponders. Carol is so unsettled, that she has started seeing a counsellor.
According to her counsellor, it appears that her husband is insecure about his wife’s success and glamorous appearance. Instead of being part of a winning team, he is bailing out to become a rival; a very precarious situation which if not checked will blow out of proportion.
The counsellor feels that this man needs help in coming to terms with the fact that his wife is growing and achieving. He should realise that people and situations change and he ought to deal with this before it is too late.
When your relationship is based on a strong foundation with a mutual understanding to work towards a common goal as team players, you will grow as a couple. At times one person will be on a winning streak and the other on a losing one.
As the winner, you will create tension and rivalry if you flaunt your success and taunt the others failure. This happens when the relationship has unresolved issues such as past mistreatment and infidelity. A “so how do you like me now?” attitude develops.
The competition will be unhealthy and the relationship will revolve around one partner always trying to prove and imply “I am better than you.” Not every relationship has this sort of unhealthy competition.
There are cases where couples spur each other on. It becomes a situation where the marriage grows with determination – “if you can do it, so can I” becomes the mantra that such couples in this energy-filled marriage live by.
This type of competition is good and healthy. The next case scenario serves to illustrate what can be achieved when people put rivalry aside and work for their common good.
A couple who married when quite young and straight out of college started their lives on a positive note. Initially, the wife landed a well-paid job as a teacher in a private school, while her husband went to work for the government as a district hospital doctor.
After working for some years, he decided to open a clinic where he could attend to his patients when he was not on call at the hospital.
It proved to be extremely tiring, but being a specialist in an upcountry town, his hard work paid off, and his clinic became very busy. He had to decide whether to quit his government post altogether, because shuttling back and forth to his clinic was hectic.
After much consideration, he opted to quit his job. The patients appreciated his full time presence at the clinic, and the word quickly spread. He became quite successful.
Patients would travel from far and wide to see him and the queue in the waiting room would not subside until well after 6pm daily. On this basis, he qualified for a loan, bought a plot, and built a medium sized hospital. His wife was supportive all through and took good care of the family while retaining her teaching job.
As her husband became more and more successful, she felt as though she were lagging behind. She was happy and lacked nothing, but she still wanted to be a success story in her own right too. Her husband was respected and well known in the town, and did not escape the attention of admiring women.
Not wishing to be left behind, his wife decided that it was high time she opened an academy. Given her excellent teaching reputation in the region, the school picked up and became a leading school. Her husband helped to finance this project.
Through healthy competition, this couple managed to beat the odds by utilising the best that each had to offer without rivalry.