Expert Advice About a Competitive Relationship

Competitive Relationship

A little competition can be fun in a relationship, but it can get taken overboard. Learn the best way to handle a competitive partner through reading this advice from our dating coach.

Advice on Competitive Relationships

Reader Question

I think my boyfriend is being really silly over something I didn't think was a big deal. We were talking the other day about sports we no longer take part in but used to enjoy and I mentioned that I used to do judo in college and was pretty good, even though I only received a beginner's yellow belt. He thought this was hilarious because I'm tall and blond and weigh around 125lbs, and I guess he didn't think that a pretty girl could fight her way out of a paper bag, much less do a martial art.

So when he got done laughing at me (he really was laughing), I challenged him to a wrestling match. Long story short, I used some timely leg sweeps and wrist throws to send him to the floor a few times, and after a while, he got so tired out that his strength advantage was gone, and I was able to pin him.

Well, I figured he would have learned his lesson, but he's totally bent out of shape about it...he's been pouty and obnoxious ever since the match and keeps challenging me to a rematch, saying I got lucky, and that he wasn't trying hard...all this stuff to protect his macho ego.

So what do I do? Give him a rematch and let him win? (He would totally rub it in my face and say things like "I told you women can't fight"). Or agree to a rematch and try my best again, risking another blow to his ego if he loses? Or just refuse and tell him to deal with it? (I've tried that last option and he just won't let it go). Please advise!

-- Contributed by: Jennie

Expert Reply

Dear Jennie,

By nature, I am a competitive person and competitive people don't make for good losers, so I can understand why your boyfriend might want to challenge you to another match. Normally I would say that a little competition makes for a little excitement in a relationship. This is especially the case where each partner is confident about his or her self and abilities. It is especially fun when each partner is supportive of the other and doesn't feel the need to make everything a competition. In other words, in a healthy relationship your partner is able to celebrate your victories.

I don't think that is what is going on between you and your boyfriend. I think your boyfriend's need and constant pressure for a rematch may be rooted in his beliefs about gender. He may be so locked into his belief system that the thought of you winning in a physical match upsets the way he views his role in the relationship; his role being that as protector. He needs to prove to you and himself that he is stronger and quicker than you are. When people are locked into gender roles being a certain way then tend to think very narrowly in many areas including parenting, household responsibilities and income earning. For example, your boyfriend might also have a problem with being in a relationship where his wife or girlfriend out earned him.

All this is to say that a rematch won't put an end to the real issue. If you lose the rematch, both of you will wonder which was the fluke, the first match or the second. If you win, he will demand more matches until he wins enough to satisfy his need to be the stronger sex. Like my mother used to say, all's fun and games until someone gets their eye poked out. Meaning the more matches you engage in the increased likelihood you're going to get hurt eventually.

My suggestion is to save face for both of you. Set up some rules beforehand. One of those is that you both practice Judo with a certified instructor. He will learn what you've learned, and you get the benefits of a refresher which means you won't engage in moves that could cause harm if not done correctly. Once you both have studied together, then and only then will you agree to a rematch. Let the games begin, and may the best man or woman, win!


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Expert Advice About a Competitive Relationship