"I win!!!"

When was the last time you heard this phrase -- or used this phrase -- in the context of your primary relationships? I'm not talking about any scenario that inherently involves a sport or a game; in other words this article isn't about your hockey team-mates, or your tennis partner. Instead, I'm asking you to consider your PRIMARY relationships -- your partner, your parents, your children, your friends, your colleagues. Board games aside, I'm going to guess that you've not consciously used this phrase at all when it comes to these relationships. But you know what? Relationships are often fraught with competition, whether or not you proclaim "I win!"

I first became aware of this tendency when I, along with a few of my girlfriends, become mothers for the first time. All of a sudden there seemed to be a daily tallying between us regarding who had done what, how many times. "Yeah, I had to change 15 diapers last night." "That's nothing, I had to change 15 in two hours!" As I noticed this, I also noticed that there seemed to be a constant comparison game going on with between my husband and I, and my friends seemed to be experiencing similar scenarios. Who had tended to the most nighttime feedings, who had made the most bottles, who had done the greater number of household tasks, and so on.

As I look around me today at my own relationships, as well as at the relationships of people I know, I see that some variation of the competition game goes on almost regularly. Who does the most shuttling of children, who works the longest hours, who pays the most bills, who gets the least sleep. There's a way in which there seems to be a constant vying for who "does the most", "sacrifices the most", or some variation thereof. There's an undertone of competition that seems to run rampant in most relationships. Which has me wonder, how's this working for the relationships?

You see, when it comes to relationships I think healthy competition is normal. We all want to do our best and feel like we're the best at something. That being said, the danger in the context of relationships is that when we're in competition, we're actually not allowing ourselves to relate to one another in a complete way. We're not BEING with each other, we're COMPETING with each other. Competition can get in the way of us truly being with each other -- which means we're not actually in relationship.

Now some might argue that a relationship built on competition is better than no relationship at all, that competing is in fact a way of relating. I can just hear some of you saying that a competitive relationship is still a relationship. Okay, I'll give you that. But if competition is the defining factor of your relationship, is it a relationship that serves the big picture? My guess is that it's not.

In order for relationships to be truly healthy -- especially those primary relationships in your life -- there has to be more than competition as the basis. You have to be able to be with one another without constantly looking for ways to be better than (or worse than), more than (or less than). At the root of this competition, I believe, is a desire for appreciation. The irony is that if you are in true relationship with another, you can see another person's need for appreciation and meet it. Similarly you can express your own need for appreciation and have it met, authentically.

So, ask yourself, what would it take for you to stop competing in your relationships, and start truly relating? What would be possible if you chose to actually relate with one another, be with one another, engage with one another? I assert that a lot would be possible -- your relationships would be more meaningful, you'd understand each other more completely, and you'd be able to engage in meaningful conversation.

Bottom-line: if you're looking to enhance any of your primary relationships, you've got to let go of competition, at least to some degree. Stop trying to be more/less/better than the other person, and just be WITH the other person. Now you're on your way to having a truly rich relationship.

Author's Bio: 

Gail Barker is a professional life coach, visionary,and inspirational speaker. She is the founder and principal coach of Stellar Coaching & Consulting, as well as co-author of The Control Freak’s Guide to Living Lightly: Manifesting a Life of Total Trust. She has a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Western Ontario, and holds the designation of Certified Professional CoActive Coach (CPCC) through the Coaches Training Institute, which is based in California. Her career path has taken her through 10 years of service in the non-profit sector and includes everything from front-line work to team management, all prior to launching her coaching company in 2003.

In a coaching capacity, Gail specializes in supporting women leaders as they strive to bring their leadership visions to life; for Gail, her objective is to have these dynamic women show up in the world living lives of ease, even as they undertake the challenges of leadership. As a woman leader herself, Gail “walks her talk”, living and leading as an example for women leaders everywhere.

Gail adheres to the International Coach Federation’s Code of Ethics and Conduct www.coachfederation.org, and is a founding member of CoachesCanada www.coachescanada.ca.. Gail’s overriding mantra is that life is most fulfilling when you live your life on your terms, and that this is most possible when you choose to live by active choice, rather than passive default.

Most recently, Gail has launched an innovative new program for women leaders called Women Leaders Connected™. The 6-week, coaching-based program, strives to bring women leaders together in a collaborative container, with a view to building alliances and elevating women’s leadership success.

Learn more about Gail and her work at www.stellarcc.com.