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When partners run races

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Love partnersWhy are we motivated to fall in love so many times in our lives? It is because no matter if you have grown up on the North Pole or in urban Chennai, one of the things that an intimate relationship of love is supposed to provide us with, is a space of absolute safety and comfort. In a truly loving relationship we hope to find a shelter, where it is OK to be completely oneself, faults, warts and all. Love is supposed to conquer the all-too-human tendency to correct, or criticize, at least we hope so!

But there is another c that can come between the full expression of love, or the full realization of that sheltering, comforting aspect of love, and that is ‘Competition’. When love between partners turns competitive, it eats away at the original affection that brought two people together in the first place.

In an increasingly competitive world, it is ironic that we should become more in need of relationships that relieve us of the pressure to constantly prove we are superhuman. Because it is the competitive nature of our environment that has made us so conscious to be better than another in the first place! In the new millennium, the battle of the sexes often resembles a competitive playground to prove who is better, brighter, and stronger.

When love turns to marriage and then to raising a family, competition finds a new arena between men and women. The children become unwitting elements in a game of attracting more love and attention. While Daddy and Mummy may not realize how often they are playing the game of Who is better? quite sportingly with the kids, these kids become very smart in drawing extra concessions out of one or the other parent.

Soon comparisons like ‘Ma is kinder’, or ‘Papa is more understanding,’ or ‘Daddy gives without any lectures’ begin to grate against the other parent’s nerves. The casualty may be that spontaneous appreciation of one’s spouse or partner that is so important to sustain family life.

How does competition become a threat to love? Films like the Amitabh-Jaya starrer ‘Abhimaan’ have tried to explore this territory. But whatever is written about it, there is no doubt that competition arises out of insecurity and either partner feeling unappreciated. The cure for competition is more appreciation, more trust, and more love.

Often however, partners have moved inexorably apart before they can make their way back to these qualities. It is also evident that relationships seem to work well when one partner is quite willing to make way, or give in to the demands of, the other stronger partner.

In some relationships, however, the desire to prove who is stronger is quite natural, and becomes the famous ‘ego clash’ that lands couples in trouble. So mild tempered with hot temper, and patient with impatient would appear to be the recommended combination of individual temperaments for a successful relationship!

If one were to make such shallow inferences about the chemistry of relationships however, it would be criminal indeed. For one thing, life does not provide us with the ideal foil to our temperament as a matter of course. A partner arrives in our life to challenge our assumptions, shake us up, make us softer, kinder, more understanding and patient, not be a convenient punching bag for our strongest hits.

For another, if a relationship is being sustained by one partner being silent about the other?s domineering ways, even though it hurts her or him inside, then such a relationship is based on false beliefs and will sooner or later crack.

For us to be the place of safety for our partner, and for them to be the place for us, surrender is undoubtedly necessary. Along with surrender, large doses of appreciation for the best qualities of another help cement the bonds of love.

Ultimately, a lasting love is based on each individual partner being true to herself or himself.

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