Identifying Your Competition
While some people openly admit to being competitive, many people who are do not see themselves in that way. Often, I find that these people are perfectionists, people pleasers and people who are prone to comparison, self-criticism and highlighting how they’re not ‘good enough’. They don’t regard themselves as having or showing a strong desire to be more successful than others. It is almost as if they are saying ‘I’m not getting what I want so how can I be competitive?’ This couldn’t be further from the truth. If you’ve ever wondered how or why you are with with an emotionally unavailable person, the answer lies in acknowledging that you’re competing with someone or something.
I’ve explained in previous posts that the ‘fallback’ is the person who takes the passenger role in the relationship and who allows the other party to default to (fall back on) them for sex, a shoulder to lean on, an ego stroke and basically anything else that involves the fallback sacrificing their own needs. Which role we take up and the type of unavailable relationship we may find ourselves in provide clues about who/what it is with which we are competing. Note: although I have written the scenarios below for women, men can be in any of these roles plus these dynamics apply in same-sex relationships.
The Yo-Yo Girl competes with the next partner.
Going back and forth with someone who can’t break/won’t break (but also isn’t committing to a relationship) is about competing to see if we still have the power to draw the person back. Even if it means remaining in an unworkable situation, we might want to be the best at it.
The Buffer competes with the ex(es).
We strive to be better than their ex, so that they will choose us. We make ourselves indispensable, try to figure out how to be different to the ex in the areas where we think they went wrong or we try to be better in areas where we compare ourselves. Sometimes, we subconsciously choose someone whose ex represents everything that we feel insecure about. We then try to feel superior with something we value ourselves for (e.g. intelligence, success) while also wanting validation about what we criticise or doubt ourselves for. Yeah, messy.
The Other Woman competes with the existing partner or spouse.
In an affair, we’re validating ourselves on the notion that we’re ‘the best’. We think we’re giving them something that someone who is inferior (they’re not) is not. We want to be chosen, often positioning ourselves as ‘the best'; at letting you be as bad as you like or the best at understanding/giving you what you need. There’s also another competition going on in parallel, in that we’re trying to right the wrongs of feeling relegated or even replaced by someone else in our earlier life. Or… we’re continuing a competition and inadvertently recreating that dynamic to feel special.
Florence Nightingale competes with the past and whatever a partner is dependent on.
When we attempt to make ourselves the solution to someone else’s problems, we have plenty to compete with. From exes they didn’t do ‘better’ with to the family who have contributed to the issue, we’re trying to be the best at being needed by them. We also compete to be chosen over whatever they may be dependent on such as alcohol, drugs, workaholism or gambling.
The Renovator competes with the past and future ‘replacements’.
Ploughing all of our energies into a ‘fixer-upper’, we may think we can make him/her into what we want. We’re competing with, for example, the family who we think didn’t raise them right or the exes who didn’t help them to realise their potential. We may also reason that if we’re giving everything to someone who we don’t think could have been with someone like us or achieved their potential without our input, then they have no reason to leave. We live in fear of being replaced by someone who will reap the reward of our investment. Our efforts are about demonstrating why we’re the best and why they should stay (even if we’re miserable).
The Flogger competes with the past, present and future.
We figure that we’ve suffered the most, and hence earned the right to the relationship we want. Investment, titles and history matter to us. We try to outstrip all the people in our partner’s past, present and future who either didn’t do as good a job as us or who might try to have a go at being better. However, we’re also competing with someone or even a number of people in our own past. We’re proving that we can do better than them, ‘I will handle a man like daddy better than mom‘ or, ‘I might be miserable but I’m the only person in my family who’s stayed married.’
Miss Self-Sufficient competes with all women.
These women are socialised to fight over a limited supply of decent partners, jobs, opportunities etc. This zero sum game feeds insecurity and a scarcity mindset. We figure it’s safest to pretend that we have less needs than we do. We act as if things don’t bother us when they do. There’s a fear of being like those ‘other’ women – too needy/dramatic/demanding/weak etc. What if we end up trapped, lost, overwhelmed and having to sacrifice too much? Some of those women might be our own family members or just people we’ve come across that scare the life out of us with their choices (that we don’t have to have or we can but don’t have to do it their way). We try to enjoy the fringe benefits of a relationship without commitment.
The Dreamer competes with everyone in their imagination.
Sometimes our way of competing (while secretly accepting failure from the outset – the long-shot mentality) is to be in a fantasy. Any of the above roles can exist within a fantasy relationship but sometimes a relationship is attractive because it’s not real. We can be whatever we want in our imagination and feel like The Best. We’re putting us in an impossible situation because if the fantasy came true, it would allow us to meet an unmet need.
Sometimes it’s difficult to see the wood for the trees when you’re in an unavailable relationship. Acknowledging who or what you’re competing with removes a blind spot that you may not have known you had. Shining a light of awareness on your pattern helps you recognise how unresolved pain, fear and guilt is calling on your attention for you to address and heal it. There wouldn’t be a need to compete in unavailable relationships if you weren’t, on some level, trying to finally be made the best or the priority to make up for someone else not doing it in your past. If you hadn’t blamed and shamed yourself for their inadequacy and/or based your self-worth on being the favourite, you wouldn’t be in this relationship.
It is not necessary for you to prove your worth by validating it on the destruction or bettering of someone else. That’s a path to pain, insecurity and missing out on a genuine, loving relationship. When you stop competing, you lose the agenda of fixing a past that was never your responsibility to fix in the first place.