Do You Compete with Your Spouse or Significant Other?

Category: Weekly Columns

fighting animals

With male and female roles changing so significantly in recent years, I’m wondering how much this may have affected our egos? Do you compete with your spouse or significant other? Yes, we all likely say we wish nothing but the best for our partners, but deep inside do we feel envy sometimes? I think this is one of those semi-taboo topics that aren’t aired much, which means, of course, I’m going to wade right into it.

Animals locking horns photograph

Let’s first look at famous couples – such as those in showbiz. How many of those relationships work out and last? Invariably, when one or the other partner is on a good career roll, it seems to spin the relationship out of control. It works for both sexes. I remember when Michelle Pfeiffer was married to a journeyman actor around the time her career took off. Guess which marriage soon ended? Who even remembers Fisher Stevens as her first husband – they married when both were beginning their careers.

Showbiz examples abound, but I’m going to go politically incorrect right off the bat, as I’m want to do, by suggesting that more marriages/relationships end when the woman gets “hot” and the guy is stagnating. We see so many examples of hugely successful men who marry women that aren’t even in their time zone as far as hard-core success. How many really successful women marry a trophy husband? Why do you suppose Oprah Winfrey never married? How many men could come close to her success?

Elephants charging each other

I confront gender differences regularly in my Men vs. Women series of articles, but with this column I’m just asking some questions and sharing some personal thoughts and experiences. I’ve never been with a woman who was more obviously successful or financially secure than me. I don’t want to think that’s been intentional on my part, but I can’t explain it nor do I really know why it worked out that way. For me, it never mattered whether my girlfriend or wife was monetarily successful or successful in a non-monetary way. What mattered were values, shared interests, and love, naturally.

And, I think I represent many men who don’t seek a female partner based on their success or financial wherewithal. But, do women choose partners the same? I don’t think so. My wife was very clear about a couple things when we began dating. First, if “this” was not leading to marriage, she was walking. And, second, she expected me to be the primary support for our family. I was quite comfortable with the latter, but hesitant about getting married again because of the pain of my divorce. In the end, she was worth my letting go of that fear and we married, now going on five years.

Fighting gorillas

Regardless of whom we choose and why, the bigger question is still whether we compete with our spouse or not. I think the male ego is fragile enough that when their woman is more successful than they are, it upsets them whether it’s on the surface of their awareness or not. I hope this is changing among younger generations but I’d say baby boomers and older generations suffer this sexist generality.

Guys, when your (female) partner lands that big account and/or gets a raise and is making more money than you are, how do you really feel inside? Gals, the same question to you? Are you happy for his success or do you feel envious deep inside?

Male lions fighting

I choose the word “envy” rather than jealousy, because I attach different emotions to each. We can envy another without wishing them ill. But, usually when we are jealous, we are wishing it were us rather than them that had whatever it is we are jealous about. So, in a healthy relationship, I think there’s nothing wrong with feeling envy towards your partner’s success if you’re feeling inadequate in comparison. The moment it moves to jealousy, it’s time to re-evaluate things and probably seek some counseling.

Young couples today, with children, often need the income from both partners to either literally make ends meet or to live the lifestyle they want to have. When a couple decides they can afford to give up one of their incomes, the choice of who is usually based on which partner has the greater current income or greater long-term potential. That is smart but discounts how either party might feel deep inside by being the one left home.

Angry husband and wife comic

Again, I want to believe that the current generation of young parents is better equipped to handle either party being the stay-at-home-parent, but I still suspect many stay-at-home-dads struggle in their hearts, if not their minds. I suppose time will tell if we’ve really reached parity between the sexes on income and roles. What do you think?

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