Archive for rivalry

Election fatigue

Q. How many politicians does it take to change a light bulb?

A.  None. They will just spend the time blaming each other for the failure of the dud one.

As couple counsellors, we are often called upon to try and better understand the power struggle that erupts when partners don’t feel heard or understood by each other.
Couples can talk over one another, score points by attacking each other and loudly dismiss each other’s concerns until a situation becomes so loaded that it is hard for them to understand how they can ever find a peaceful middle ground.
If they reach the point of dissolve, they then often also disagree how best to parent their children.

Employing the same tiring rhetoric, the Dave and Ed election sessions appear to be getting just as fruitless as the couple desperately intent on trying to impress their audiences with just how right they are and how the other is completely muddled.

We, the poor kids in the middle of all this, now have to decide which parent gets our vote. They are both promising lots of treats and explaining how much better life will be if they are the parent making the big decisions about our health, wealth and safety.
Professional rivalry disintegrates into personal rivalry. Currently it’s all getting grubbier by the day. Playground politics rule.
Their couple sessions on TV and in the media are accompanied by each other’s back up friends and relatives. Leaders are only ever pictures clinging onto their spouses to ensure we understand how empathetic and family orientated they both are. Everyone is desperate to show their golden side. The shadows will come later.
Accusations, insults and assassination by media spin. It all gets in the way of the truth which is the same here as it is for our couples.
There is no ‘right’ way. There are two viewpoints to each truth. Sometimes more than two. Reason and compassion should be the main helpmates, but these are in short supply.
Counselling could help, but that would involve the tricky business of really listening, not just waiting to speak.

Currently it’s getting childishly competitive. Voting for the best parental guidance will be a confusing choice for many.  Mudslinging just gets tiring and messy for the audience. Will the victor sadly just be the biggest and loudest and the one that can throw the most dirt?
For many in couple therapy feeling victorious can be more important than caring about the other.
The winner takes it all. But will it make them happy?


Christina Fraser

Are you in Competition with your Partner?

With a plethora of competitive activities taking place in London and around the World this summer ranging from the Chelsea Flower Show to the football World Cup and everything in-between, made me think about Competition – and how it works in our relationships.

Are you in a relationship where there is constant competition between you? It may range from who has the more prestigious career, who earns the most money, who has the highest IQ, to who is the better cook or who runs the fastest marathon?

Competition is not a bad thing. It keeps us on our toes. Sometimes if there is too much competition in a relationship, it can cause rivalry and disconnection between a couple rather than support and connection. Is continual competition in a relationship the need for attention and affirmation? Are you trying to prove something to yourself and to each other?

Too much competition begins to take a toll on the relationship when it starts to undermine more of the positive aspects of your connection. It can start to feel more about me than about us?

If you have any of these thoughts, take time out to talk to each other and check out whether it feels as if you are working together on the same team and not on an opposing one. Being more aware of what is driving the competition helps a couple make more choices that will concentrate on the partnership rather than the competition.

Instead of seeing competition as rivalry, why not praise and celebrate your partner’s talents and achievements. Discuss how you can work towards being more of a collaborative partnership than a competitive one.

Dawn Kaffel

Placement in the Family A useful task in a learning group

First and last children have an identity by the nature of their position.

An only child has an identity because it avoids sibling rivalry but has to face other difficult issues within family life on his/her own.

The middle children however many there are have to form their own identity within the group.  This may be, the joker, the rebel, the sick one, the athlete, the academic, the good girl/boy, the quiet one or the attention seeker.

All these defenses are formed in order to gain special attention from the parents or parent.

When these children become adults many of these learnt behaviour patterns repeat throughout their lives, sometimes making relationships difficult to manage.  An interesting experiment which can be reassuring and helpful in a group is to form sets of same place children who then share their experience of what being that number felt like.

The feeling of being alone becomes a shared one and enables management of difficult issues to feel easier.

Clare Ireland