This week’s How To Maintain a High Maintenance Marriage post was about laughter and playing with your spouse. One of the specific ways Tim and I play together is by playing games. Whether it’s Monopoly Deal or a couple rounds of Bananagrams, we enjoy the camaraderie and engagement that games provide.
Games are also quite sentimental to us. Our first hangout (that our lovely friends kindly organized so we could meet beyond a handshake) ended in us conveniently being on the same team for Nerts. We lost but had some great laughs and a high five. Before we went on an actual date, TIm and I kept in touch by playing way to much Words With Friends. I learned how to play Up The River, Down The River while camping with his family and we spent countless nights playing Fill or Bust (one of my personal favorites) with my parents.
So, considering how much our relationship began with games, I find it ironic that games have also created a fair amount of conflict between Tim and I. Maybe it was my newly in-love state that suppressed my true nature, but games became less and less laughter producing the more we played.
The competitiveness I try to hide kept rearing its ugly, aggressive head the longer we were married. A fun game would go from a pleasant way to spend a half-hour to a ruined evening within minutes if I lost. Plus, I’m an English major which makes losing word games even more painful.
Despite my best efforts to control my competitive urges, they were becoming a real problem. We had to stop playing a few games in particular because loosing put me in such a foul mood – silence and sulking. I would be even more upset if I thought he let me win on purpose. Several times I thought I could play again without being a competitive jerk, but one roll of the dice and I as the world’s worst loser.
Competitiveness isn’t always a bad thing, but when it pits one spouse against the other, it can foster unhealthy dynamics in a marriage. Especially in the first year together, activities, free time, schedules, and work should all be creating intimacy not distance.
I was trapped between the desire to enjoy a game or two together and the truth that playing a game may turn out positively unenjoyable because I have yet to master the art of controlling my competitive spirit.
In the meantime, I realized it would behove Tim and I to do things that played to our individual strengths but did’t pit us against each other.
Are you or your spouse competitive? How has that affected the way you interact with each other and the activities you do?
- Pick games that rely on chance not strategy or skill. Losing is much better when you know there wasn’t much you could do to change the outcome. You can just relax and enjoy time with your spouse. Try Fill or Bust or Sequence.
- Play games in a group. I don’t mind losing when its to multiple people.
- Be on your spouse’s team. You can channel that competitiveness for the benefit of the both of you.
- In the same vein, join a community league or team. You’ll be playing together with multiple other people. Chances are, you won’t be the most competitive person on the team.
- Pick up an individual sport – rock climbing, cycling, solitaire – and encourage each other in that activity. Be your spouse’s cheerleader. It feels great to support and be supported.