Some people might ask the question, “Isn’t competition a bad thing when it comes to relationships?” Personally, I don’t believe so. It has been apparent throughout the course of human history that competition has kept people alive for thousands of years, and continues to be a part of all living things in nature. Competition is a useful survival skill that ranges from bacteria to every person alive – the search for more and better resources in a manner in which to ensure the survival of a species. Evolutionary psychology has stated that individuals use the same techniques that were developed during the early part of human history today, and continue to try to amend these formed impulses into modern societies.
In much of modern history, competition is not quite as fierce as it was during the early days of human history. Instead of working within a small clan to bring down a large source of meat, such as a mammoth,?? people have created special circumstances for competition such as sports. The variety and range of sports allows the physical, psychological, and emotional outlet of thousands of years of competitive instincts for many humans. These outlets range not only to the participants of sports, but even to the spectators. This can be evident by watching any modern day fan of a popular sporting event, such as American football or European football (American soccer), and observing how as people we become invested in sport and have physiological reactions that mimic ancient competitive spirits – our pulses quicken, heartrate increases, and our autonomic nervous system goes into high gear. Seemingly ironically, these are the same responses that our ancestors got when competing for survival – the so-called ‘fight or flight response’.
That said, people like ourselves have a tough time compartmentalizing instincts. So, rather than saving competitive urges for either hunting large game or rooting for our favorite sports team or player, we continue the desire to compete. We compete with each other in relationships. This can be seen in very early childhood development, as siblings compete with each other for parental attention or attention at school. Children can also compete for abstract goals such as grades or popularity in school. And as children grow into adolescents and adults, they compete with one another for other types of relationships. Theories in mate selection hold that there is a complex system of how people compete to development connections with mates that are the most desirable and likely to serve the highest function for themselves; including status, appearance, and fertility. Indeed, these competitive urges do not diminish over time, but rather become more complex as they are incorporated into modern social relationships.
However, what theories in mate selection ignore is what happens to these instincts after people join as a couple. Do we stop competing in marriage? Is there a desire to ‘win’ arguments or position when it comes to a dominant or submissive parenting style? Financial responsibility? Sexual interactions? So many of the important aspects of a healthy marital relationship are governed by who “wins” and “loses” from their own perspectives and who is able to compromise and retain some of their perspective while also yielding to their partners belief system and competitive urges.