Conflicts — 04 December 2012
When winning ends up losing

Everyone loves to win. Whether the win is of a game, prize, contest, sport, legal matter, lottery, promotion, prized mate, or any other physical or intellectual achievement that the winner is blessed to receive. There is uniqueness in getting the top prize. Being accomplished or lucky elevates one’s esteem and garners the adulation of others. In love relationships, however, winning is losing.

George Orwell said, “Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible.” The respect and glory attributed to the achieving or lucky individual bestows one with exceptional power.

Vince Lombardi explained, “Winning isn’t everything, but the will to win is everything.” Perhaps the spirit and effort involved in seeking the win is what is admirable.

If winning is such a desired state, why would it not be equally valued within a loving relationship? The reason is that when one mate wins it often creates a loss for the other.

Sandra Murray and John Holmes found that “Relationships were most likely to persist -even in the face of conflicts and doubts – when intimates idealized one another the most.” Those who did, “actually created the relationship they wished for as their romances progressed.”

Though winning marital arguments may bolster the “winner’s” perceived power, it often leaves the other partner in ruins of shame and ineptness. The recipient’s emotionally battered state creates aversion to future hurt and may lead to ongoing emotional devastation and withdrawal.

No disagreements between spouses should cross the line from respectful discussion to war of words between battling enemies. “Winning” in marital discourse is an inappropriate and abusive conduct unbecoming to loving mates.

If the goal of one or both partners is to be “right” and prove the other “wrong”, it creates a battlefield in which one may fall and both may lose.

The goal of a committed partnership is to support each other and bolster one another when either falters rather than empower oneself at the expense of the beloved. Battles about superiority of mind or correctness of facts diminish both mates as they lose sight of their love.

To maintain a healthy relationship, one need not abandon his/her reality, beliefs or perspectives. Yet, one must remember that being correct, knowing more or understanding life differently does not relegate him/her to a superior position. It certainly lowers one’s stature to demand the submission of the mate in order to elevate oneself to greater esteem.

Murray and Holmes found that partners were more satisfied with their union, not only when their partners viewed them favorably, “but also when they were viewed more positively than they viewed themselves.” It is your mate’s admiring vision of you that bolsters and heals you – and vice versa.

Be a winner in your relationship:

  • Abstain from insisting that your view is the truth.
  • Accept that supporting each other makes both of you winners.
  • Believe in your mate, especially when he/she is in doubt.




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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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