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Competing With Your Partner? No, That's More Like Sibling Rivalry Than Lovers

And all the sibling-like traits that don't belong in romantic relationships.

By Ellen "Jelly" McRaePublished 13 days ago 8 min read
Image created on Canva

Do you know when you can't unsee behaviours between two people you know? 

Yeah, I'm having that moment. And it's not sitting right with me the situation unfolding.

My favourite, guilty-pleasure pastime is people-watching. You could say that I like it a little more than I care to admit.

And yes, I can't help but people-watch my friends. A couple I know very well have started to show signs of being not as close as I've come to know them. If it wasn't for the very obvious fact they aren't siblings, to the naked eye you would assume they were.

The fact they often dressed alike is one thing. Yet, their behaviour is becoming increasingly like those of people who grew up together. 

It's loving but weird. 

It's playful, not romantic. 

It's schoolyard behaviour, not grown-ups having a sexual relationship.

They tease each other, they compete with each other, and they throw each other under the bus. It reminded me of a classic sibling rivalry, in which each child is competing to be the winner of the family.

But this is a romantic relationship. Why do they think acting like this suits this type of relationship?

I'm sure they're not the only ones who have this confusion. Or, more than likely, fallen into the trap of becoming a little too comfortable with each other.

Here are all the sibling-like behaviours that don't belong in romantic relationships. And the reasons why they're unhealthy for your romance longevity.

Who's winning this war?

Siblings love to compete with each other. As the youngest of three, I was in perpetual competition with my brother and sister. 

There was never a moment we couldn't turn into a competition, too. We used to have a hot brick challenge, in the middle of summer. The winner was who could stand on the hot bricks the longest. 

I was always the winner of that one.

In romance, it's easy to fall into this trap. The couple I know often compete over money. A cliche, right? 

But between them, it's always a power struggle based on who's earning more. The bigger earner at the time makes the decisions about how to spend the money, and the other half has to follow along. 

No arguments allowed. No questioning of the money maker. And if you want to change that, you have to be the breadwinner. You have to get to the top.

I'm not even sure they know they're doing it. I don't believe it was a conscious choice to begin acting like this with each other.

Competitive couples don't last

Competitions create imbalanced relationships. That's why we often have many issues with our siblings because the imbalance rarely rights itself. We're always in this battle. 

But as lovers, as a romantic union, you're meant to be a team. If you're going to compete, it should be you two against the world together. Not you versus them.

That's the reason you became a union in the first place, right? To go through life as a team. 

It makes me wonder; if you see your partner as someone to compete with, are they really your partner? And do you really want a partner, at all?

Healthy competition is a fickle thing. It doesn't take much to tip a healthy contest into an ugly one. 

Considering couples have so much to battle, and obstacles in and out of their control to constantly overcome, it's best not to add another one into the mix.

Why are you making the comparison?

It doesn't take much logic to realise why siblings get compared to each other. 

If life were a big scientific experiment, all the variables are right for comparison with siblings. Same parents. Same household. Same opportunities in life, for the most part. 

And when you're a sibling, you come to realise you can't always outgrow comparison. It's always there. You accept this will happen.

In romance, this comparison looks a little different, but still feels like sibling behaviours. In the case of my friends, they tend to compare each other against other couples. 

The woman in this scenario often compares the man to other men, wondering why he doesn't pick up a hammer. Or doesn't know how to fix something the way other men can. 

The man often compares the woman to the way the other women dress, and how she approaches being feminine around him.

These comparisons are quite public by the way. I'm not spilling some private secrets or personal conversations. 

They're at each other with these comparisons the same way the teachers at school compared me to my older sister; public.

Comparison is the romantic enemy

I'm sure you can see the harmful impact of comparing your partner to someone else. 

Or comparing your relationship to another. 

Comparison can be healthy if you're trying to get better. But if you're comparing for the sake of it, as siblings do, you're setting a very unromantic tone.

You're also implying to your partner that through this comparison that they're not enough. 

'Why can't you be more like them?' is what they hear. 

We know from sibling interactions we don't feel good enough. Why pass that on to our partner?

Am I your buddy?

I have a personal preference when it comes to people calling me 'mate', 'buddy', or 'pal'. I don't like it. 

The words don't roll off the tongue for me, so there's no surprise I can't relate to the idea of using them as nicknames. I don't find them to be all that intimate either. 

I prefer nicknames that come with some meaning if only a little.

Personal preference aside, these types of nicknames, "buddy" or "pal", aren't exactly romantic. It's like what you would call a friend or sibling. 

Worse still, I've seen other people have horrible, unromantic nicknames for their partners. 

Things like; "Chief", "Boss", their last name (like Macca or Smithy), or "Mama" or "Papa".

Love language exists for a reason

We have to be careful with how we address each other in romantic relationships. You can go down the path of calling your significant other mate and hope it works out. 

But it doesn't exactly scream intimacy.

I'm not saying you need to call each other ridiculous, over-the-top, lovey-dovey names if you don't feel it. The little pet names need to come naturally to you. 

But if you treat your partner like a friend or as one of your siblings, you're not exactly inviting romance and intimacy that is just between you. You don't have something that means they know, any time of day, how special they are to you.

That's what pet names are for; to indicate to your partner how loved they are. 

You can't be special if you use the same nickname for your sibling as you do your partner.

Teasing troubles

You would say it's the birthright of a sibling to tease each other. That's what you do. You pick on each other for no other reason than you can. Often siblings take out their frustrations on the world on each other. 

You can't call your friend fat, so you go home and call your sister fat, instead.

It's this immaturity of teasing that often doesn't part most siblings. They tend to carry this behaviour through most of their life.

Mine hasn't stopped with my siblings. It's always the same, too. Very uninventive.

Couples tease each other too. Often about different things, but still they go for things with the ring of truth about it.

The couple I know love to tease each other about their hobbies. She loves listening to hyper-pop music, and he would rather read a book, in front of the fire, in peace.

It results in him getting teased like an old man. Everyone laughs at it, including the man. But the joke doesn't feel like they're two people in love with each other.

You have to be each other's biggest cheerleader

Again, this is that debate about whether you see it as harmless teasing or whether you see all teasing from your partner as detrimental to your relationship.

Sure, every relationship can handle some banter about those little aspects of life. The problem is when all you do is tease each other. 

You don't know how to say anything else to your partner, or about your partner to other people.

This is about the teamwork concept. You're meant to work together and support each other. The teasing side of things doesn't always suggest you're on the same side or even have each other's backs. And it doesn't take much for harmless teasing to turn into all-out war.

Couples who act like siblings don't last

When you begin to add all these sibling-like traits together, you see that a romantic relationship that's based on comparing, teasing, unaffectionate pet names and competition isn't a healthy one. 

These things don't bring couples together. 

It divides them.

Because these aren't the traits of people who have built intimacy between them.

True, romantic intimacy is just between the two people in the relationship. And that's what romantic relationships need to survive, some level of intimacy that doesn't involve the rest of the world.

Though you can love your partner like a sibling or a friend, they aren't those people to you.

They are your lover. They deserve a different level of affection from anyone else.

And giving those things to a partner shouldn't feel like work. It should come with love.

Struggling to treat your partner like a lover, not a sibling? Well, that might be the writing on the wall.


About the Creator

Ellen "Jelly" McRae

Writes about romanceships (romance + relationships) | Loves to talk about behind the scenes of being a solopreneur on The Frolics | Writes 1 Lovelock Drive | Discover everything I do and share here:

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