Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Biggest Loser

I am a competitive person. I come from a big family, so I grew up competing with my siblings for everything. I was a swimmer until I graduated from high school. I was a nationally ranked debater in high school. Most telling of all, I went to law school. It's no secret that I have a competitive personality and I like to win.

But I read an article recently that made me question my love of winning. Dr. Kelly Flanagan, a clinical psychologist, wrote about how married couples fight with one another. He discusses three types of marriages: 1) both spouses compete to win, 2) one spouse always wins and the other spouse always loses, and 3) both spouses compete to lose. In the first type of marriage, the spouses destroy one another. The second type exemplifies an abusive marriage. And the third type of marriage seems strange. Who likes to lose? And who would want to lose? But it's these marriages that are the most successful because losing isn't a bad thing. In fact, losing is the best thing. Each spouse commits to lose everyday by loving the other so much that they are willing to sacrifice their own self.

Dr. Flanagan doesn't mean this in a bad way. The losing spouses don't lose their independence or sense of self; they lose their need to control. In losing, they win because they learn to let go of pettiness. Losing spouses listen to, care for, and accept their partners. They don't fight over the little things because they know it's not worth it, and when they do fight, they fight fairly and respectfully. To be a losing spouse is to be humble, open, available, forgiving, and to trust that your spouse will return the favor.

Dr. Flanagan says that "losing" marriages are revolutionary in that they challenge the social norm of winning. Everything in our culture is geared toward winning. You have to be the hardest-working employee, the most devoted parent, the smartest student, the highest, the strongest, and the fastest. Stepping out of the race to be the best is downright counter-cultural. But it's the best thing for our marriages.

I highly recommend that you all read the whole article. I found it eloquent, thought-provoking, and inspiring. I don't think anything will ever stop my competitive drive - I wouldn't be me without it - but I resolve to try to turn it off when I'm at home and be a loser.

Unless Adam wants to play Scrabble. Then all bets are off.

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