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Competition is perfect for the market, but a killer in marriage


Men are mean competitors. Nothing gets a man’s radar buzzing faster than the whiff of a competitor.

And it starts early. The little boy in the playground puffs up his grasshopper chest just because he beat the rest of his playmates at the cat and mouse game. The same boy snatches another’s medal because that other child was declared the winner.

It takes love and loads of patient to have a 20-minute pep talk about fair competition, why completing a task is more important than winning, and why it is okay to celebrate another’s win.

Women are competitive too; just not mean at it. I know for sure that if we had more women sitting on executive boards and in senior leadership positions, our country would be far ahead.


While all humans have a competitive streak, it seems that men are simply all about competition. As newly-weds, they had healthy competition, without even realising that they were competing.

They were putting together their best foot forward and working at outdoing each other in good deeds.

I would unleash a four-course meal and he would fix the bulbs in a jiff. He would tell me how much he loved me and I would tell him how much more I loved him. He would take me out for coffee and I would retaliate with a dinner; then he would get us away for the weekend, and I would get him nice shoes – men’s shoes are obscenely expensive.

Nothing lasts forever, we soon discovered.

The healthy competition morphed into something else. He would delay fixing the bulb and yours truly, would fix the bulb. The taps were broken and needed a plumber? I knew the best guy.

“Forget Njuguna, your joker. Andrew is the best,” I would say, dialling Andrew.

Sure enough, my plumber would make a recommendation that seemed out of this world and that seemed to deal with our plumbing issues for good.

“After all these years, Njuguna has never made such a suggestion,” I would tell hubby, a smug smile permanently settling on my lips. My plumber was better than his. What a nice feeling.

When he discovered a better school for our daughter and enrolled her, he wore that same smug smile for a month as our daughter was absolutely enthralled by her new school.


We did not realise when the competition turned mean and ugly. Instead of enjoying the companionship and team work of marriage, we were arguing about important decisions and competing on whose opinion would carry the day.

We would argue about whose good idea it was to move into a neighbourhood with good water supply.

“Remember I am the one that found the house?” hubby would say.

“But I used to live near that neighbourhood, remember?” I would respond.

You would think that it would be a good idea to compete about who the better parent is. It is a foolish idea, trust me.

“I am a teacher by training, remember? That is why I tutor better.” This was my favourite winner. Case closed…And then he learned about my serious case of dyscalculia, that I cannot even help with the basic math homework.

Let us just say, competition works perfectly in the world out there – at the work place, during competitive bidding, while tendering, sitting interviews, for parking slots. But it does not work in a marriage. Not even the so-called healthy competition.

It is a foolish thing to compete against each other, instead of complementing each other.

I heard about this couple that was so obsessed with outdoing each other that when the man went and bought himself a top-of-the-range car, his wife contacted the manufacturer and paid for a custom made top-of-the-range car.

Do we ever learn from others or must we make the same silly and hurtful mistakes like those before us?

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