Dear Dr. Frankie,
I’ve been dating a great woman for a few months. I think we might have some long term potential but there are two major problems. She won’t stop talking about herself! I feel my eyes glaze over and try to redirect the conversation but it inevitably circles back to her. She is also insanely competitive with me. I adore her but this is a total drag—help!
Dear Reluctant Competitor,
This is a complaint I have heard before in lesbian couples. I suggest bringing your concern out into the open. Not talking about it won’t make it go away. Explain to her that it makes you feel uncomfortable and rather than encouraging sharing and dialogue, it actually shuts you down. Jealousy and unhealthy competition is toxic and will destroy a relationship.
There are several possible explanations for your girlfriend’s competitive behavior. It could be rooted in a poor sense of self and/or low self-esteem. If you think you have long term potential with her then think of ways to bolster her self-esteem and sense of self. Encourage her to do things that she excels at. Another possibility is that she is trying to show interest in your activities and accomplishments but doesn’t have the social skills to do so without coming across as competing against you.
Keep in mind that it’s one thing to help someone you love grow and evolve into a better person. But sometimes there is a fine line between doing this and being codependent. It’s not your job to fix her. If you find yourself with more of a work-in-progress than you bargained for, perhaps she isn’t the one for you. If you decide to go forward, then start by identifying all the reasons that you love your girlfriend and want to be with her. Then tell her. Let her know that what you are bringing to the table is for you to share, not to compete over.
It’s also important that you be self-reflective and make sure that you are not playing into it. Don’t automatically assume its coming 100 percent from your other half. Once you have checked in with yourself, if you decide to go forward and are afraid she will be defensive, consider broaching the topic with a therapist present. Expect that you will hurt your girlfriend’s feelings. This conversation could be devastatingly embarrassing. Being in an adult, honest relationship is sometimes very difficult. We all have to face our demons and look at the most difficult parts of ourselves.