You only need to sit around a Monopoly board with my wife, or peer over a hand of rummy, to know how competitive she is. I’m not averse to healthy competition around the house, but it wasn’t until recently, when she returned from giving blood, that I started to realise things were getting out of hand.
Blood donation, a purely selfless act of altruism, right? Not when my wife is doing it. Because she managed to turn it into a competition by claiming her veins were so healthy and easy to find, and her heart so efficient, that it had pumped a pint out in just five minutes and 40 seconds, impressing the attending NHS staff.
I had visions of her wheeling her machine around the room, shouting, “in your face, you slack-veined losers!” at the other punctured patrons doing their good deed that day.
“When are you going to make an appointment?” she asked me, excitedly. Knowing full well that my draw time won’t be a patch on hers.
Later on, I caught her Googling “world record for giving a pint of blood”, like there was some kind of phlebotomy world championships she could begin training for.
There are other ways in which my wife’s competitive streak manifests itself in our daily lives.
As soon as she wakes up, she checks her smart watch to find out her “sleep quality score” and announce it (it will be better than mine). Her overnight average heart rate will be compared to mine. What percentage of her night was spent in REM sleep, and so on.
Then it’s how she “got Wordle in three” and how she’s always the first to reply on any of the numerous WhatsApp groups that we belong to. Don’t even get me started on her daily step count, how many continuous days she’s gone over 10,000 steps, or how many flights of stairs she’s scrambled up, which is usually declared over dinner, while the kids and I exchange tired looks over the spaghetti.
I probably should have seen the warning signs on our first dates when she would suggest games of rock, paper, scissors to see which one of us should get the drinks in. Whenever she didn’t win, it went to a best of three. Then, best of five and so on, until she was able to declare herself the winner and I trudged off to the bar.
I thought it was quite good fun at the time, but the writing was clearly on the wall.
The strange thing is that my wife is what I would call a micro-competitor, which is even more exhausting than someone with a more traditional competitive streak.
She’s a marathon runner, a trail runner, an ultra-runner, a long-distance track runner, a cross-country runner (yes, she likes running) and she also regularly plays in a netball league. However, in all these pursuits she is just competitive with herself, for a better PB or a better performance on court. She’s actually a terrific loser, a very gracious winner and always has a smile on her face, win, lose or draw – it’s only at home and over the most insignificant things that she seems to turn into Roy Keane, which is why the children and I are planning an intervention.
It might come the next time a hand of Uno turns ugly or when she questions Donkey Kong Jr’s will to win in Mario Kart, but I’m going to confront her about it because it’s making me see red on a daily basis and isn’t good for my blood pressure. Actually, maybe I won’t mention the blood pressure – she’ll only dig out the monitor and insist that we see whose is lowest.