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When Couples Compete

Focuses on competitiveness in relationships, which relates to psychology. Comments from Steven Beach, and his colleagues at the University of Georgia; Information on persons in dating relationships; Reaction of persons who date when competing in an important area.

If you're trying to figure out whether your relationship is headed for aserious commitment or a bitter breakup, take a look at how the two of you react when you become competitors.

Married people tend to take joy in a spouse's achievements and empathize at losses, according to Steven Beach, Ph.D., and his colleagues at the University of Georgia. Those in dating relationships, on the other hand, parse their reactions more distinctly based on whether the competition is in an area that is personally important.

In arenas that don't matter, daters are full of congratulations at a parmer's success and sympathetic at a failure. When the competition is in an area that matters, though, daters are apt to gloat when they outperform their partner and be envious or resentful when the panner triumphs instead.

People who are dating are not yet committed to each other, Beach surmises, and thus, may want to protect and defend the areas in which they excel. They're better able to empathize when their own needs aren't in focus. Spouses, however, see themselves as a unit, and are more willing to bask in reflected glory.

PHOTO (COLOR): A couple rock climbing