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August 10, 2021

When You Compare Your Relationship and Yours Comes Up Short

I used to be that girl who felt jealous of other’s relationships. You know, THOSE couples who finish each other’s sentences, do everything together, say they never fight, are truly the best of friends – maybe even wear matching outfits on vacations- are joined at the hip and say they wouldn’t want it any other way. The ones who make marriage look so incredibly dreamy and make mine look like it’s coming up short.

And I know you’ve been there. You may not have even been thinking about your marriage in any negative way, until you spot them on social or hang out with them at an event. All of the sudden, your relationship pales in comparison and you find yourself feeling less than, having negative, resentful feelings about your spouse, when before you may have been just fine.

I had these feelings until one day, one of those Ken and Barbie couples showed up in my practice. On the outside they were #couplesgoals and on the inside, they were crumbling under so much dysfunction- eating disorders, addiction, sexual dysfunction, psychological disorders- the list goes on. And one of the main things holding them together was not love, but their couple image. I never looked at a couple with envy in that same way again.

I’m not saying that all enviable couples are hiding something- not at all. I’m just saying that judging those kinds of books by the cover robs you of the present joy in your own relationship- and for a fantasy, a facade, not even reality.

Couple envy like all other types of jealousy is completely normal. The shiny new car always looks better than our tried and true decade old vehicle. But it should stop there at a ” Oh that’s nice”,  not rage into a roaring fire that threatens to destroy your relationships.

We tend to have couple envy when we feel like there is something missing from our own relationship. If we aren’t feeling solid in our marriage, the grass on the other side doesn’t just look greener, it looks lusher, more vibrant and our own less flashy lawn looks like dirt.

We tend to have couple envy when we feel like there is something missing from our own relationship.

But what does relationship comparison do to you and your relationships?

lt makes you feel incapable, resentful, anxious, fearful.

Comparison isn’t just a waste of time, it damages us in small seemingly innocuous ways- like repeated paper cuts that get infected.

The more you compare, the emptier you become. That relationship she has with her daughter, that loving, considerate husband, the mother who looks like the grandma you always wanted for your children, that perfect child who makes her mother look good, a ride or die best friendship like they have. The friend who got engaged who hasn’t even been single as long as you have.

It is a lie that you would be happier with their children or a spouse like theirs or their life. You don’t know what comes with their package and besides it’s not your package. Your package is beautiful with all its bumps, lumps and scratches. And you can see the glorious beauty in it when you stop the comparisons.

One of my favorite movie quotes is from The Story of Us, with Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer- about a couple, married 15 years on the brink of divorce, already separated, who find the spark back in their marriage. The scene that made me boo hoo in the movie theater was when Michelle Pfeiffer said these words:

We’re an us. There’s a history here, and histories don’t happen overnight. In Mesopotamia or Ancient Troy there are cities built on top of other cities, but I don’t want another city. I like this city. I know what kind of mood you’re in when you wake up by which eyebrow is higher, and you know I’m a little quiet in the morning and compensate accordingly, that’s a dance you perfect over time. And it’s hard, it’s much harder than I thought it would be, but there’s more good than bad and you don’t just give up! And it’s not for the sake of the children, but God, they’re great kids aren’t they? And we made them, I mean think about that! It’s like, there were no people there, and then there were people and they grew… and I won’t be able to say to some stranger that Josh has your hands or remember how Erin threw up at the Lincoln Memorial? And let’s face it, anybody is going to have traits that get on your nerves, I mean why shouldn’t it be your annoying traits, and I know I”m no day at the beach, but I do have a good sense of direction so I can at least find the beach, which isn’t a weakness of yours, it’s a strength of mine. And God, you’re a good friend and good friends are hard to find. What I”m trying to say is I love you.

I paraphrased a lot of it because it goes on and on and Michelle said it so much better than I did, but what it boils down to is that we can see our relationship through a lens of deficiency or we can see it through a lens of strengths. It’s the same relationship. One view makes us envious of others and another view makes us thankful for what we have.

My podcast is for those in sometimes difficult relationships and in many ways, that’s all of us. But for some of us, there are more bad times than good. I’m not trying to get you to look at your relationship through rose colored glasses, but just to recognize that both lenses tell the truth. When we focus only on one, we rob ourselves of the beauty of the other.

The reality is that when Stan finishes my sentences, I am actually annoyed. He knows me well enough to do that, but it isn’t so romantic as I may have dreamed it to be. And it doesn’t make me feel more loved.

When you feel yourself slipping into the dangerous edge of relationship comparison, remind yourself of who you are.

When you feel yourself slipping into the dangerous edge of relationship comparison, remind yourself of who you are.

You are a child of God, crafted perfectly. You are living in a time uniquely designed for you. God is not confused. He did not make a mistake. He knows your desires and he knows your dreams that haven’t come true. He is not punishing you, but he is shaping you.

He put those very people in your life that you love and sometimes wish were different. And he knows exactly why because he has a birds eye view that you are not privy to.

We all have a load to carry. Focus on your own load. People in our lives will always be lacking in some way. Focus on their strengths. We all have things in our life that we wish were different especially when we look at what she has and we don’t. Focus on what you love about what you do have.

So, If you find yourself feeling envious, here’s your homework:

1. Ask yourself: What do I feel is missing from my own relationship?

Is there something that I need to do to work towards change, or do I just need to accept my unique relationship for what it is?

If you’re jealous that the other couple spends a lot of time together, find a way to increase your time spent with your significant other

If you feel they have a deeper intimacy than you do, try some fun exercises to get to know your partner better. There are some great couples question games that are fun and help deepen intimacy at the same time.

If you’re feeling jealous, then it’s time to work on an acceptance mantra. I accept my partner for exactly who he is- flaws and all, just as I desire him to accept me. Repeat this regularly.

2. Stay away from Social media.

Nothing is true on there not even what I post. I mean, it’s true, but only a snapshot from a certain angle. Don’t put pressure or strain on your own relationship because you are watching something unreal on social and feeling less than.

3. If there is a couple that you truly look up to. Talk to them. Ask them about their methods, their maintenance. Ask for advice.

Listen and then still remember that your relationship is unique, not cookie cutter and what works for them may not for you and that’s okay.

4. Pick your battles.

If you feel that your relationship is unhealthy. If you are struggling for what you may consider baseline health and you feel the tugging, nagging pull towards jealousy when you look at other couples who have what you want, pick your battles. Choose the most important aspect of your relationship that you want to change and let the others go. Tell your partner how you feel and what types of change you desire. Be honest, but choose your battle.

No relationship is perfect. And remember, the relationship goals couple is a fantasy. You can still make a beautiful relationship out of the broken pieces of your hopes and dreams. What are you waiting for?

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