Opportunity for comparison is everywhere.
Almost everywhere you look is an opportunity to compare your spouse with someone else. Someone else’s body. Someone’s relational warmth. Someone else’s smile, figure, income, humour, house, kindness… I could go on.
We live in the day of social media blasting everyone’s highlight reel into our faces and minds every day. We are surrounded by gorgeous bodies, ‘successful relationships’ and perfect lives. The constant display of perfection causes us to ask questions of ourselves such as, “Am I enjoying my life enough?” and “Is my spouse really giving me their best?”
Firstly, no one’s life looks like their curated Instagram feed. No one. As a society we are becoming aware of the impact of social media to our mental health but what about our marriages? How do we deal with the consistent presence of perfection and beauty, wealth and success? And how we protect our marriage from the damage that comparison brings?
Secondly, we are getting really good at comparing. And that’s a bad thing. The mental health decline, which some attribute partially or wholly to the increase of social media, could be the result of constant comparison. My life doesn’t look like that. My spouse doesn’t look like that. My spouse doesn’t look as fun, as playful, as sexy, as secure as that. Our life doesn’t look THAT good.
After playing the comparison game for long enough we start to think that our spouse is holding out on us. Or that we’re actually terribly incompatible. Or worse. Maybe the thought has crept in that you could never build ‘that’ kind of life with your current spouse.
Sadly, we spend time comparing instead of building and repairing. Not one of the thoughts above are helpful. They don’t inspire us to connect or build a marriage we both love to be in.
Comparison is the thief of joy – Theodore Roosevelt
This is a powerful saying. When you compare your spouse with someone else, you rob yourself of the joy you have already found in your spouse. It’s that simple. It’s that real.
In the spirit of being vulnerable and also comprehensive, over the next few posts I want to share my own thought process when a comparison opportunity comes along. But first, let me give you a real, personal example.
I’m a very visual person. I’m in love with my wife and I adore her body. Her face and hair, her curves, her boobs, her butt. She’s self-conscious after having 4 kids but I adore her. Now, because I’m super visual I also notice other beautiful women. And I’m tempted to compare. Sometimes I do and it’s not helpful. The woman near me might be skinnier, bustier, younger or whatever. Maybe she’s just different but she’s carrying herself confidently. Do I find her attractive? Sure. Is that wrong? Not yet.
Let’s get some necessary clarity
Before we go any further let’s clarify exactly what I mean. Noticing a person you find attractive is normal and pretty harmless. Being attracted to them because they are beautiful or kind or lovely is ok. Moving forwards with that attraction is not. Whenever you shift to a place of imagination or fantasy, creating a scenario in your mind where you are together or having sex, that is definitely not harmless. Noticing, attraction and action are different. The first two are a part of who we are as human beings. The third involves some movement and intentionality (even just in your mind) towards them. That is disrespectful to your spouse and normalises unfaithfulness in your mind.
There are 3.82 billion women on the planet who are not my wife. Saying that no one is as beautiful as her in a purely physical sense is unrealistic. She is more beautiful to me than anyone else because she’s mine, I love her and I choose to focus on just her. You could be married to Kim Kardashian and still find someone technically more beautiful. So that’s not the real problem is it? The problem is not in the seeing or noticing of another attractive human being. The first problem comes if we move in that attraction. The second problem is when we make a comparison.
What if it’s not physical? If you have a work colleague who is ‘just like you’ and is the opposite of your spouse you might find yourself attracted to their personality or humour. Maybe they’re a good listener. Maybe they like the same books or movies as you. Now you’re dealing with attraction, just on an emotional level. And then emotional comparing. Why can’t my spouse be like this? We don’t laugh like this. Why don’t we sit and talk like this anymore?
Danger, Will Robinson. Danger.
When you take the step from noticing someone beautiful or wonderful to comparing them with who you chose to marry you’ve gone too far. Now you’re working against your relationship and beginning to doubt and disconnect, even just emotionally, from your spouse. So where is the line we shouldn’t cross? When you shift from appreciating something about someone to making a direct comparison with your spouse.
Comparison is dangerous to your marriage.
1 Firstly, because every time you compare, your view of your spouse lowers. Whenever we compare, someone always loses. It won’t be the other person. You don’t have enough information about them. It’s going to be your spouse because, why else would you be comparing? Sadly, you are also losing because, instead of appreciating who you have and what you have built together, you’re weighing it all up against someone else whose boobs, biceps or bank account is bigger.
2 Secondly, comparison is dangerous because it doesn’t contribute in a healthy way to your marriage. There’s no discussion around what you both want, what you’ll both build together or how you want to be treated or loved. You’re not solving problems together, you’re creating new ones by yourself. You’re stuck in a one-sided loop that is spiralling downwards.
3 Thirdly, comparison is dangerous because of what it leads to. Comparing leads to disconnection and withdrawal, not sharing your thoughts and feelings, not being together on things that matter to you and it leads to a selfish, one-sided relationship. We don’t exist in our marriage just to have our needs met. We exist to love and serve each other. To talk about everything that truly matters to us. And to grow into selfless, truly loving people who explore what togetherness and commitment really look like throughout life.
Don’t let yourself move from noticing to active attraction to comparison. In the next posts I’ll help you win the game. But for now, don’t compare. Enjoy what you already have instead.