It seems natural to compare ourselves to others. We compare appearances, careers, marriages, and even spouses. The chief problem of comparisons is that they’re usually based on romanticized half-truths. Most often when we compare, we base expectations of ourselves on standards that aren’t accurate – they’re perceived. These comparisons stifle us, only truth and transparency cause real growth.
I’ve caught myself comparing Selena and I to other couples. It usually stems from some insecurity of mine, where I’m seeking validation by measuring us up against an outside standard. For example, if we’ve just had a fight, I’m more apt to compare us to friends that have a happy, “perfect” marriage.
If we’ve had a busy week and our clothes are everywhere, I think: “So-and-so’s house is NEVER this messy…why are we such slobs?” The same is true for our car, yard, bathroom, and even the kitchen sink…. Sounds pretty ridiculous when you type it all out like that.
What’s worse is when we compare and think we’re better: “Oh man, look at how they’re bickering. We’ve really got it together right?”
Marriage comparisons take on a few typical forms:
- Comparing your spouse to other men or other women
“Why isn’t my husband thoughtful like her husband”, “I wish my wife was thinner like his wife”
- Comparing your happiness or conflicts
“They never argue like we do”
- Comparing your accomplishments
“They have a nicer house/car than us”, “Why can’t my husband get a good job like her husband”
You name it, there’s a comparison for it. Few things can be as damaging to your marriage than unhealthy comparisons; they only crush and demoralize the spirit. In 2 Corinthians 10:12, Paul states that those who make comparisons are “without understanding”.
Compare no more
It’s important to realize that nobody is perfect. Everyone has their “stuff” though it’s not always visible. It’s way too easy to look at other happy couples and think to ourselves, “They don’t have the same problems we have”. Even the happiest couples fight and bicker. The most grounded couples have experienced or are currently experiencing cracks in their foundation.
In fact, if a couple never shows cracks in their marriage, I suspect they’re just better at hiding them before I assume they’re not there…
Selena and I meet with many couples, usually just to spend time together and hang out. When the relationship matures and walls crumble, we get to see behind their curtain a bit, and they see behind ours. It’s refreshing to learn that they aren’t perfect, just like us. This alleviates stress and opens the door for constructive growth through relationship.
If you have couples that you respect, I encourage you to spend time talking about real issues with them. You will inevitably find that they have the same struggles as you and there’s room to help each other grow and mature. We even have a few veteran couples that we maintain contact with and seek advice from when we hit bumps.
Unhealthy comparisons are formulated from a distance, while relationship and transparency allow for honest growth. If we are going to compare, we must know our true source of identity – individually, and as a couple.
One comparison worth making
…“Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”
We aren’t built to compare ourselves to others – boasting in our minds about our wisdom, might, and riches. We also can’t measure up by looking at our behavior in light of social standards alone. The Bible calls this “being justified by the law” (Romans 3:27) – it’s an antiquated standard! We must find our identity in Jesus alone and his sacrifice (2 Corinthians 5:21).
When we look to God for approval, he sees Jesus – righteous, worthy, and lovable! This grace allows us to operate from a place of identity and confidence. It’s only from this foundation and comparison that we can build a healthy marriage.
Photo credit: Jeff Marsh