There is no shortage of ways in which we tend to compare ourselves to others: You look at your neighbors’ house and wish yours were just a little bigger. You hear that a friend’s son was accepted to an exclusive university and feel a tad envious because yours didn’t make it into his first-choice school. You discover that an acquaintance in a similar profession to yours makes more money than you and suddenly feel vastly underappreciated.
It goes on and on, and it will drive you crazy if you let it. And it is rarely, if ever, the slightest bit productive.
What does this have to do with relationships? The compulsion to compare one’s life to other people’s also extends into marriage and partnerships. I’ve even heard of studies of people who come away from romantic comedies with a nagging sense of disappointment that their own, real-life relationships simply don’t measure up.
Of course, we all know the folly in comparing your life to the world of onscreen romance, one that’s built on a film set and populated with exceptionally gorgeous, well-groomed actors reading from a finely tuned script.
But it happens in the real world, too. Particularly in moments of doubt about your own relationship—and who doesn’t have those from time to time?—it’s easy to look around and find other people whose partnerships seem to eclipse yours.
Let’s say you check your Facebook page and find one of those postings from an old schoolmate that’s bound to give you at least a twinge of envy: It’s a picture of his wife on their wedding day, with a caption that reads, “To my beautiful, brilliant, wonderful wife—happy 15th anniversary!” Do you stop to wonder, “Would my husband ever post such a public show of affection…” before remembering that he doesn’t even have a Facebook account?
Or maybe when you are out with friends or at get-togethers, other couples just seem to be more affectionate with each other. Or when you go to lunch with your girlfriends, they always seem to be bragging about the wonderful things their husbands have done. But here’s what all of those examples have in common: they only show you what those other couples want you to see.
It’s a mistake to assume other people’s relationships are perfect, or somehow better than yours, based on what they say or how they act in public. How many times have you heard of a couple splitting up and thought, “But they’ve always looked so happy together!”
I’m not suggesting that you dig further to find what hidden problems are lurking in other people’s relationships—quite the opposite. I’m recommending that you forget about other people’s romantic lives altogether and focus, instead, on your own. Are you satisfied in your relationship? Are you meeting each other’s needs? Are there areas you need to work on together?
Try to answer these questions in the context of your own relationship, not by measuring the answers against what you believe to be true of others. Concentrate on the uniquely positive qualities of your partner and the bond you share…the ones that made you fall in love in the first place. After all, no two relationships are alike, and that’s a good thing, because otherwise the world would be a boring place indeed.
If you do find that there are areas in your relationship that could use a little TLC, a relationship counselor can work with you to help you understand each other better and move toward keeping your relationship healthy. If you are considering couples counseling, let the counselors at Orange County Relationship Center help you. Call us today at 949-220-3211 or book your appointment via our online calendar.