Comparison occurs within our lives and our marriages more often than we may care to admit. And while nobody intentionally sets out to bring comparison into their marriage, it still seems to arrive in ways one would never expect. Here is a personal example:
A couple years ago Justin made a comment after visiting a friend’s house about how clean it was. Everything had a place and there didn’t seem to be anything out of order. He in no way meant this as a slight against my housekeeping skills but I certainly took it that way. I immediately thought of what I could/should do to improve the organization in our house. After a few minutes of mental calisthenics and a longer than necessary to do list I took the chance to slow down and think about the situation. I wholeheartedly knew Justin was not being critical of me. I also understood the reasons our home is not picture perfect and I knew comparison in this instance would do nothing more than create unnecessary stress and tension. Even a comparison as miniscule as this could have harmed my marriage because it would have changed the way I felt about myself, and this would have affected how I responded in my marriage.
In this example, I was comparing myself and my organizational skills with somebody else. But comparisons don’t always reflect solely in our individual lives. There are occasions when we may compare our spouse to someone else. There may be a quality or characteristic in them that we would love to see in our spouse. In the end, we try to bring about a new “positive change” in our spouse, but only out of our own selfish, personal desire. The most common ways we “encourage” these changes is by incorporating criticism, complaints, anger, neglect, bitterness, rejection, and extended bouts of silence in the marriage. Withholding of sex or other positive marital stimuli may be options as well. Obviously, none of these are healthy. And if we continue to compare our spouse against somebody else, we are not loving them. We are setting ourselves up for discontentment, disappointment and disaster.
Please take note, when the simplest of comparisons morph into desires to change your spouse, you must understand that you are the one who is hindering marital growth. Marriages are not meant for the individual but for the couple. The spouse you are trying to change is part of that couple. Your spouse is a part of you.
So how can we safeguard our marriages from destructive comparison? Here are a few important application steps.
1. Accept your spouse. Accept your spouse as they are right now by not trying to change them. Allowing them to be who they are rather than who you think they should be is showing them love.
2. Openly communicate your needs. There are times in every marriage when confrontation is necessary. Sometimes our spouse is truly unaware of what our needs are it’s OK to let them know. There are also instances when our spouse may be unknowingly hurting us and we need to be able to openly communicate about such things.
3. Focus on your spouses positive traits. Remind yourself of the reasons why you married him/her. Time is never wasted when you are thinking about the good things about your spouse.