One tip we often give spouses is to keep your eyes on your own marriage path. Don’t look at other marriages as if yours should be like theirs. Just as there are no two people that are alike, there are no two marriages that are the same. God created us as individuals. We are not clones of each other. Yes, there can be many similarities. But when we start comparing, it can lead to despairing.
We agree with something that Henry James Borys wrote: “Every couple’s journey on the way of marriage is uniquely their own. There may be patterns and principles we can learn from each other, but there are no pat formulas.” And there aren’t. The dynamics of the two individuals entering into it changes everything.
So pray and then glean through all of the marriage advice that’s out there. Apply that, which God shows you to use. But whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of comparing your marriage to others to the point that you let it negatively affect your walk. We all have our own marriage paths to walk.
Looking at Other Marriage Paths
Unfortunately, we learned this the hard way in the beginning years of our marriage. When we got married we thought we had the perfect Love Story going on for us. We thought that we would have a great marriage because we had a great relationship before entering into it. Of course it would just naturally grow all the stronger through the bonds of marriage! But of course, we were wrong. Growing a good marriage takes ongoing effort, growing commitment, and a resolve to pull together when times get tough (which they inevitably do on this side of heaven).
When times got tough, we started looking at others who didn’t seem to be struggling like we were. We fell into the “comparison trap.” And that was a major mistake because it led us down a path of being even less satisfied in our own marital situation. We started to look for ways to escape from, rather than fight FOR our marriage. Thank God—literally, that He got our attention. As we looked to Him we started to walk our own marital journey. We found that we can learn from others, but we aren’t supposed to focus longingly at their marriage path. Part of the reason is because:
“When you look at marriages around you, you see a picture from 5,000 feet. At that height, everything looks pretty. But if you choose the ‘other side,’ you will have to land your plane there. And you will discover that, on the surface, their grass is no different from yours. It has dead spots, weeds, and areas where neighborhood dogs decided to relieve themselves.” (Frank Powell, from his article, “10 Ways to Kill Intimacy in Your Marriage”)
The Deceptive Marriage Path
It’s just that their weeds are hidden. They’re also different. But they are weeds that need to be battled with, none-the-less. That’s why we tell couples to keep your eyes on your own marital path and off of what you THINK may look better on someone else’s. Someone said, “Couples often think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, only to find it has been painted.” It looks better from a distance, but that doesn’t mean that it IS better. And even if it is actually “greener” or healthier, that doesn’t mean that this is where you are to land at this time, or actually ever.
God doesn’t take all of our problems away. Most times He wants us to battle through them, around them, and despite them. It’s all part of the journey we are walking on as His children. And when we are married, the journey is sometimes more complicated because of it. But it can also be less complicated because of it. As we’re told in the Bible, “Two are better than one…” We can help each other as we walk, and sometimes limp along, if we pull together.
But when we fall into the temptation of looking on someone else’s marriage path—comparing it to our own we look away from our God and from our spouse. That can cause us to trip.
The Marriage Path Comparison Trap
“The problem with comparison is that we tend to do it under the influence of extreme emotions or insecurities. A fight with your spouse can simultaneously shout a lie that every other marriage is perfect. …Seasons of insecurity may be the strongest bait of all. We trade vulnerability and honesty for illusion and comparison. Deep down, we all know that nobody is perfect, and there is no such thing as a perfect marriage. Yet how easily we stray from reality. Comparison is a thief of joy, and if not kept in check, can kill your marriage.” (Drs Les and Leslie Parrott)
Be aware of this trap. With that in mind, here are two tips on this issue of keeping our eyes on our own marriage path that could help you:
1. “We are to learn from one another’s marriages and to be encouraged by them, but at the same time, we must remember that every marriage is different” (Susan Alexander Yates).
2. It can be a good thing to “Learn from other people, but don’t feel the need to compare your life or your marriage to anyone else’s. God’s plan for your life is masterfully unique!” (Dave Willis)
The Journey Down Your Marriage Path
It’s also true what Aerosmith said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” By learning to “be content in whatever circumstance I am in” (as the Apostle Paul wrote), we grow. As we lean upon the Lord and each other through the tough times, and we fight together through them, we grow into the people God created us to be. Marriage is a journey—a vehicle that God uses to help us to grow. We haven’t arrived until we get to Heaven.
There is an insightful article written by Cindy and Hugh McMenamin where they compare marriage to flying together.
“Like air travel, living life with another person is all about making adjustments, dealing with delays, realizing you’re not in control, and having to—at times—make the best of it, so you truly enjoy the journey. …Marriage, like air travel, can be as enjoyable or as miserable as we choose to see it.
“In spite of unexpected delays (when it comes to having children, buying a house or achieving a dream, missed flights, promotions or vacations), and unexpected turbulence (who expects those bumps and dips in marriage, anyway?), marriage can be a wonderful trip if you’re prepared and you go with the flow. We don’t try to jump off the plane when there’s a problem. (That would be suicide.) Instead we’re committed to sticking to it in this God-ordained union.
“So if you long for your marriage to be a pleasant experience (and who doesn’t?) and you want to enjoy the trip (and marriage is a trip, alright!), then buckle up. Pay attention to the emergency instructions; sit back and enjoy the flight. Marriage, like an airplane, is not an end in itself. It is a vehicle through which you arrive at your Final Destination: A greater sense of oneness.” (From the Crosswalk.com article that we recommend you read in its entirety: Enjoying Your Marriage Journey… Even When It’s Difficult)
The Marriage Path Leading to Oneness
We agree that oneness in marriage is a desirable place to dwell. But “the final destination” in your life is also, and is especially to be, “a greater sense of oneness” with your God. When you marry it becomes a matter of revealing and reflecting the heart of Christ within your marriage. You can’t control all of the circumstances to get there. But “as far as it is within you” it IS possible to reflect Jesus in your attitudes, and your actions. Keep in mind that God uses many different types of vehicles to teach, train, and shape us into the image of Jesus Christ. Marriage is just one of those vehicles God uses after we say, “I do.”
Here are some additional tips to strengthen and help you to keep your eyes on your own marriage path.
Remember as You Walk on Your Marriage Path:
• “We live in a world of comparison—especially with social media. We look at others’ lives through an Instagram filter and think that someone else’s life is picture perfect… their house, their family, even their marriage. It can then be difficult to look at our own lives and marriages and think that we have a “bad” marriage, or that our lives don’t compare. The thing is, we don’t always see other’s struggles. If you were to take the strengths of others and compare them to your weaknesses you are bound to feel pretty lousy! So why put yourself through that misery!?” (Carisa, from thedatingdivas.com article, “Stop Comparing Your Marriage”)
• “Your life isn’t meant to look the same as the next person’s, so comparison is a waste of your time. Want to escape the comparison trap? Look far less to your right and left and far more to God. Run your race with your people. Stop comparing and start making a difference.” (Drs Les and Leslie Parrott, from their article, “3 Ways the Comparison Trap Can Kill Your Marriage”)
• “What works for one couple doesn’t always work for another couple! Just like each individual is unique, each couple has routines and habits that work for them. Not only that, but you might just be in a different stage of life. It might not be realistic for your spouse to do all the cooking and cleaning, so maybe you both need to pitch in! Or maybe you are at a time in your life where you just can’t afford extra flowers and romantic gifts, find another way to express love to each other. Figure out what strengthens your marriage and work toward overcoming the down times with your spouse!” (Carisa, from thedatingdivas.com article, “Stop Comparing Your Marriage”)
• “It’s so easy to react to unhappiness by trying to escape our current circumstances. But for those who are willing to stay faithful no matter what, God has something better than happiness—joy. Joy runs much deeper in our souls than happiness, and it’s not dependent on our circumstances, because it comes straight from God Himself.
“We may think that our marriages should make us happy, but God wants them to make us holy. His ultimate goal is to use them to help us grow into the people He wants us to become. And if we trust Him through that process, He will give us joy—which includes that peace and contentment that is bound to elude us otherwise. Trusting God includes trusting His unique vision for our marriages. Just as no two people are the same, no marriage is the same as any other.” (Whitney Hopler, from the Crosswalk.com article, “Comparison or Contentment? Find Joy in Your Marriage”)
If you are having a difficult time within your marriage, here is a great article, written by Gary Thomas that you may find helpful to prayerfully read, glean through, and apply that, which God shows you:
• HOW TO APPRECIATE AN IMPERFECT SPOUSE
A Few More Marriage Path Pointers:
Here are two scriptural principles to always keep in mind. We are told:
• “Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day.” (Proverbs 23:17)
• “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
In closing, here is a scriptural principle to pray:
“Show me your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” (Psalm 25:4-5)
May God minister to your marriage through these Insights.
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
We talk about this issue and so much more in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. Just click on the linked title or the “Now Available” picture below to do so:
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