The Snare of Comparing Marriages

Comparing Marriages - Dollar photo Marital boundaries with friendshipsAre you caught in the snare of comparing marriages? Have you ever looked at someone else’s spouse and thought, “I wish my spouse…?” Or have you ever looked at someone else’s marriage and thought, “I wish I had a marriage like that?” For a moment (or much longer than that) you then found yourself less satisfied with your marriage as you went down that imagination trail? That’s the snare you can get trapped into when you compare your marriage to someone else’s.

We want to warn you to be careful NOT to do this. It can lead you onto imagination trails where you shouldn’t walk. We’re told in the Bible to “Be on the alert.” The warning given is “your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” How much do you think it will entertain the enemy of our faith if you are devoured by envy in your marriage? Actually, it will be a major victory against God’s ways of living in our marriages. That is because the Bible says, “Do not covet.” So, don’t give in because this can lead to trouble.

The Trouble with Comparing Marriages

Here are a few points to prayerfully consider:

• Marriage comparison can lead us to covet other marriages.

That’s because:

“Comparing and coveting aren’t passive feelings. If unchecked, they can hurt us. …A pattern of comparing and coveting can take root in our thinking and become sinful. The Bible tells us to ‘take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ(2 Corinthians 10:5). Clearly, God is concerned with our thoughts.” (Suzanne Woods Fisher, from her article, “The Compare Snare”)

Again, comparing marriages can lead to coveting. And coveting can lead to complaining. This goes along with something that author Mark Merrill wrote:

“The problem with marriage ‘comparison shopping’ is that it can lead to buyer’s remorse. Feelings of discontentment bubble up. Unchecked, they can lead to attitudes of complaining and criticism. You start wishing that your spouse was more outgoing and fun like Charles or more organized and thoughtful like Jessica.”

Also:

• Marriage comparison also can lead to “comparison shopping” which can lead to discontentment.

Mark goes on to tell of a couple that he and his wife envied. They seemed to have it together, and it “appeared” that Mark and his wife didn’t. But eventually this “perfect” couple divorced and broke apart that unrealistic picture they portrayed out in public. We can relate to what he wrote because the same thing happened to us. Earlier in our marriage we envied a couple that also appeared to have the perfect marriage. They looked SO good from the outside looking in. Unfortunately, we compared our marriage journeys when we shouldn’t have dared to do so.

Eventually we lost contact with them. Several years later we came across the husband. In the course of those “lost” years he and his “first” wife had divorced and he and his new wife were ministering at a conference that we were also scheduled to minister. Needless to say, we were quite shocked and needed to come to terms with all of this. Fortunately we did.

However, it goes to show that you can’t judge from outside appearances. You also can’t go on the comparison trail as far as comparing your marriage to another. It can lead you in directions you shouldn’t go, such as being tempted to complain about your marriage and your spouse.

You may have some legitimate gripes but don’t do so because you are comparing your marriage to someone else’s. Let the needs of your marriage relationship stand on its own.

• Marriages are too unique to go the route of comparing one to another.

This point goes along with something else that Mark wrote:

“It’s important to remember that we usually only see in other couples’ marriages what they want us to, the highlight reel. People have always put their best sides forward in front of others, and that tendency has been exaggerated in the age of social media. Not only are we in contact with so many more people, they are all carefully curating the image they present to the world. Meanwhile, we are aware of every blooper and blemish in our own marriage. No wonder it may not seem to match up. Remember you are comparing apples and oranges.” (From Mark Merrill’s article, How to Crush Comparison in Marriage, which we recommend you read)

It’s important to note:

• Your marriage is unique. When you go into comparing marriages, you discount that concept.

We’ve said it before, and continue to say it again, “Keep your eyes on your own path.” You can pick up tips here and there. You can talk together about what you would like to do to improve your marriage from what you believe you see in other marriages. But don’t comparison shop. 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”)

Ask God to help you to grow your marriage to the best it can be. But don’t allow yourself to be discouraged because your marriage isn’t like those around you. It never can be because you and your spouse are unique from anyone else that God created in this world. Your marital union is also unique.

Also:

• Work on what you should change in the light of what you CAN change.

Suzanne Woods Fisher wrote about her discontent with their marital home. When she looked at the homes of other couples she was most unhappy. But then God worked within her to concentrate on what she and her husband could do to improve their own home. She and her husband both redirected their focus and their efforts. She was surprised with the changes that started to happen in other aspects of her life. Suzanne wrote:

“As we reclaimed our home from four years as a rental, in which we repainted rooms, replaced dead plants, and reshuffled furniture to fit the space, I found my attitude changed, too. I began to focus on what I have. Also, I began to enjoy and appreciate our home. I noticed aspects of it I’d overlooked, and was surprised to find I became much less critical of others.

“That same strategy works in marriage. When I pay attention to areas that need work and improvement, and appreciate what I do have rather than dwelling on what I don’t, I find myself enjoying a stronger, healthier marriage. The lesson to me is to take care of what I have, give thanks, and the right attitude will follow.” (Suzanne Woods Fisher, from the Winter 2002 Marriage Partnership Magazine article, “The Compare Snare”)

We couldn’t agree more! That leads us to another important point we want to make in this Insight:

• Focus on what you DO have, rather than what you don’t.

And then work on what you CAN work on, rather than what isn’t possible at this point in time. Carisa, from The Dating Divas gives some great advice on this point. Remember:

“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 all the extra flowers and romantic gifts, find another way to express love to each other. Figure out what strengthens your marriage and make your own fairy tale wherein you work toward overcoming the down times with your spouse!” (From The Dating Divas article, “Stop Comparing Your Marriage”)

Most importantly:

• Allow the Holy Spirit, our Wonderful Counselor, to help you in this.

He will show you what to focus, and what to work on as a married couple. We love what Ngina Otiende says on this point:

“When we focus and revel in what is right with us as a couple, we thrive. But when we try go fishing for ‘what is wrong with you’ (and well-intended) ideas, we wither. How do you know what is right with you to begin with? You ask your Creator. Not books … Or sermons … Or blogs (ahem) … Not even mentors. These other sources ought to confirm or encourage you towards something you already know. It’s not until you find out who you are in God as a couple will you know what works for you. If you don’t know what works for you, you will be like a dust particle in the Kalahari desert, tossed to and fro, dragged around by the winds of comparison.” (From TheIntentionalMarriage.com article, Why You Need to Stop Comparing Your Marriage)

And finally, as it pertains to comparing marriages:

• Don’t allow your imagination to run away with and then give into useless wishing.

Beware of dwelling on what might have been or what you think it should have been. Dwell on what it is and what it can be as you work God’s plan in your life and within your marriage. We’re told in the Bible:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its same, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.(Hebrews 12:1-3)

May you be successful in this mission—especially as it concerns to comparing marriages! Focus on making your own marriage all it can be as you put your hands into God’s.

Cindy and Steve Wright

— ADDITIONALLY —

We give a lot of personal stories, and practical tips and advice to help you grow your marriage in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else so you can invest in their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the “Now Available” picture below to do so:

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