Okay, maybe not death but certainly destructive. What is it? Do you compare your relationship with other relationships you see around you, or even to those that you see on television? Don’t feel bad if you do, I think it is pretty normal. So why is this bad for your relationship? Because, most of the time, we tend to compare in ways that make us feel bad about our relationship. Meaning that the comparison we use is when we see other people on their best behavior. We might see a couple having fun when they are out to dinner. We might see them when they are doing something enjoyable together. However, We don’t see what goes on behind closed doors, which is something that we tend to forget.
Every relationship has unique challenges. There are times when we are frustrated and we think we want what someone else has in their relationship. But like I said, the problem is that usually we are only looking at the positive aspects in their relationship and the negative aspects in ours.
It can become tricky as well when we compare our partner with another person. There is a tendency to compare the positive aspects in another person with the negative aspects of our partner. One common example is the comparison of being able to talk with ease with a person who is not our partner. I think ease of communication is something we all want within our relationship. And when we find someone who is easy to talk with, we think that this person would be a better partner. However, my question is: Is this person easy to talk with when you are angry with them, hurt by them, when you have a complaint about them, or when you have hurt them? These are the difficult conversations that we have in our relationships. I don’t know many people who can have these conversations with ease, I know it is not easy for me and my husband!
There is always a trade-off in relationships. Meaning that you might see another couple who have wonderful hobbies that they enjoy together. And you may wish that you enjoyed hobbies with your partner. But maybe at home they don’t agree on how to raise their children and they fight quite a bit about it. And maybe you raise your children beautifully together. As much as we may want to have it all, it is impossible.
I think it is normal to compare, but the important thing to recognize is that it is sometimes more challenging to see what works in your relationship. The only time comparing may be helpful is if the two of you view another couple as role-models. If both of you agree that a couple is a role-model in their relationship, you can then agree to work toward growth in your own relationship.
I know for me, I feel better when I focus on what works in my relationship. Believe me, I have been guilty of comparing. I know for a fact that when I compare, I have a challenging time seeing the good aspects in my relationship. There was a time when my husband and I decided to share with one another what we referred to as “positives” in our relationship. We emailed them to one another. I was always excited when I found an email in my inbox from my husband with the subject entitled “positives”. I found myself feeling happier about my relationship and toward my husband. Of course, we continued to have our challenges! But it is helpful to be able to refer to these positive things that we enjoy about each other.
When I work with couples in counseling, there have been times when they come in for their session and tell me that they have nothing to talk about because everything is going well. I think this is the best time to talk! Let’s look at what is working and why! That way when something is not working, you can try to get back to what you know works. I witness couples light up when they talk about what is working in their relationship.
It is not wrong to examine what is not working, growth in a relationship is important. However, it is equally important to focus on what it is that works well. Try to balance your relationship with what you appreciate and what needs work. And if you find yourself comparing, ask yourself if you feel any better.
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