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The Comparison Trap

February 14, 2016 | by Emuna Braverman

Jealousy is when we count someone else’s blessings instead of our own.

One sure way to dampen your Valentine’s Day experience (and your whole relationship experience) is to allow yourself to fall into the bad habit of comparing. The possibilities are almost endless. Her husband brought her flowers and mine didn’t. Mine did but her bouquet was bigger. My bouquet was the same size but hers had more unusual flowers. Her husband planned a romantic evening at an exclusive restaurant while mine ordered Chinese take-out. Her husband whisked her off to Paris for a special weekend away while mine thought a babysitter was too expensive.

The comparisons can work from the other side also. His wife cooked him a gourmet dinner while mine served leftover macaroni. His wife planned an intimate evening while mine caught up on laundry and bills. His wife went out with him to his favorite bar while mine fell asleep right after dinner. And I’m just getting started!

This is one of the most destructive games we can play with our marriages – and with any aspect of our lives. Comparisons are only damaging; there is nothing positive to be gained.

Frequently when we catch ourselves engaging in this negative habit, we talk ourselves out of it by saying, “We don’t really know what goes on behind closed doors. Maybe those flowers were apology flowers. Maybe he was really mistreating her. In fact, I feel sorry for her that she got those flowers!” This may work in the short run but in the long run it’s not the answer.

And while it is true that everyone has their challenges, that is not what should comfort us or lift us out of our resentment and jealousy. We need to aim higher. Maybe he really is a better husband. He has a better job, he earns more money, he’s more thoughtful and sensitive and considerate and generous. Maybe she really is a better wife. She’s solicitous of his needs and puts them before hers. She works hard to keep their relationship vibrant and alive. Her marriage is her priority and that is expressed in all sorts of expressions and actions. But none of that matters.

Because this is our life and our relationship. This is our chance to grow and give. This is where we are making our stand and becoming the adults and human beings we are meant to become. This is our opportunity. This is our marriage. And while it may not be perfect, it’s ours. The real answer to comparison is that it’s completely irrelevant. Their life and relationship has absolutely nothing to do with mine. I have to make choices based on my situation. The Almighty has given me the exact relationship I need to be the best spouse I can be. There is nothing to be gained and only peace of mind and peace in my relationship to be lost if I focus on someone else’s life.

This is a hard concept to accept and even harder to master. But ultimately it’s the only way to move forward. Our society has events like Valentine’s Day that make this decision more difficult. There’s more external pressure to perform and to do it better than anyone else. But it’s also an opportunity to rise above the fray, to ignore what all your friends are doing to celebrate this occasion and make a decision to give your wife or your husband something that would give them pleasure – however big or small, no matter what anyone else would think of it, whatever your neighbor got his wife or your sister got her husband.

Our job is to make our marriage the best it can be and that can only be accomplished by focusing inwards not outwards. I recommend staying away from any Facebook Valentine’s Day posts and incorporating this beautiful idea I saw online into our daily lives: “Jealousy is when we count someone else’s blessings instead of our own.”

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