Comparisons. Aren’t they fun? As soon as I get excited about whatever new dress size I’ve fit into after months of dieting, I overhear someone bemoaning the fact that they’ve just sized up to the very same number.
I’ve spent years perfecting my apple pie recipe, and it’s a keeper. So why do I get jittery when someone says they never use shortening in their crust, or a certain type of apple, or whatever it is that I have always used and my family has always loved?
I can be perfectly happy with my circumstances one moment—my dress size, my baking skills—and in the next moment I’m crestfallen, just because I noticed someone else has things or does things a little differently.
Constantly comparing and measuring myself against others is immature, whiny, and depressing. When it comes to my marriage, though, comparisons are dangerous.
Let’s say my husband has done something sweet and romantic, and I’m reveling in it. Until I hear about some other grand gesture by some other husband. Then the bloom starts to droop off the rose.
What changed? My husband was thoughtful and kind, and he showed his love for me in his own, unique way. It was more than enough for me until my greedy eyes drifted elsewhere. When I take my eyes off of my own relationship, and let my gaze wander over to someone else’s husband…well, it’s rather obvious that I’m on a slippery slope that leads nowhere good.
Even though I don’t consciously think, “I wonder what it would be like to be married to that guy,” I am still allowing myself to wish my husband were more like “that guy.” I’m taking my focus off of the blessing I have in my own husband and marriage, and I’m coveting the blessings that belong to someone else. I’m also cheating my husband of the credit and gratitude and affectionate feelings that he has every right to expect from me as his biblically-ordained other half: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” (Ephesians 5:31).
Ultimately, it comes down to contentment, which the dictionary defines as “ease of mind.” My mind isn’t taking it easy when it’s casting about looking for comparisons—checking to see if I’m justified in being happy with the way things are.
When I learned that a friend of ours gives his wife roses every anniversary – one for every year they’ve been married, plus an extra for the year to come – I felt a brief rush of happiness for them. It was quickly followed by a sour feeling in my stomach: after eighteen years, it’s too late for us to start that tradition now.
I hope you’re disgusted with me, because I certainly am. Especially since my husband has his own tradition for each of our anniversaries (which I shall not share with you because it’s my blessing, and I want you to think about yours).
Another friend of mine has the stereotypical husband who completely forgets every anniversary. Not only that: he forgets her birthday. And Valentine’s Day. This was a serious source of argument for the first several years of their marriage. One day, she was grumbling about the situation to God, and she felt Him prodding her: have you ever doubted his love for you? There was no hesitation—the answer was an emphatic no. That realization helped her stop expecting her husband to show his love the way other husbands show theirs. She does like celebrations, though, and gifts. So she leaves post-it notes on the bathroom mirror and on his steering wheel for several days leading up to each special occasion. Sometimes, even that doesn’t work. In that case, she goes shopping and gets something gift-wrapped for herself. Later, she gives him the box so he can present it to her (and he is ever-so relieved and grateful). After forty-some-odd years together, they are one of the happiest couples I have ever known.
What’s the formula? Simple: she’s got “ease of mind.” She doesn’t stew and pout and dwell on his forgetfulness, chalking it up to insensitivity and lack of love. She’s clear-eyed when she looks at him, seeing exactly who he is and refusing to compare him to other men (or that mythical creature known as the Ideal Husband).
Is your husband romantic? Wonderful.
Is he less romantic than “that guy”? Too bad—you already said he was romantic, so be grateful for that.
Is he about as romantic as a fencepost? You still chose him and married him, so take a minute to focus like a laser beam on the blessing that he is.