What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. (James 4:1-2)
Marriage is difficult enough without the annoying gnat of comparison. Every marriage is unique because each is comprised of two unique individuals. So what’s to be gained through comparing our marriage to someone else’s?
In marriage, we have either a consumer mentality or a gardener mentality. A gardener looks at his garden and says, “How can I make my garden grow?” A consumer looks at his garden and says, “I chose the wrong seed. I should start over with a new one.”
When we compare our marriages to others, we are reminded of the saying, “The grass is greener on the other side.” One popular response to that is, “The grass is greener on the side that you water.” But my favorite is “The grass is greener on the other side because it is fake!”
Surely what looks good from the outside cannot be that good, right?
Comparison is poison to your marriage
Early in our marriage, I learned a lesson on comparison the hard way. I began comparing my husband, Roosevelt, to a minister who mentored me when I was in college.
Reverend Jackie Flake and his wife, Cedra, invited me to move in with them and serve as a mother’s helper. I was blessed to witness their marriage and their parenting. It was a valuable life lesson for me to see a man and woman interact as husband and wife. My single mom raised me and instilled important values into my life, but she lacked the experience to teach me what a committed, marital relationship looked like.
After saying my wedding vows in March 2000, I found myself repeating the phrase “Reverend Flake said…” often. Whenever I criticized my husband or wanted him to do something, I would allude to what my mentor had said or done in support of what I suggested. I learned that was damaging to my husband as a man. When I compared him to another man, I communicated disrespect.
Imagine if the tables were turned, and Roosevelt said something negative to compare my cooking to his mom’s? What a time we would have had trying to unravel that statement!
If we compare our marriages to other marriages, we will begin to feel ungrateful. Comparison leads to desiring what someone else may have, and that’s called coveting. This causes conflict in your marriage because it directs your heart toward something or someone other than your spouse.
I’ve seen this in divorced women whose former husbands have married again and have seemingly become a better husband to another woman. Naturally, a woman asks, “Why couldn’t he have changed like that for me?” This comparison can take a person down a dangerous spiral of jealousy, bitterness, and temptation.
Stop comparing and start cultivating oneness
Whether we compare or covet, we create conflict within our marriages. If you have been married to someone else, you may be comparing your current spouse to your former one. This is normal. However, voicing your comparison struggles to your spouse may breed insecurities that are not theirs to handle. Share your comparison struggles with a trusted friend, counselor, or pastor.
Whether you are comparing your marriage with the ghost of marriage past or with the couple in the park, you are damaging your current marital relationship. When Roosevelt and I married, I wanted him to take care of our finances because my mentor had done that in his family. But in most marriages, there is a spender and a saver. I’m the saver; my husband is the spender. To please me, he reluctantly took over our finances for a while. We eventually began to struggle because of bounced checks and unpaid bills.
Instead of comparing him to another man, I should have accepted my husband’s weakness and filled in any gaps related to money management. Complementing each other is less expensive than comparing.
The grass can be greener on your side of the fence when you water your own grass. Coveting what’s across the fence will only take you away from learning how to apply wisdom in your marriage. Stop comparing and start cultivating oneness in your relationship. You will be amazed at how beautiful your marital garden will be once you do so.
Adapted from The Story of Us. Copyright ©2019 by FamilyLife Publishing. All rights reserved.