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It seems natural to compare ourselves to others. As humans, we compare appearances, careers, marriages, and even spouses. Society encourages it. The chief problem of comparisons is that they’re usually based on romanticized half-truths. Most often when we compare, we base expectations of ourselves on standards that aren’t accurate – they’re perceived.

Comparisons stifle progress; only truth in light of the gospel causes real growth.

In the past, I’ve caught myself comparing Selena and me to other couples. It usually stems from some insecurity of mine, where I’m seeking validation by measuring us against an outside standard. For example, if we’ve just had a fight, I’m more apt to compare us to friends that have a happy, “perfect” marriage.

If we’ve had a busy week and our clothes are everywhere, I think: “So-and-so’s house is NEVER this messy…why are we such slobs?” The same is true for our car, yard, bathroom, and even the kitchen sink…. Sounds ridiculous when I list it all out like that.

What’s worse is when we compare and think we’re better: “Oh man, look at how they’re bickering. We’ve really got it together right?

Marriage comparisons take on a few typical forms:

Comparing your spouse to other men or other women
“Why isn’t my husband thoughtful like her husband.” “I wish my wife was skinnier like so-and-so.”

Comparing your happiness or conflicts
They never argue like we do.” “They always seem so adventurous and alive. But we never go anywhere or do anything fun.”

Comparing your accomplishments
“They have a nicer house/car/thing than us.” “Why can’t my husband get a good job like her husband.” “

You name it, there’s a comparison for it. Few things can be as damaging to your marriage than unhealthy comparisons; they crush and demoralize the spirit. In 2 Corinthians 10:12, Paul states that those who make comparisons are “without understanding”.

Compare no more

It’s important to realize that nobody is perfect. Everyone has their “stuff” though it’s not always visible. It’s way too easy to look at other happy couples and assume they don’t have issues of their own. Even the happiest couples fight and bicker. The most grounded couples have experienced or are currently experiencing cracks in their foundation.

In fact, if a couple never shows cracks in their marriage, it’s probably wiser to suspect they’re just better at hiding them before assuming they’re not there…

Selena and I meet with many couples, usually just to spend time together and hang out. When the relationship matures a bit and we let each other in, we get to see behind their curtain a bit. They see behind ours. It’s refreshing to learn that they aren’t perfect, just like us. This alleviates stress and opens the door for constructive growth through relationship.

If you have couples that you respect, I encourage you to spend time talking about real issues with them. You will inevitably find that they have the same struggles as you and there’s room to help each other grow and mature. We even have a few veteran couples that we maintain contact with and seek advice from when we hit bumps.

Unhealthy comparisons are formulated from a distance, while relationship and transparency allow for honest growth. If we are going to crush comparisons, we must know our true source of identity – both individually, and as a couple.

Ryan and Selena Frederick blog at fiercemarriage.com, a place to help couples process through marriage’s trials as well as celebrate its joys. You can follow them on Twitter at @FierceMarriage.