“My husband is not sharing enough emotionally” she said – “Compared to what?” I responded.
“We are not having enough sex” he said – “Compared to what?” I asked him.
“We don’t talk enough” she complained – “Compared to what?” I teased her.
In one of his famous poems the German poet and author Bertold Brecht notes –
“What do you do” – Mr. Nebody was asked, “when you love a person”.
“I take a blueprint of this person” – he responded “and see to it that they are going to be alike”
“What, the blueprint?” – “No, the person”
You see, comparison is one of the great dangers in your relationship.
You might have seen me comment before that the gap between your expectations and the reality is one of the biggest stressors within a relationship.
A comparison of your partner or their behaviours to anyone else or to any other situation in your life is a dangerous game. You are searching for ways to prove that your partner may not have met your expectations in that moment.
You might compare your partner to previous partners, and you might conclude that they aren’t as great at kissing as others. The moment you find yourself doing this, every alarm bell in your system must go off.
You are not together with your previous partner any more – and most likely for good reasons.
You are together and in love with your partner now. What good can come from comparing them with someone who has already proven to be ill-suited to you?
Even more dangerous is it to compare your partner to the ideal person.
You might find yourself asking “Why doesn’t he take out the garbage when he sees that the bin is full? Like any loving husband would do.”
Or “How come my wife is not doing it this way? Everyone else would know.”
The truth is that we are constantly comparing in our lives.
- It is warmer now than last year.
- It rained less.
- He earns more than me.
- She is more beautiful.
- Their car is faster and more expensive.
We do it constantly and automatically.
And sure enough we do this in our relationships.
- The sex in the beginning was more passionate
- He is less understanding to my situation.
- She is too tired.
- He doesn’t listen to me like my friends do
- He is way more stressed nowadays – I wonder why.
When it is so engrained in our psyche and when it is so natural to compare, what can we do to avoid it?
The challenge is to observe ourselves and realise that we do compare, despite it not being a helpful, healthy habit. Just acknowledging the behaviour makes us aware of its pointlessness.
You may find yourself thinking “He doesn’t understand me anymore.” You might even say these words out loud to him in an accusingly voice, which puts him immediately into a defensive position and could easily turn into a heated argument where both of you are saying things you don’t really want to say or mean.
Instead of taking the accusation or the inquisitor role, you could become curious and kind.
Try to see his behaviour through a filtered lens – and the filters are Love and Understanding.
You love him and you want to understand him. You might like to ask him in an encouraging voice – “Look, I feel like you have a lot on your mind right now and I’d love to understand what is stressing you lately. When would be a good time for you to talk about this?”
You are not challenging him. You are not blaming him. You are not accusing him of any wrongdoing. You are simply curious. And you give him a wide opening to respond.
I’m sure you will find that the moment you are open to listening and understanding where he is right now, that in his response, you’ll feel heard by him.
It is human nature; you are helping him to voice what it is on his mind; you may even find that your new behaviour will encourage him to be curious and understanding for you too.
The more you practice Love and Understanding in your relationship, the less likely you are to fall into the dangerous trap of comparison and stress from unmet expectations.
If you like personal support with your relationship please contact me for an obligation free call where we can explore whether and how I could help you.