Oh look, one of your favorite couples that you follow on social media just went on (another) amazing vacation. They look so happy! They must be doing something right. Scroll, scroll, scroll. Ah, and there’s an old classmate gushing for paragraphs about their spouse… Should I be doing that? Should my spouse be doing that? Hmm, when was the last time we went on a romantic vacation or gushed about each other like that? Is our marriage going stale? Are we doing something wrong? The pervasiveness of social media and the rise of “influencers” (both individuals and couples) has created innumerable opportunities for comparison to take hold. Even when you know it’s an unhealthy habit to fall into, comparison can creep into your thinking – especially when you’re constantly bombarded with what other couples are sharing about their own lives and relationships. You might begin feeling like your own life and marriage isn’t what it should be. Or perhaps you’ve started having a sense that something is missing. These nagging feelings often start out small, but they can become a larger problem if you’re not careful. To avoid getting stuck in a rut of comparison, keep these things in mind:
Other couple’s highlights provide a skewed measuring stick for your own marriage. Material or superficial things like the beautifully decorated houses, luxurious vacations, perfectly coordinated family photos for every occasion, and even the public declarations of how wonderful one’s marriage and spouse are – are not a measure for your own marital success.
You’re seeing the curated version of others’ lives. Even the most authentic personalities are likely not sharing all of the details – the tension, the arguments, or the issues that never seem to get resolved. Constantly comparing your day-to-day life to the highlights you see online is going to wear on your mental health.
Every couple and relationship is unique. That means what works for one couple might not work for you, and vice versa. Think of the differences between you and your spouse. You both have different personalities, love languages, triggers, and tendencies, which creates dynamics in your relationship that are one-of-a-kind. Trying to mold yourselves to be like other couples will leave you both feeling like you’re failing, when you could be succeeding at being yourselves.
The grass is not always greener. Adopting this mentality might result in missing out on the strengths and successes of your own relationship. Focusing on “living up to” or matching what others seem to be doing could mean you’re not paying attention to the real issues in your marriage that need attention, which can be detrimental to relationship over time. Try to work on watering your own grass, so to speak.
Of course, even if you’re pretty mindful about falling into a comparison funk, it can be helpful to have some tips to fall back on when you need them. Here are a few things to help you recenter yourself:
Be discerning. Glean what is actually helpful, inspires you to be a better spouse, and gives you tools and confidence. Leave the rest behind. People have lots of thoughts and opinions on what you should and shouldn’t be doing in your marriage – you don’t have to do it all. Be picky about what you choose to take in and internalize.
Take periodic breaks from social media. It could be a few days each month or one day every weekend. Many people find it refreshing and that it benefits their mental and emotional wellbeing. You might also consider cleaning up the list of people you follow, unsubscribing from any accounts that you find actually make you feel kind of bad.
Reflect on what need you’re trying to fulfill. If you find yourself fixated on the idea that having or doing a certain thing is going to be the magical key to feeling like you’ve “made it” in your life and marriage, take some time to reflect and see the bigger picture. What need or underlying area are you trying to fix or fulfill? Are you craving more romance or spontaneity? Do you wish you and your spouse expressed your love more often? Work on getting to the root of the problem.
Talk to your spouse. When you’re struggling with feelings of inadequacy or find yourself living vicariously through others’ social media posts, talking to your partner about it can be a big help. They might be able to give you the refreshed perspective you need. Maybe you both agree you could benefit from less scrolling and more time doing other activities together. Or perhaps they can relate to the way you’re feeling, and together you can take steps to stop the comparison game.
It’s natural to compare ourselves to others; it’s just how our brains work. Unfortunately, the combination of current cultural trends and technology results in a constant overload of seeing what other people are doing and how they’re doing it – and that includes marriage. Learning to maintain a healthy perspective while being discerning about what you take in will ultimately benefit both your mental health and your relationship.