The Marriage Envy Trap; Why We Need to Practice Tunnel Vision in Marriage

 

Comparison is the Thief of Joy”

- Theodore Roosevelt

What is marriage Envy?

Have you ever heard the phrase “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side?” Simply put, abandoning what you have for what you think is better, may not always end as well as you think. When I see this phrase, I am led to ask myself, why are we always looking for greener pastures? What is it about that perfectly manicured lawn that lights up our eyes and hearts? Next thing you know we are all up in Home Depot looking for ways to fix up our own lawns! How are they keeping that grass so green? Do they water it more, fertilize it more, is it real or is that turf?

Proverbs 4:23, NLT Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

Although we are talking about marriages here, I think you get my point. How many times have you found yourself comparing your marriage to that of a friend or family member? Social media has given birth to an entirely new influence to the ideas that surround marriage. You can just about follow a person’s entire relationship on social media these days. I regularly see beautiful images of happy couples, beautiful marriage ceremonies and gestures of love shared between spouses. Because things like TV Shows, friends and social media impact our belief system, it’s important not to allow these influences to determine your perspective on your own marriage. Doing so will lead to a distorted perception of your wife or husband and your marriage, that’s just not real.

The good, The bad & The difference

Proverbs 15:22, NLT Plans go wrong for lack of advice, many advisors bring success.

I remember a story my cousin told me about sitting at the feet of my great aunt as she poured out decades of marital wisdom.  My cousin was pleasantly surprised to witness how my aunt's husband took care of her and catered to her as his priority. But what my cousin learned after a few hours of storytelling was that things were not always so pleasant in my great aunt’s marriage. As the day went on she was so full of amazing stories about family, marriage and victory that she walked away from that conversation thinking about her own marriage in a different way. My great aunt had shared a few stories about obstacles she faced in her own marriage as a young woman and how she made it through those first 10 years. Seeking wise counsel and learning from the wisdom of older married couples, is a positive way to be influenced by lasting and loving marriages.

However, when the standard you create for your spouse is created though the perceived realities found in social media, romance novels or just by looking too hard and long at your happily married friends, that is the DANGER ZONE.

Colossians 4:6, NIV Let your conversations be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

We must always remember two very important things when it comes to observing another couple’s marriage. First, marriage is sacred and private. So most women, that want to stay married, will not go running around town gossiping about the challenges they deal with in their marriage from day to day. So the perfect picture you may think you see, is a marriage going through a process just like we all are. Making this “when two become one” thing real. And although this process isn’t meant to be a struggle, it does cause friction from time to time. I have been with my husband for 10 years and married for almost 6. Until very recently I was guilty of doing just this for many years in my own marriage.

I would look at my marriage and my husband and wonder what I was doing wrong? Why didn’t my marriage look like that of the women around me? Why didn’t my husband do this or that, or why can’t he stop doing this. Although these ideas were brewing in my subconscious, they began to affect my behavior towards my husband. I wanted him to be more like a person that God did not intend for him to be. I found myself in judgement of the man I chose to take as my husband. It took the counsel of a 15-year marriage vet to set me straight.

Without any filter she simply said, “Why are you comparing apples to oranges? What you have in your home is for you and what I have in my home is for me. Trust me, you don’t want none of this!”

But she was right. No two marriages are the same. Every couple processes, prioritize and resolves things differently. So the things that might drive you absolutely bonkers might be a breeze for another couple and vice versa. For example, my mother-in-law loves to clean. Ironically, it makes her happy. So she single handedly cleans her entire house every single day. Her husband and children fall in line and there is never a dish or crumb out of place. As for me….I keep a tidy home, I do, but I have a 19 year old son and two little girls that are 9 and 3. So crumbs are plenteous and getting dishes to the sink does not fall into the strong points with my family. Although a dish in the sink will send my mother-in-law into a panic, I don’t mind a dish here or there and neither does my husband. The point is that what is super high priority for one marriage is low priority in another.

The Solution to the trap of Marriage Envy

  • Have a strong spiritual foundation. What we believe for our marriage should be centered around, rooted in and filtered through the word of God. If you spend too much time looking around at the world for affirmations on marriage instead of looking to the word, what the world delivers will be a foundation built on sand instead of stone.
Matthew 7:26, NIV but everyone who hear these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man that built his house on sand.
  • Practice gratitude in your marriage daily. It’s less tempting to compare your marriage to another couple when you are constantly reminding yourself of the things in your marriage that you are grateful for.
Ephesians 5:20 Giving thanks for all things to God and the Father in the name of our lord Jesus Christ.
  • Practice tunnel vision in how you view your marriage. That is, make sure that you focus exclusively on your own marriage or as my mom would say, keep your blinders on. Because the fruits of your marriage are your portion and yours alone. 
Proverbs 4:20, NIV My son pay attention to what I SAY. Listen carefully to MY WORDS.
  • Guard your heart above all else. What you let into your ear, mouth and heart gates, will come flowing into your reality if left alone to take root and grow. So address those feelings of envy quickly. Learn how to congratulate those that are in successful marriages and pray over those that are struggling. Guarding your heart, shifting your focus and filtering your thoughts through the word will keep those emotions in check.

Marriage is a divine placement by God. The spouse you have was placed there to proposer you as your partner in life. Although, it can have numerous obstacles on the journey, the reward far outweighs the sacrifice. Making the decision to focus on God more than you do anything else will wipe out those obstacles and keep your emotions in check. Like my cousin told me, what is for you is for you and no earthy weapon has the power to stop a plan (marriage) that God has set into motion.