Have you ever envied someone else’s marriage? I know I have.
I’ve also at times envied other people’s cars, carpet and Caribbean vacations. Just keeping it real.
My envying has never been in an obsessive sort of way, mind you. But it’s envy nonetheless. Who among us hasn’t gazed across the proverbial fences (you know, the ones on our social media lawns) and thought, “If only…”
You can tell me you’ve never done this. But I would be skeptical. Envy doesn’t make us horrible people, but rather it reveals we are humans still in need of sculpting by the Master’s hand.
Marriage is a huge landscape where envy happens.
Incomprehensible how vast the landscape is, what with there being so many marriages to which to compare our own. Whose is better? Whose is worse? Where are we prideful, thinking silently to ourselves, “Well, at least my marriage doesn’t have that issue.” And where do we long for something more? Or something different?
We oscillate at a pro level between feeling relieved for what’s good in our marriage and resentful for what it lacks. As someone who speaks and writes on sex in marriage, I am well aware of some of the personal battles and triumphs — the sad places and joyful places — in marriage.
And just for clarification, I’m certainly not saying that anyone should stay in an abusive marriage. Sometimes when someone is glancing at the good in someone else’s marriage, they aren’t experiencing envy as much as they are beginning to see more clearly that something is horribly askew in their own relationship — something beyond typical marital discord or disappointment.
If you are in an abusive marriage (or even if you just wonder if you are), seek a mature safe friend to help you navigate what steps you may need to take to keep yourself and your children safe.
The envy I am referring to is when we feel jealous about the ways our marriage doesn’t “measure up” to someone else’s marriage.
So what can we do? What can we do when we envy what others have?
A great place to start is to recognize how futile envy is.
Yes, I know. It’s sinful too. But for my purposes here, let’s talk about the futility of it. A huge problem with envy isn’t just that we envy what we see — we also envy a fictional fantasy backstory we create in our heads.
We see one positive thing about someone else’s marriage (or one Instagram or Facebook post) and we automatically assume everything is stellar or, dare I say, perfect. Every interaction they have. Every parenting situation they face. Every discussion they embark on. Every financial decision they make. Every sexual encounter they experience.
“I bet every date they have is a master class on emotional connection and passion,” we exclaim oh-so-convincingly in our hearts. Ahh, the futility of envy.
Do you see where the fictional fantasy road can go? Nowhere pretty fast.
Envy is futile because it is not a balm to our discouragement; it’s fuel on the fire. A little envy usually conditions us to envy even more. It’s just a slippery slope to envy addiction, which last time I checked, never helped anyone’s marriage. It shifts our focus, and not in a good way. A lot of envy for someone else’s marriage usually just breeds even more contempt for our own.
3 Things to Do if You Feel Envious…
1. Decide what makes you grateful.
I know. I know. Making a gratitude list almost feels trite because it is a common recommendation when life feels less than great. BUT I get why gratefulness is hailed so often and so loudly.
Gratitude is all about focusing on the good in a situation or the good on the peripheral of a situation. So even if you have to start with listing relatively small things, list them. And count yourself grateful for those things on your list. I’m not naive. I know that some marriages are wrought with horrendous ongoing struggles, so your gratitude list may need to start with things that don’t have anything to do with your marriage.
Gratitude is healthy for us, and the more we feed it, the less energy and focus we have to heap toward envy. And gratitude can sometimes have the nice side benefit of revealing to us where we can get involved and give others a hand up. This is good for the soul and can lift our whole countenance.
2. Work on you.
Work on you, not because you need fixing, but because you are worth it. Start paying attention to what you feed your mind and your body. Start paying attention to surrounding yourself with positive, kind and fun friends. Be less concerned with someone else being your project (even if that someone is your spouse), and be more concerned with you being your project.
You’ll be healthier for it. It is harder to work on ourselves, but the pay off for this is worth the work.
3. Get real with God.
Sometimes (okay, a lot of times), I just want Him to be a fixer. “Fix this person, God. Fix this situation, God.”
But He doesn’t tend to fix in the ways we ask, does He? Yes, sometimes He does, but more often, He’s a bit more subtle (and sometimes lengthy) in His approach. The more we go to Him vulnerably not about what we want Him to fix, but about the heartache with which we struggle, the more He says, “Okay. Now we’re getting somewhere. Keep on coming…”
I know it doesn’t always seem like it, but He does want to transform us. And He will, regardless of whether our situation gets “fixed” in the way we would prefer. Dig into His heart and His Word and I promise you will discover new ways to journey and new ways to cope with disappointment.
When it comes to envying other people’s marriages, we all likely have been there or will be at some point. It’s super easy to long for something we see at arm’s length and dress it up even nicer in our imagination.
But envy never did anyone or any marriage any good. Instead of getting stuck in a place of envy, what could you do differently? More importantly, what will you do differently?
Copyright 2019, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog. Links may be monetized.