Are you a victim of couple envy?
Are you checking out the Facebook pages of your friends and acquaintances and involuntarily find yourself making comparisons between your life and theirs? When watching movies or reading books, do you sometimes find that your own life and relationship somehow seem to drag behind what they should be?
If you’re comparing yourself to others, don’t worry – it’s totally normal. We are social comparers. Psychologists call our tendency to compare our situation with that of others social comparison. When we judge how well we are doing, we not only compare ourselves to where we want to be, but also to where others are. And this frequently leads to couple envy.
Are we keeping up? Are we falling behind? Are we getting ahead of the others?
The issue is that oftentimes we’re doing upward social comparisons – we comparing ourselves with people who we believe have it better than we do. But there’s a pitfall.
We compare our relationships to others without knowing much about them
Recently, my husband Bob and a couple of colleagues conducted a study on jealousy and envy. They looked at how people perceive their own relationship and those of others.
And you know what people in romantic relationships do? They look at other couples and think of all the love and happiness they imagine that couple has. How they wish they had the kind of relationship that couple has! Almost all of those couples experienced couple envy at some point.
But what do we really know about that couple’s relationship? Truthfully, and we all know that, not very much.
The chances are good that we are envious of something that doesn’t exist as such.
Don’t waste your energy, your emotions, your powers of rational thinking, your time, asking why your relationship isn’t as good as those of others you know, or you know of.
Chances are, you know far less about their relationship than you imagine you do.
Start focusing on what you have and what you can do for your relationship
Focus on what you can do for your own relationship.
Keep in mind that you do not know what others’ relationships are really like
Realize that people mostly take to social media to present themselves in the most positive light. What you see on social media is not what life is really like.
And it’s not much different in real life. You don’t know what’s really going on in people’s lives. You just assume.
Identify what triggers couple envy in you
Is it social media, or being around a particular couple or family member? Be mindful of when feelings of jealousy and social comparison arise in you. Knowing the situations that make you feel vulnerable will help you take control of your emotions.
Instead of focusing on others, focus on your own relationship. Focus on what you have, rather than on what you lack. Maybe you would like to start a gratitude journal? Also, imagine how your relationship would change if every day you told your partner that you’re grateful for them and for your relationship! Be specific in what you appreciate in your partner.
Set goals together with your partner
When you set goals for your relationship as a couple, your relationship will get stronger. Where do you want to be in a year as a couple? How about in ten years? Is there something you’ve always wanted to do together but have never taken the time? How about having a weekly lunch date? No matter what you decide, you’ll create a shared sense of purpose and will connect more intimately with each other.
Focus on your strengths
You and your partner have unique strengths (and weaknesses), just like anyone else does. Focus on your strengths, and not your weaknesses. What makes you unique and special as a couple? Celebrate what makes you, you. And work together to improve in the areas where you’re not your best.
Have you identified the triggers that make you feel bad about your relationship or give rise to couple envy? Get rid of them or limit exposure. Don’t spend so much time on social media, don’t go out with couples that drain you of your energy, and make sure there’s a healthy balance between your relationships and other areas of your life.
Still struggling with envy or jealousy?
Engage in downward comparison
Do you know why little kids usually feel so good about themselves although their skills lag behind anyone else’s in pretty much any area of their life? It’s because they engage in downward social comparison. They compare themselves with others who can’t perform as well as they do. And that, of course, makes them instantly feel good about themselves. You can do the same. Who says you only need to compare yourself to those who you think have it better than you do?
Remember, humans are social creatures and it’s not only normal but also common for us to compare ourselves with others.
But these social comparisons can seriously affect your relationship when they lead to couple envy.
If you find they do, take action and prioritize your own relationship. If you take the suggestions above seriously, your relationship will come out stronger and better.