When my wife and I got married, we constantly heard certain questions from other married couples. Where do you live? Where do you work now? Are you still doing that? Where are you going for holiday? At the onset we didn’t think much of it. However with time, we would almost sense a comparison game going on with some (not all) of the questions. We talked about it as we drove home one evening. We had just bumped into a couple that had openly asked us where we lived at the time. When we responded, the woman’s husband smiled approvingly and said they just moved to a lush neighbourhood in Nairobi. Since that incident my wife and I felt that this was a trap we had to intentionally avoid- comparing ourselves with the progress of other couples. Why?
The pressure of being like other couples can work against a relationship. You may purchase a new car because they too bought a new car. You may be under pressure to move into a bigger house because they too did so. You will stringently use the metrics of progress of a couple whose journey you may know nothing about. The couple that traverses the continent for a holiday may not reveal it on their Instagram that it was a trip paid for by the workplace. You may never find out that their new house was an inheritance from a dead relative. On the flipside you may disdain those who are not in your calibre of progress. Steven Furtick once made a statement from his pulpit that took the Internet by storm in 2017. He said, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”
Furtick is right. Often we compare another couple’s happily ever after with the current storms we are facing- the unpaid bills, the infinite debt and the uncomfortable circumstances beyond one’s control. That can be the breeding ground for envy, bitterness, ingratitude, discontentment and unnecessary complaining to your spouse. While it’s okay to be inspired by others’ successes, we must not desperately imitate them trying to get our own personal fulfillment.
As a man, I often feel the pressure to compensate for my masculinity with my financial standing. A broke man in our culture struggles to believe he is man enough. However, I often realise that it’s not that I am necessarily broke in such situations; it’s just that the bloke next door has a German machine while I seem destined to drive the car at the front- Toyota. In order to stop keeping up with the Njoroges (figurative replacement for the Joneses), I must have my identity fixed on something else rather than my wealth. You must too. And if you don’t, your relationship will be characterised by unhealthy competition with people who may not even realise you are keeping score. A man and a woman who get married must decide to stick in their lane guided by the purpose of their relationship. Why are you together? What are you building as a couple? If the relationship is devoid of purpose, you will wear yourselves out trying to be what everyone expects you to be. Is your relationship guided by purpose? Or are you together to just have children, make money, pay taxes and then die? Purpose will keep you focused on your story.
How do we get our eyes focused on ourselves and off the others? One way to do that is to do an honest audit of your marriage. What areas in your marriage need improvement? Here are a few to consider: fun and leisure, finances, sex, parenting, spiritual growth, health. Sit down and ask each other how each area is doing. Find the areas that need improvement and make intentional steps to invest in that area. The proverbial grass being greener on the other side is debunked by this simple truth- the grass that is watered frequently is the greenest. In the information age, there is a wealth of books, online resources, seminars, experts and self-discovery programs to get you fixated on growing your relationship and not comparing it to others. A second way to get into purposeful matrimony is to frequently do projects together that enrich the community around you. Find areas of mutual strength in both of you. Partner your strengths to enrich the lives of others. For my wife and I, we have found that partnership in offering pre-marital advice to couples considering marriage. The satisfaction of helping others will keep your marriage strengthened. Love your spouse. Stick to your lane of progress and be faithful with it no matter how different it looks.