Letter from Dr. Laura’s Listener on Envy

Dear Dr. Laura,

I think your topic about comparing yourself to others is great. I think we all do it, and it’s very difficult to avoid. It can certainly be destructive. Envy is not one of the deadly sins for no reason. Coveting other people’s spouses or possessions has certainly led to the downfall of many. I am constantly on the watch for that type of thing in my life. I don’t want to fall into that trap.

I do think there can be a positive side of this. If you know someone who has something great going for them, it’s natural to compare yourself. But if you’re coming up short, being envious and petty is not how to handle it. If you can figure out what they are doing which caused them to have such a great situation, you can earn that for yourself.

I get told all the time it’s unfair to judge the marriages of the people around me as compared to mine. To a certain extent that is true. But sometimes that statement annoys me. My husband and I are an unusually good match. I think it’s rare to find a partner who clicks as well as my husband and I do.

The thing is, I am as female as the next woman. There are days where I want to be snotty just because I feel like it. The difference is I choose not to do it (and when I do, I apologize and try to avoid it in the future). We don’t agree on everything, and we have habits that annoy each other. The difference between my marriage, and the marriage of many of my friends, is we CHOOSE NOT TO FIGHT. It’s a choice every single day that we are not going to make each other’s lives hell for the sake of saying we “won”. When you alienate your spouse, you didn’t win any damn thing, in fact, you lost more than your spouse did.

Instead of saying my husband and I are unnaturally in sync with each other, if more people asked “How do you guys get along so well?” – they would see how they too could get along. When I find someone with an attribute I admire, I do compare myself. When I come up short, as I often do, I try to figure out what they are doing that gave them the attribute. Then I do the WORK to earn the right to call that quality mine. None of the people we look up to got where they are without work. They all had to decide what they wanted to be and work hard to get there. The only good reason to ever compare ourselves to someone, is when we are willing to do the work to change ourselves for the better. Otherwise, it’s just a form of torture.

Kristy

____________________________________________________________________________________________

I love this letter, it’s what I’ve been saying for years about how actively pursuing an excellent marriage gives you a much greater likelihood of achieving an excellent marriage!  It’s always bothered me that friends or family would say we are just well-matched.  Yes, I guess it’s true, BUT I’m a lot like this letter writer in that I just don’t fight with him about ridiculous things (that other people complain publicly about with their spouses).

My husband and I have been married for over 12 years now, and even through the different trials of life, the years have been astonishingly easy together. We’ve had what I would describe as an unusually blissful marriage. Whenever I mention our past trials, I always feel like I need to qualify that statement with explanation that they weren’t major things inside our relationship that drove us apart from each other, or anything resembling ugly fighting between us. These were difficult and profound outside trials (things like being extremely poor in our early years,  getting married in college and working multiple jobs (managing a good marriage in the midst of graduating and working)…  having a premature baby (no one seems to understand how hard that is, until it happens to them personally), managing hostile family members, postpartum depression, etc.). Nothing dramatic between us, but rather things that we faced together.

What has always surprised me has been knowing other couples who went through similar trials, and ended up divorcing because of them.  What drove us together we’re the same things that drove them apart.

When reading this letter, it’s easy to look back on those hard times and see why we fared so well – we didn’t incessantly attack each other… which would have made our trials infinitely harder.

Our love for each other and willingness to make each other’s lives easier, has thankfully saved our marriage, and made us a much stronger couple in order to face the outside forces we have, and still retain marital happiness.  We have a playful happiness coupled with a deep joy that we truly are together in this world as a team.  And we make such a great team! ❤

If you’re reading this and coming from the other side (and wanting a better relationship), maybe try to look at your spouse as you would a best friend and lover – someone who was meant to be by your side through everything.  Perspective and gratitude solves a lot of problems, especially the immaturity of making mountains out of molehills 😉

 

6 thoughts on “Letter from Dr. Laura’s Listener on Envy

  1. very good, Stephanie 🙂

    i think, though, that some people are realistically in very difficult marriages, and that is also hard to understand if you’ve never been there. sometimes, it doesn’t matter what you do, the other partner just will not choose differently.

    a great marriage takes two people making the choice. all it takes for a difficult marriage is one person being difficult, and we cannot control the other person. i’ve experienced both.

  2. I think this is one of those areas where there is a lot of very bad advice floating around in society. When I listen to friends complaining about some fight they have had with their spouse, it usually boils down to they are worried about the power dynamic in their household. (Oddly, somehow this does not extend to their children. They more or less let their children do whatever they want and are confused by their failures.) They will pick fights over absolutely nothing just to put their husband in his place. This also becomes an inter-generational problem, as this is the example of marriage their kids see. It’s sad to watch, but it’s almost impossible to reason with someone who thinks a relationship is fundamentally about power.

    My husband and I have been together for nearly 20 years. I can honestly say that at this point we never fight. We will debate, sometimes just for the sport of it, but we do not hurt each other’s feelings. In fact, we are more likely to use humor to make a point than anything. Part of that, for sure, is that we are yoked when it comes to issues like money and raising children. But we don’t see marriage or parenting as some competition. Both of us come from families where our parents have been together for 50 years, and have survived things like war together. Having a good example for how to respect your spouse and deal with big emotions like grief or fear is very important.

  3. ” They will pick fights over absolutely nothing just to put their husband in his place.”

    ^That’s what I’ve seen, too… what’s sad like you implied is that they don’t see what they’re doing is so easily avoidable.

    Congrats on being together for nearly 20 years!!!!! How wonderful ❤ I can't wait until we get to that stage of being together for that long 🙂 It's a huge accomplishment, making a life together as a team. Thank you so much for adding your thoughts!

  4. You’re very right, Ame. I think it takes two reasonable people. It sounds like most of the husbands who call-in (or the wives themselves), it’s usually the wife who is making both of their lives miserable. She’s written a few books on it, how hard women can be these days… so that’s more the context of what this letter was probably responding to (bitchy wives who compare their marriages to this Kristy lady and tell her she’s just lucky).

  5. To boil it down (probably too much) there has to be goodwill, and forgiveness on both sides. You can throw submission right out the window if those things aren’t there, because it just won’t happen IMHO. Those things were never part of my wife’s repertoire beginning on the night we married, but I hoped it would change for nearly two decades. It didn’t happen because of a very common characteristic that prevents women in general for self-examination: self-righteousness. It isn’t universal, but it is ubiquitous… and especially so in many churches. If a woman wants to, she can paint her husband as a Nabal, and herself as an Abigail. The culture (church and otherwise) is not at all predisposed to see the Man as innocent. Any man, no matter how reasonable can be safely ignored. The bias runs deep and makes it all the more wonderful to come across a letter like the one you posted. Sorry. Tried not to vent.

  6. “Those things were never part of my wife’s repertoire beginning on the night we married, but I hoped it would change for nearly two decades.”

    See to me that is just insane. Why is there seemingly zero self-reflection sometimes in people (especially in women) who act like that?

    My grandmother, on her deathbed, suddenly started looking back at her life and regretting a ton of things she did. She knew she was dying, and had a pretty painful (quick) death of pancreatic cancer, so I guess that was what prompted her to suddenly start realizing how selfish she’d been in life.

    One of the main things she mumbled as she was dying, was how stupid it was for her to always hate getting up early in the morning with her kids, or getting them ready and off to school… she was *always* resentful, bitter and grouchy with her children, so her realizing finally in her 80’s, how ridiculous that was, was pretty profound to us.

    When I read things from mommy blogs where they’re constantly complaining about their kids and husband etc. I can’t help but think about my grandma, and how out of all the things in life she thought about while dying, it was regretting having that bad attitude about motherhood. That attitude is so excusable today, especially at sites like Scary Mommy when they literally make bank on article after article of complaints and resentment and built up bitterness.

    And it’s fine to vent here! Makes for good post topics and helps get people thinking about important issues in parenting and marriage!

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