I have a weakness.
I sometimes compare myself to others. I find myself trying to measure up to some invisible standard that I believe those people have attained, rather than simply being content with my own life.
Recently my husband and I attended an event with a lot of “beautiful” people who looked to me like they have everything together. That’s when my comparison problem raised it’s ugly head.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that we should all try to look our best and take care of our bodies, and I make an honest effort to do so (although I have been known to eat most of a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Pistachio Pistachio ice cream while watching a movie, or to go to the store in my workout clothes).
At this event there was one woman in particular who was absolutely gorgeous, wore expensive looking clothing and seemed to be having the time of her life with a very good looking man. For just a minute, I found myself comparing and I felt a twinge of jealousy that she seemed to have everything. Yes, I am just that shallow.
As the night progressed, however, this beautiful woman drank more and more, and started wobbling on her stiletto heels. She eventually became an embarrassment to everyone around her, including her good looking date.
At first, this woman looked like she had everything going for her, but as it turns out, she has some problems.
And so does everybody else.
Which brings me to the point of this post: why I don’t read romance novels. Most of them paint a picture of men that is not very realistic, and reading them causes me to compare my life and my relationship with my husband to what I am reading.
While there are many wonderful qualities that my husband possesses (and I happen to think he is really good looking!), he can never live up to an idealized image on the page or on the screen. Comparing him to those men makes me focus on the ways he falls short compared to what I see or imagine.
If I am committed for life (and I am!), I need to live in the reality of who my husband is and what our relationship is. I choose to love and acknowledge all of my husband, but minimize those less-than-perfect parts of him.
I believe that marriage is the central relationship of the family and that the health of the entire family is influenced by the strength of the relationship between the husband and wife. When we care for our spouses and respect them instead of holding them up to an impossible standard, we give our children security and invest in the long-term stability of our marriage. That’s one reason my husband and I have weekly date nights away from our children, even if it only consists of going on a drive or splitting a dessert at a local coffee shop.
So what about you? Do you ever compare your husband to an ideal that causes you to think less of him?
Leave a comment and let’s talk about it. 🙂
(Email readers will need to click through to leave a comment on the blog. Even if you’re not married, I’d love to hear what you think!)
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I don’t seem to compair my husband to other men. I compair my family to other families. We live on a low income and have some close relatives that actually have done EXTREMELY well for themselves. They have it ALL like you say. The nice house, perfect family, wonderful looking children, ect. (dont get my wrong my kids are adorable 🙂 but they have everything I want. We live in a small apartment (subsidized) and can’t wait to get out. Recently we ALMOST bought a house then decided to wait bc 1. funds are tight 2. he will get a pay raise in 3 months 3. we pay for school (which is $700 twice a year, usually this year its 3 because his class started later in the year) 4. it wasn’t our dream home 5. we want to pay our car debt down the list goes on. Sure we qualify for everything; first time home buyer, the programs for low income families ect. but we want to do it on our own and get OUT of the system. Therefore we waited. It was hard, because like i said it was a house that I could call MINE, and decorate myself, paint, playground, sandbox, pets (dog, cats, not just gold fish). I compare my family to other families and then wish I had everything they have. Then I realize, what I have is a family a perfect wonderful family, and a husband who loves me and our kids. We will be there one of these days, within 2 years or so, and it will be my dream home. My kids will still be young, so I can have the playground, sandbox dream and we will be-able to have a extra fund for emergencies instead of hurting and hating our decisions.I know its bad to compair families and i’ve been better lately, but its still hard.
Good for you for waiting until the right time to buy a house! Waiting is difficult, but so worth it.
I adrmit I read lots of romance novels as well as murder mysteries, fiction, western, ect. It never crossed my mind to compare a real life person to a person in a fictional story let alone to compare my husband to a make-believe man. I consider stories a way to take a vacation without leaving my house and a lot cheaper, too. 🙂
Thanks for sharing your point of view Francine. I am sure there are lots of women just like you. 🙂
Romance is in the fiction section for a reason. 🙂 As with TV, I consider the characters “Actors” following a script. My husband will never meet the criteria of the hero just as I will never meet the criteria of the heroine.
My mother told me about her weekly date night. My parents only had one rule: they were not allowed to talk about the kids. She claims this saved her marriage on more than one occasion, through three teenagers and more. I guess she had some wisdom since they were married for 42 years.
Excellent post! You are so right, – as Teddy Roosevelt said: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Great point that I had never really thought of before. I don’t read very many romance novels, and definitely nothing that makes me blush, but I have read them before. I don’t think I have ever compared my husband or our relationship to them, but I have compared myself (or my blog) to others. It’s easy to see what others have and think we want that, but like you said Kimberlee, it’s not always what it looks like.
I *write* romance novels. Of course, that means I can base my characters on my wonderful husband 🙂
I know what you mean about comparison too. I do definitely compare myself to others. The real killer for me is Facebook.
Yes, Facebook is difficult at times, but I remind myself that they can show people whatever they want but that doesn’t mean that it’s the whole story. 🙂
Lynne B says
Reading romance novels is kind of like porn to the emotions as nuditity is to the mans eye. Thanks for your words!
When I was 20 I saw Pretty Woman and I forbid myself watching any movie with Julia Roberts. Prince on the while horse (or white limo) is not going to show up out of nowhere and be perfect, relationships require everyday work and effort.
My boyfriend of 7 years is most caring and loving person that I know, but there are things that I mind at him. When something is really important, I try to change it. When not, and the most of the things aren’t worth of discussion, I accept him the way he is.
As an avid reader who has read many, many romance novels (Christian and secular), I came to the realization in the past couple of months that I’m much happier in my marriage when I’m not reading so many romance novels. They ARE really unrealistic and I DO find myself comparing my husband to the men in the stories. He frequently doesn’t match up with some of the ideals I read about. I think I unconsciously made the decision to stop reading those types of books because it was putting me in a place of discontent in my life and in my marriage. I am really bad about comparing myself and my life (kids, husband, house, car, body…etc.) to those around me and feeling like a fall so very short of everyone. I don’t need to add fictional characters and relationships in books to that list! Thank you for putting into words what I was working out in my mind and heart! I totally don’t think this is a problem for everyone so I’m not condemning reading romance novels at all! For ME though, it has become a problem so I must part ways with it!
Enjoyed this and the ironically funny part is my husband and I just started reading the book Marriage On The Rock by Jimmy and Karen Evans and today’s chapter was about priorities!! :). I am finding it fascinating how God will lead us if we slow down and listen.
That’s really cool because I had forgotten about this post, and then this morning I felt like I should post it today. 🙂
Thanks for the reminder, Kimberlee. Years ago I heard Tony Campolo speak when I was still in college. He pointed out that by looking only for romance, we can miss out on the true love that is needed to make a marriage work day in and day out.
Helen Williams says
I know exactly what you’re talking about! I grew up thinking that if the man in your life is not giving you flowers or taking you out to dinners and doing all the over the top romantic moves then he doesn’t like you. I had to learn the hard way that love is not like that and it is nothing like in the movies. I think that is part of the reason why marriages don’t last for some. People spend their entire childhood viewing romance on tv, movies and in books and the real experience almost never lives up to that. After I married my wonderful husband I learned that love is caring for your partner and doing everything you can to help each other and support each other. My favorite example of this is when I was stuck in bed with the worst morning sickness EVER and my husband, without me asking, cleaned the entire house and drove 20 miles to get food that I loved and had the best chance of keeping down.
Yes! When I was pregnant with my first, I had a middle of the night craving for fresh orange juice. My sweet hubby got dressed at 2:00 am, drove to the 24 hr Walmart to buy a juicer and oranges and made it himself. Now that’s romantic! 🙂
There is not much more to say, Kimberlee, and you ladies have eloquently said what I have often thought. We need to stay parked in our own garage. I, too, suffer fom the comparison trap…thanks for the reminder to focus on what beauty God has given to us.!!
I’m actually the exact opposite. I read a lot of romance novels (I have an extensive collection of Christian romance, and I’ve read secular romance as well – though I make a strong effort to weed out anything that might make me “blush!”).
I find that the novels make me realize all the wonderful things about my husband. I compare him to the men in the books, but he always comes out ahead! The men in most romance novels are unrealistic in their characteristics and mannerisms, and that makes me appreciate the wonderful, Christian man I have even more – a “real” person, who, while he may not be perfect (and I’m not, either!), is not fake or unrealistic.
Additionally, reading romance novels where there’s almost always a happy ending (also of course unrealistic!) and where everyone always makes wonderful choices reminds me that I can always be a better wife and there are things I can work at in my life and my relationship with my husband. While I never expect to reach an unattainable ideal, being inspired to be the best wife I can be is never a bad thing!
Thanks for giving us an alternate view. It’s like another reader said, it’s not about keeping a rule, but keeping our marriages first, however that looks for us individually.
Nancy L. says
I think romance novels set us up for comparison & unrealistic expectations. I avoid them & chick flicks for the same reason. My husband doesn’t bring me flowers or cards or open doors for me, but he’s wonderfully romantic in nontraditional ways – he loves me sacrificially and loves me more than he loves himself. I’m one grateful woman.
I read hundreds, if not thousands, of romance novels as a teen and into my early twenties. Most were “Christian” romance – very few that had “smut” in them, just idealized men and women in various preposterous situations that all turned out happily ever after in the end. They were predictable.
When I met my husband, it was a no-brainer to make the same decision you did. In part, because I was mostly just bored of the genre. In part, the very reasons you mention.
I haven’t broadcast that decision widely. And I don’t make it a hard and fast rule . . . it’s a guideline. But it’s a healthy guideline, in my experience. 🙂 But the most important part of your post, imo, is not your decision not to read romance novels, but the decision to put the health of your marriage ahead of personal desires. For you and I, that may include precluding a genre of reading material. For others, it may look different. But it is a decision we each make, sometimes daily.
So thank you – both for sharing your decision, but also for the challenge to put the first things first. I hope that I can be as self-aware and make the choices that will benefit my relationship with my husband – and with God as well.
I really like the way you wrote that Tricia–it’s not so much about “rules” of what we should or shouldn’t do, but just making our marriages a priority in our lives. Thanks!
I know exactly what you are talking about. I have found myself comparing him to men I read about or see on tv. It usually happens, for me, when we are not our best with each other.
As a rule I don’t normally read romance because they are so unrealistic in what real relationships are like but I stay even further away from them when we are at odds. The last thing I need then is my subconscious playing tricks with my emotions and making things worse.
That is a really good point Felicia. We should probably all be a little more careful when things aren’t going as well as we would like.
Thank you so much for this! Btw, you are NOT shallow! I think every woman does this, and we need to STOP! We are so blessed but we take it for granted so often. I cannot say I am jealous of women with good-looking husbands, but I do find myself comparing my husband to other “godly” men (I use quotes because that only may be an appearance, whereas my husband is real and genuine). I love this about my man. What you see if what you get! Although I can forget that I love this from time to time. You go girl! Keep writing.
I think I was more jealous of the fact that she seemed to not just have the good looking partner, but everything else seemed to be perfect. I think my husband is very handsome and love the way he treats me, I just get a little side tracked if I am not careful. 🙂