It's totally natural to covet what we don't have — even when it comes to our relationships. "Thanks to social media, we all see glimpses of other people's lives — or what they choose to share — and then project and imagine the full story," explains licensed marriage therapist Alisa Ruby Bash. "Especially with avenues like social media showing highlights, happy faces, and peak experiences, it's easy for us to create perfect lives for our peers and judge and compare our relationships to our fantasies."
In other words, just because comparing your romance to another's comes naturally doesn't mean it's a healthy impulse. In fact, it can be downright harmful to everything good you've got.
"We have tendencies to look for what we feel we're lacking in others. For example, if we feel our husband talks down to us, we take notice of other husbands who really respect and support their wives in public," says Bash. "Or if we feel like our partner hasn't bought us jewelry in awhile, we notice our friends whose husbands bought them diamond earrings for Christmas."
But by focusing on the "haves" (others), we make ourselves into the "have nots." "We can become very jealous, hostile, and resentful at all of the things our partner does not do, instead of valuing what they do bring to the table," Bash says. When we compare our relationship to others, we also often forget to communicate what we need from our partners. "It can turn into treading on thin ice, and our desires can come across as demands that set the stage for a lot of fireworks and fights," she says.
If you find yourself thinking your relationship is falling short compared to your friends, try to remember that you only get to see slices of their real lives. "Everyone knows couples that always seemed to have picture-perfect lives that later ended in divorce," says Bash. You can also use your jealousy as a tool. "Looking at other people's relationships enviously can help show us what we would like to focus more on in our own. It can be a valuable tool to help our relationships — if we process our feelings maturely."
And be sure to take time to recognize your own relationships strengths. "Focus on the things that are working," Bash says. "And then think about areas that you would like to improve and try to come up with ideas for how to do it."