I’ve never considered myself to be a very jealous person, at least in romantic relationships. When I’m dating someone, I hardly mind if he innocently flirts with other women or spends time with friends who are of the opposite sex. Human nature is human nature: sexual attraction doesn’t cease simply because our hearts and minds find companionship in a single person. This isn’t to say I’m not monogamous, but I’ve never taken issue with a partner’s biological imperative.
However, while I’ve prided myself in never exhibiting jealousy within my relationships, I never expected that those feelings might turn outward, towards other couples. For some time, I’ve been reading posts from one of my favorite bloggers who frequently mentions her live-in boyfriend, who she’s been dating for a little over a year. Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy for her, but there’s also this feeling of unsettledness that rises up in my chest when I read about their swift courtship, move to NYC, and how everything felt so “right.” With any emotional reactions like this, I like to remind myself that social media, blogs, and the like are completely (and intended to be) unrepresentative of reality. Couples fight, they go through dry spells. No relationship is without its own set of annoyances, disagreements, and jealousy.
And yet, I find myself comparing my current relationship to those of other couples. I think this envy manifests when we begin to magnify all the ways in which our partners and/or love life fall short of our expectations. For example, when reading about this blogger’s seemingly idyllic relationship, I cannot help but lament the fact that I don’t have the means to live with my boyfriend, and because of that, I wonder if perhaps we aren’t as close. I begin to wonder if we don’t have enough special traditions (she and her boyfriend have a standing soup and salad Sunday dinner), don’t celebrate our anniversary (they celebrate each month they’ve been dating), or spend enough time together due to our schedules (they live together and work from home).
In some ways, coveting others’ love lives is even more challenging than feeling envious of a single person. Most of us understand that individuals, no matter how bright or sophisticated they appear to others, often endure serious inner turmoil for any number of reasons. In contrast, there is a certain social expectation that romantic relationships be passionate, fulfilling, and happy all the time (since choosing a partner is a conscious decision, and don’t we all want to find a person who makes us happy?).
However, feeling envious of another couple is not necessarily an indication that your own relationship is deteriorating. There are plenty of people (including myself!) who are in healthy relationships, but constantly fall into the comparison trap. But know this: relationships are never one-dimensional, and honeymoon periods are fleeting. If you’re ever feeling like another couple is leading the perfect life, you can bet that you aren’t seeing the full picture. In fact, I’d be worried if a couple didn’t have the occasional disagreement or upset; these are the things that color and texture our relationships, making them that much more cherished.
Also by Molly: 4 Signs It’s Time to Quit the Job You Love
More love and relationships: 6 Things Love Is, and 6 Things Love Isn’t
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Photo: t.germeau via Flickr