Marriage Mantras: Comparison is the Thief of Joy

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A few years ago, before Gareth and I were married, I became good friends with Hannah*. She was one of those effortlessly beautiful girls, someone who you’d do a double take at if you saw her walking down the street. She was tall, stylish, funny, confident and, quite frankly, everything I wasn’t. We had mutual friends and we hit it off immediately, quickly spending a lot of our time together. She was single and the two of us would go out most weekends, making a little mischief but most of all just having a damn good time.

It was no secret that I was quite jealous of her. I wanted to be her… badly. There was just one thing I had that she didn’t – a long term boyfriend. Girl to girl rivalry is a weird phenomenon, and although I’d never wish anything bad for her, I did feel quite smug in the fact that even though she was so darn right perfect (in my eyes) I was the one in a relationship.

4. Comparison is the Thief of Joy

That all changed when she met James*. Their relationship quickly became serious and they couldn’t get enough of each other. They were one of those couples that were very comfortable being over-affectionate in public. They were clearly obsessed with each other and it showed. Hannah even got a tattoo of his name on the top of her back within two weeks!

It sounds terrible, but I was crazy jealous. Gareth and I had a fantastic relationship, but I was completely envious of their passionate, overtly sexual affair. They would shout and scream at each other loudly in the street but then be snogging uncontrollably five minutes later. There was something so wild and dramatic about their relationship, and in my slightly warped early 20s mind, this seemed very appealing.

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Suddenly Gareth and I felt very ‘safe’ and well, a little bit boring. From the outside, Hannah’s new relationship seemed so much more exhilarating and exciting than my own. I lusted after the drama that they had and I started to reminisce about those intoxicating, heady days of a brand new relationship when you just can’t keep your hands off each other. I felt a little bit sad that I might not have that again.

There was nothing wrong with Gareth and my relationship, in fact far from it, it was stronger than ever. I’d just come back from University (which we’d survived!) and we were now living together, but by looking at Hannah and James and comparing what we had to what I perceived them to have, I started to feel bad about us. Which is stupid.

Their relationship didn’t last longer than a few months and after they broke up, Hannah told me that their relationship had massive problems from the outset. He’d get really angry and he even hit her a few times. I guess that kind of hot-blooded passion can come at a price. The things people portray on the outside are rarely the full story. 

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Instead of looking at someone else’s relationship as a benchmark of where your marriage should be, look within. If you feel like you’re not spending enough time together then go out and do things. If you wish you were having more sex, make it happen.

You will never feel joy in your relationship if you’re always looking to others, or maybe to past relationships, and making comparisons. This hurts and restricts growth within your marriage because instead of thinking about about all the good things in your relationship, you’re only giving time to the bad.

Never base something about your relationship on what someone else appears to be doing. If the basis of your thinking is always a comparison, you’re not allowing your marriage to reach its full potential and there will always be something else in between you. Your partner and marriage deserve your complete attention. Comparison will only distract from what’s right in front of you.

This is part four of my ten part Marriage Mantras series. Feel free to check out the past episodes you might have missed too.

*Names changed, obvs.



  1. So damn true Kat, so damn damn true.
    I’m glad you started writing this series, it really helps refocusing when I lose sight of what things really are and how they work. So thank you 🙂

  2. Kat,
    I lurk on here and have never commented before – but this really struck a chord and I feel driven to say how true it is – I think once you have settled down into a stable loving relationship it is only natural to get a bit jealous of that first flush of “falling in love” feeling when you see your friends get that rush. The love I have for the husband now is quite different to the kind I had when we first started going out, but it’s deeper and more genuine and I hope it lasts forever!
    Thank you!

  3. You know, when me and Adam met we had the full rollercoaster. We’d met by chance when we were both rebounding and still in love with our exes, and quite frankly, it was horrible! I even fell out with two lifelong friends that disapproved of what I’d got myself into. All I could say was that my gut said I’d met my co-pilot. (I’ve been in the other type of unrequited love before, which was horrific and different).
    Now we’re so settled and secure it just feels like we’re completely solid. Sometimes I look back on those first few months and how exciting and thrilling it was and how plodding we are now, and when I see new similar couples, it makes me think of that time in our history, and I think ‘erm, no thanks!!’

  4. Such sound advice as always Kat. I consider my husband and I to be unit. We are secure and comfortable in our relationship. Yes you may get giddy and filled with excitement at the beginning of a relationship but there is so much nervousness there too. Will he like this/will he call etc that I am more than pleased we are past that!

  5. Fantastic series! I love how you touch on the jealousy/comparison aspect because it’s so easy to get trapped in that kind of thinking. You’re so right about making things happen, you can’t just wish a relationship to work!

  6. Jade

    I’m really loving this series! Each article has something that hits home for me and even though I’m not married yet, I’m finding useful advice for my relationship anyway, so thanks!
    By the way, are you still friends with ‘Hannah’?

  7. Very, very true! It is so easy to compare ourselves to others and forget the awesomeness that we actually already have. Being jealous of others will never lead to happiness, just resentment. Plus a lot of the time you end up being jealous of something that’s not even there in the first place. Pointless waste of energy 🙂 Really enjoying reading your marriage mantras series Kat.

  8. Amen! Comparison can ruin even the best relationships (or friendships, etc.). Nothing gets a rotten hold of your self esteem quite like it.

  9. Really, I don’t want to be polemic and I don’t want to judge, but I would like to show another point of view in this story. In the 70′, feminist said that what happened in your privacy, it’s public, and i grow up with this mantra. If something wrong happened with my relationship, it’s something important to share with my friends and my parents. If there were’n jealousy and competition between (female) friends but solidarity and understanding maybe this Hannah would not be shy to show also the negative sides of his relationship, and maybe, with the right advices, he had broken with James before. Sorry for my bad english, with love, Valeria

  10. Lyndee H.

    Oh I just found this post and it is my favourite one of the series so far- I think because making comparisons can be a very female trait unfortunately and we live in a society that encourages us to be competitive. I think it is all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’. I have to stop myself lapsing into this thought process occasionally- my partner is older than me and disabled and sometimes it is hard work living with someone who is much less able to do things than other people but I know I have something special with him that I would not find elsewhere and that makes me stronger.

  11. Bethany Robyn

    Amazing post and exactly what I needed to read – I’m finding it harder and harder not to compare myself and my life with the snapshots I see on facebook and other social media! I guess the grass isn’t always greener!

  12. Wise words Kat. The other thing I always try to remember is no one knows what happens in other people’s relationships behind closed doors. A relationship can look rosy on the outside, but who knows what’s really going on…

  13. Such good advice. I used to feel that way about mine and Stu’s relationship but started to realise that actually, how I perceived a friend’s relationship to be may not be how it actually was. After all, the only people who know what really goes on in a relationship is the two people in it!

  14. Comparison is the Thief of Joy,wow,this is so sure!i like this saying,never compare with others,just live ur life! thinks for sharing us such a great post,love this series so much. Live happy ever since.

  15. ohhhh, Kat. How are you always posting exactly what I need in relationship advice?!

    Also, PS: you are tall, stylish, funny, and confident (or seem like it!) so I have no idea what you’re talking about 😉


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