September 17, 2009
There is little-if any-competition for, “the good times”; each is happy for the other’s
fun, fame and free time.
A common earmark of an unhealthy marriage relationship is a pattern of keeping track of and competing for, the “positive life experiences” that come to the other person. In an unhealthy relationship there is almost always jealousy, resentment, and the tendency to hold a grudge when good things happen to the other.
The common reaction of a jealous spouse who wonders when it will finally be their turn for a bit of fun, fame, or good fortune is often subtle and can even be imperceptible by others at first. Nonetheless, the one holding the grudge over the good time had by the other usually knows. And it is more often than not just a matter of time until others begin to notice the subtle signs of tension developing over keeping track of whose turn it is for a little fun, free time, or 15 minutes of fame.
On the other hand, we have all been the admiring observer of the genuine happiness and enthusiasm experienced by a spouse when good fortune has come their partner’s way. Rather than resenting the good time experienced by the other, there even seems to be a vicarious pleasure when the other is on the receiving end of something good.
Compare the following conversations:
1. “Well, it looks like YOU had a very carefree and relaxing day around here while I was out slaving to make a living.”
“I’m glad you were able to take a breather today. Don’t worry about what you didn’t get done. You deserve a relaxing, care free day.”
2. “Wait a minute. Do you mean to tell me that you’re taking another day trip with your girl friends? When’s it MY turn?”
Yeah, I know you were gone not too long ago, but I’ll catch up with you one of these days. Go and have a great time”.
3. “I get a little tired of hearing from others what a nice guy you are. You know, you’re not exactly perfect, and they don’t have to live with you.”
“I am very proud of the fact that I’m married to a person who is liked by so many people. Yeah I know, you do have your faults, but I’m one of your fans too”.
4. “You seem to get so many comments about what a great mom you are. Don’t they know it takes two to parent?”
“I’m very proud and grateful that you are such a great mom, and that your efforts don’t go unnoticed by others. Our kids are lucky to have you for a mom.”
5. “Okay, so you got yet another achievement award at work this year. Don’t forget that I gave up a good career of my own to stay home with the kids.”
“Your company knows a great human asset when they see one! I’m proud and thankful that you provide so I can be a stay at home Mom to our kids.”
6. "You mean to tell me you're going to lunch with a friend AGAIN!? Do you have any idea how long it has been since I was able to take time out for a leisurely lunch?"
"I'm glad you can find regular time in your schedule to conne ct with friends. Have a great time."
Certainly not an exhaustive list of the every day conversations that take place in our marriages today, but these examples do provide a glimpse into one of the key differences between healthy and unhealthy marriages when it comes to competing for the good times.
It is easy for the best of us to fall into the pattern of competing for positive life experiences and even resenting our spouse when they seem to be getting what we think is a little more than their fair share. But if it is our goal to have a healthy and more satisfying relationship, then it is important that we learn to experience a bit of vicarious pleasure when our spouse reaps some of the rewards and benefits of life.