In every relationship, though we try to be equally partnered, there are naturally some areas in which one person excels more than the other. Whether it’s your significant other getting further in their career, having a wider circle of friends, or getting more attention for their looks, the feeling that your partner outdoes you in some area can incite jealousy that drives a wedge into your relationship.
In the course of my marriage to my husband, I can’t say we’ve been immune to this phenomenon. There are numerous ways one of us is stronger, more skilled, or maybe just plain luckier than the other. One case in point: As two ambitious people, we both have side projects we’ve poured time and emotional energy into. For me, it’s my food and nutrition blog. For my husband, it’s a website for people who enjoy weird music. Unsurprisingly, our sites don’t receive traffic measured in equal amounts. While my food blog has seen growth and serves as a steady source of fun and fulfillment for me, my husband’s side project has turned into a veritable online institution with a major following. It can be tough feeling so outpaced by his internet stardom.
But rather than allow my husband’s success to eat away at me, I’ve tried to find constructive ways to deal with SOE (Significant Other Envy). Here are four things I’ve learned.
1. Be honest
In a gentle way and at a good time, let your significant other know that you struggle with feelings of jealousy toward them. It never hurts to start the conversation with a positive, like “I love that you’re so great at this thing (friendships, time management, online celebrity among weird musicians), but sometimes it’s hard to deal with how far ahead of me you are.” Keeping open communication always feels better than bottling emotions up inside. Plus, once you start the dialogue, you might be surprised to learn that your partner feels the same way about you in some other sphere. I recently learned that my husband envies my fitness level and the time I devote to staying healthy.
2. Learn from them
In addition to my husband’s website prowess, another life skill I envy is his resilience. While the slightest disturbance can send me into a tailspin, he withstands all manner of onslaughts without batting an eye. A comment from a co-worker could leave me worried I’ll never be liked again. My husband, however, has gone head-to-head with his boss in a heated argument and come out of it even more respected than ever. I’ve come to realize I have a lot to learn from this strength of his ability to bounce back from life’s curveballs. With his input, I’m gradually becoming less of an emotional wreck and more like an emotional rock.
3. Keep supporting them
The ultimate tragedy of Significant Other Envy is when it prevents one partner from supporting the other. Don’t let feelings of your own inadequacy keep you from encouraging your partner to persist in the areas where they excel. The more you offer them your genuine praise for the things they do well, the happier you’ll be when they continue to succeed—and the more it will strengthen your relationship in general.
4. Let go of comparison
Here’s where the rubber meets the road. When someone you’re close to eclipses you in something you care about, it’s only natural to feel pangs of “why-not-me?” But unchecked envy is a relationship destroyer. As much as possible, focus on your own fortes and try to let go of comparison. When you feel the insecurities rise up, think of your unique skills and gifts call up a time when they were helpful in your relationship. Remember that God created you and your significant other as unique individuals with unique talents and skills, and brought you together to allow them to complement each other.
Originally published on January 25, 2019.