The Comparison Conundrum


My kids have been into riddles lately.  The bonus for me: I’ve heard all of the ones they’ve been telling me and it’s sent them on a journey to find a riddle that, one I haven’t heard, and two a riddle that would stump me. Cammi and Ethan are trying to find the right “conundrum.” The first time I heard that word used was on the Batman television show.  It was The Riddler who referred to himself as “The Count Of Conundrums.” Since then, it has been one of those words that one of those words that has stuck with me.

co·nun·drum/kəˈnəndrəm/ A confusing and difficult problem or question.


One of the struggles in marriage that Anne and I have dealt with so many couples is the issue of comparison. Comparison happens when someone gets an ideal in their head, places it upon the spouse, and then enforces rules and expectations to become that ideal.  It can come from seeing how someone else runs their marriage.  It can come from watching a movie and expecting a spouse to respond the say way that you just witnessed.  Believe me, I’m not against personal and marital goal setting.  But comparison can be dangerous.

Comparison is one of the reasons (apart from many reasons) why pornography is so dangerous.  We see something and we compare our real experiences or expectations with it. Now when I use the word “pornography”, I mean more than just naked people  on a screen or a magazine.  There is emotional pornography. Emotional pornography is unhealthy emotional and relational expectations portrayed in so much of our media.  It’s effects are very similar to the traditional definition of pornography. Just as there is sexual excitement surrounding the mystery and allure of what flesh might be seen in a movie known for its racy reputation, so too are we drawn in with an anticipation for the emotional and physical high of a romance film. From either aspect of porn, we see it develop comparisons…an unhealthy expectation to what intimacy is.  We end up confusing ourselves, our spouse with comparisons.

We cause a conundrum.

Listen to these quotes:

“Did you know ____________ does this with their spouse?”
“Why don’t you act like ____________?”
“When are you going to do ____________ like ____________ does in their marriage?”
“You would NEVER do that.  You’re not as observant as ____________.”
“I wish you were more like ____________.”
“But it works for ____________ and ____________.”
“Why don’t you respond to me like ____________?”

As abusive as some of these sound, some of you reading this can accurately proclaim that you’ve never verbally have said anything close to this.  My question is: Have you thought it? Has your heart meditated on it?  Are you obsessed with it so much that you’re finding yourself bitter and upset with your spouse when they’ve done nothing wrong?

Your comparisons and comments are causing a conundrum (A confusing and difficult problem).

What type of problems do comparisons make?

To name a few…

1 – You build resentment with your spouse. Bitterness seeds in and frustration grows.
2 – Trust is fragmented! Paranoia sets in.  Fear feeds ill thoughts and disconnection.
3 – You set yourself up for Failure. You develop impossible goals for you and your spouse that cannot be attained.  You feel already defeated before anything has begun.
4 – The attitude of “why try?” develops.   It’s easy to give up when you feel you don’t have a change to meet the expectations to begin with. You think: why even start?
5 – Comparison show you haven’t released/forgiven.  Sometimes comparisons result from past issues and you haven’t let go of. You start comparing with high expectations.  And when your spouse hasn’t gotten there at the pace you are expecting, harsh words and thoughts develop.

Here’s some helps…the first 3 from me and the last 2 from Anne:

Guard your “inputs.”  

Psalms 1:1 “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked…” The word “counsel” means advice.  Be aware of who and WHAT is advising and/or influencing you.  Know what is influencing your marriage. Keep in check television, magazines, websites, movies, friends, and even family. Guard yourself.  Guard your spouse.

Have reasonable and biblical expectations

– Do yo have higher standards than God? This is what Jesus dealt with the a group of religious men on in Luke 5:33-6:11 Make sure what you are expecting lines up with what God is expecting.

Walk in forgiveness

– Choose to walk in forgiveness the way the Lord deals with your sins. Isaiah 43:25 says “I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” When you walk with that perspective, it becomes incredibly difficult to hold on to your spouses faults.

Appreciate your spouse (from Anne)

– Value your spouse and their needs.  Value who God has made them.  Remember your spouse has been, according to Psalm 139:14, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” 

Find contentment (from Anne)

– Contentment isn’t settling and resting.  Contentment is satisfaction in how you are growing and progression. In Philippians 4:11, Paul says, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Paul didn’t sit back “content.” He was content with who God made him and content pressing on to grow in his passion for Christ.


Flee from comparisons.  Don’t put your marriage in a conundrum!


Thanks for letting me ramble…

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