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Dear Dr. Yael,

I can’t believe I’m actually writing to you. No one would ever believe that someone like me would be writing to a therapist or seeking help.

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I come from a comfortable, loving home and I’m the third of five sisters. We all married young, had all our needs taken care of, and happily settled into our newlywed lives. Did I say happily? My sisters seem happy and on the surface I’m sure I appear to be happy too, but in reality that isn’t the case.

My older sister’s husband is a brilliant lawyer who is also a successful investor and has no trouble supporting my sister’s expensive spending habits. He’s extremely charismatic and when we’re all gathered around my parents’ dining room table, he keeps us all mesmerized with his viewpoints on anything from Torah thoughts to current evens.

My next sister’s husband is a learner. My father provides them with a generous monthly stipend, but they are both very spiritual and don’t seem to have material needs and therefore seem quite content.

The sister under me – who I am closest to – is constantly telling me about all the wonderful things her husband says and does. He learns half a day and works for his father in the afternoons. He is tall and good looking, buys my sister flowers every Friday (and writes poems, too) and whenever we’re by my parents makes sure to talk about all the delicious food my sister cooks and bakes.

My youngest sister just got married a few months ago and lives in Israel. You can’t have a conversation with her without her raving about her darling new husband.

Bottom line: My husband is short, doesn’t buy me flowers, doesn’t write poems and couldn’t care less about my cooking. Don’t get me wrong. He doesn’t complain about what I serve, and seems content about eating anything – and when I say anything – he wouldn’t even notice if I served spaghetti for dinner every night. He never stopped me from buying myself anything I want either. But gifts? Flowers? He tells me if I want it I should go buy it. He comes from a wealthy home and works in his father’s business. He earns a decent salary and gives me free reign of our bank account. But I don’t want that! I want him to go out and get me things! I want him to talk about the wonderful meals I cook, and I want him to enthrall the family with his observations on politics too. And yes, I wish he had a little more ambition and some spunk.

You must realize by now that I find myself constantly comparing my husband to my brothers-in-law. I’m aware that that is a wrong thing to do, but I still can’t help myself from feeling the way I do. Did I marry the wrong person? I do care about my husband and I acknowledge that there are many wonderful things about him that compliment me and would never want to hurt him. Unfortunately, he is aware of my comparisons and is starting to show signs of resentment. Is there any hope for me? Could I be happy and content with someone who compared to others doesn’t measure up? I have to admit that it is not only in my marriage partner that I find myself making comparisons. I have always been competitive, often feeling like I am not measure up to others. How do I get rid of this habit of constant comparisons?

Sincerely,
Someone who can’t sign their name for obvious reasons

 

 

Dear Someone who can’t sign their name for obvious reasons,

Comparing yourself to others is a very dangerous thing. It never helps you feel better and often is based on false premises. In reality, you have no idea what is going on in anyone else’s life. Someone else’s life may seem perfect, but trust me, no one’s life is perfect, you just don’t know their imperfections. It would be helpful for you to start focusing on what you do have and to make it a point to be grateful for that. Some people find it helpful to have a gratefulness journal, where they record 1-3 things they are grateful for every night. Starting to open your eyes to the good you have in your life will help you stop comparing yourself to others.

Additionally, it seems like you need to work on your self-esteem. Some of your difficulties appear to be stemming from low self-esteem. Perhaps you can find a competent therapist to help build yourself up so you can stop comparing yourself to others and start appreciating yourself and what you have.

Lastly, it is important that you build your husband up as well. You have no idea how your brothers-in-law actually treat your sisters. Many men seem amazing and charismatic, but do not treat their wives the way they appear. I hope for your sisters’ sakes your brothers-in-law are as amazing as you think, but regardless, everyone is given the person who is best for them and your husband is best for you.

Instead of comparing your husband to other people, try to focus on your husband’s positive attributes. You mentioned many positive attributes about your husband, but you brush them off. It is time to highlight your husband’s positive traits and concentrate on all that you do have. It sounds like you have a lot of berachot and the more you think about all that you do have (instead of thinking about what you don’t have) the happier you will be. Hatzlocha in trying to find true happiness!

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Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to deardryael@aol.com. To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at www.jewishpress.com and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at www.dryaelrespler.com.