One thing I hear all the time from my clients is that they struggle with comparing themselves to their spouse’s affair partner. It can get to the point where they can’t be in public with their spouse because they worry so much about what the spouse may be thinking about other women they see. It can be crippling.
In this episode, you’ll learn why we compare, and how you can help yourself navigate it. Even though comparing is a very natural thing to do, you’ll come away with tips to help yourself when you find your mind wandering.
Comparing is normal. We all do it. But it does not have to be destructive or take over your mind. Don’t miss this episode to learn how to reign in those wandering thoughts that lead nowhere helpful.
I’m Andrea Giles. And you’re listening to The Heal from Infidelity podcast,
episode number 90, The Comparison Trap.
Hello, and welcome to The Heal From Infidelity podcast where courageous
women learn not only to heal from their spouse’s betrayal, but to become
the boldest, truest, most decisive, and confident versions of themselves
ever. If you know, there’s more freedom than the life you’re currently
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Stick around to learn how to create a life that will knock your own socks
off. Is it possible? It is. And I’m here to show you how. I’m your host,
Andrea Giles. Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
Hello, everybody. I hope that you are doing well. I am recording this
episode at the end of an incredibly intense few days at my house. A few
days ago, my daughter was supposed to come home from serving an 18-month
mission for our church. She’s been there in Arizona for a year and a half,
and we’ve all been anxiously waiting to see her and talk to her and hug her
and her flight got canceled and then got delayed again. And so she came
home a whole 24 hours later than planned. I had a bunch of company come for
that. And then in that whole time, I had two of my children have birthdays.
And so I’ve been doing birthdays and taking care of this daughter that we
haven’t seen for a year and a half. And she just left today to go on her
So she was literally home for less than three days. And she’s gone again.
She’s going to go be a camp counselor all summer long out in the woods for
youth. Anyway, and I am heading out of town tomorrow. So now it is time to
record another podcast episode for you.
Going to be talking to you today about comparing, comparison, the trap of
comparison. So let’s talk about comparing. I hear from some of you that
it’s really difficult for you not to go there in your mind, that it’s hard
for you not to think about what your husband might think about the other
woman. About women, he’s seeing in porn or other things like that. It’s
hard not to go, “What does he see in them that he doesn’t see in me? What’s
better about them than me. What characteristics and traits does he like
more than he likes me?” Those kinds of questions.
Today, we’re going to dive into this a little bit. And my goal in this
episode is for you to leave with a couple ideas of things that you can do
when your mind starts wandering to this space, okay?
So first of all, education is powerful, right? Knowledge is power. So let’s
talk about what comparison is. So Brene Brown recently published an amazing
book. It’s called Atlas of the Heart. And if I can sum it up, it’s like a
dictionary for emotions. It is so cool. It goes through so many different
emotions and talks about them at length and when they show up and kind of
what to do about it. And it’s really, really cool. But she talks about
comparison and comparison is not actually, it’s not a feeling, but it’s
something that we do that leads us to feel certain things. There are some
feelings that we can feel that are pretty positive and there’re some that
leave us feeling pretty negative.
She shares in there how she’s a swimmer. And that it’s where she feels the
most relaxed is just her in the pool. She can’t hear anything else. It’s
her in the pool, in that lane, she it’s a meditative type thing. It works
her body. And she said that the only time that it really does not work well
for her is when she’s comparing her laps to the person in the pool right
next to her. And when she does that, it slows her down and it takes her out
of the meditative state. It makes her go, “Why can’t I be faster than that?
How come they’re doing the laps quicker,” those kinds of things. And so she
said that she printed up a picture of a pool with a lane and put it up in
her office to remind her to stay in her own lane.
And another thing she does is if there’s somebody swimming in the lane next
to her, before she jumps in, she silently says to herself a wish for that
person, that they may have a good lap. That they may do well. And that
helps her to feel the way she wants to feel, okay?
So let’s learn some things about comparison. First of all, I thought this
was so interesting. I’m sure all of you have heard the expression, the
grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, right? I learned
though a few things. One, I learned that comparing is something that we do
without even thinking. It is a natural thing that we all do. Every single
one of us compare. And it’s a way that we socially kind of check out what’s
around us. It’s something that we have gotten good at, seeing what’s going
on, sizing people up, seeing if we’re in danger, if we’re not in danger,
that kind of thing.
But the problem is that studies have shown that the more we compare, the
more we generally get depressed and down. And this even happens when we are
comparing and putting ourselves in a one-up type position. Like when we’re
thinking we’re better at something than someone else. In the end, this can
leave us feeling bad too. Partly because we end up comparing the other way
of times where we feel less than, and end up feeling bad. So it really is
the action of comparing that in general leads to a negative outcome for us,
Now, another thing that I learned is that scientifically that phrase, the
grass is always greener on the other side of the fence is actually
accurate. It’s not funny. When you look at grass grown on the other side of
the fence, the way that the pigment is and the grass, the way that it
looks, actually, it looks greener to the eye than the grass, right under
your feet, even though it’s an illusion. Their grass is not greener. It
just looks greener. And I thought, how funny, because don’t we do this?
Don’t we always look and see their house is cleaner. Their yard looks
nicer, she’s prettier, she’s smarter, right?
And in reality, sometimes it really truly looks that way to us because
we’re comparing in likes. Let me explain what I mean. If we compared
ourselves to other people who lived in a whole different culture with all
different values, completely different, we wouldn’t be really comparing
ourselves. It wouldn’t be apples and apples, right? It would be apples and
But what we do is we find ways to compare ourselves to people that it is
they are more alike than different. And this is where we get ourselves in
trouble. When we start comparing people that live in our neighborhood,
people that live down the street, people that we carpool with, people that
we do sports with, that our kids do sports with that we see at church when
we have things that are in common. That’s when we get ourselves in trouble,
because we can see that we look and seem alike. So why are they so much X,
Y, and Z fill on the blank better than us? Whatever.
That’s when we start to get ourselves in trouble in the book, Atlas of the
Heart, Brene Brown defines comparison as the crush of conformity from one
side and competition from the other. It’s trying to simultaneously fit in
and stand out. Comparison says, “Be like everyone else, but better.” Ouch.
Gosh, no wonder we feel so much anxiety all the time. No wonder we feel so
much pressure because it is our natural state to compare and we want to fit
in, but we want to be just a little bit better than everyone else.
That’s such a huge amount of pressure to put on ourselves, right? A
therapist who studied comparison in depth says this about it. “From this
perspective, when we are presented with another person who is obviously
better or worse off, we have no choice, but to make a social comparison, it
could be hard to hear an extremely intelligent person on the radio or see
an extremely handsome one in the grocery store or participate on a panel
with an expert without engaging in social comparison, no matter how much we
would like not to. Even if we do not choose whether or not to make a
comparison, we can choose whether or not to let that comparison affect our
mood or self-perceptions,” okay?
So we all are prey to it. It is very, very natural. Now I want to dive in a
little bit into the emotions that come from comparison. What are the things
that we generally tend to do and feel when we start to compare?
One thing that we do is we feel admiration and reverence. That’s one thing
that we do. On the other hand, we often feel envy and jealousy. So, it’s
interesting because I have, I’m thinking specifically of a friend of mine
that I have known for years who was a truly incredible artist. She’s won
worldwide awards, she truly is incredible. She’s so, so talented. And I
follow her on Instagram. I’m just going to give a shout out. Her name is
Liz Harris, go find her. I follow her on Instagram and she shows her art
and she shows the progress of an art piece and I just think she’s so good.
But the reason why it’s not an uncomfortable thing for me to look at her
art is because I know that is not my talent. I know that I am not talented
at art. And so I don’t even think about it.
I don’t think, “Oh my gosh, I wish my art were as good as hers,” because I
am not an artist that is not my talent. And so I can feel admiration for my
friend, Liz Harris and go, “That is incredible.” She is incredible.
A few years back, I commissioned her to do a charcoal drawing of my
grandson and it’s so beautiful and perfect. And every time I see it, I’m
just like, “Oh my gosh, she’s so amazing.” But it truly is from a space of
admiration, not envy.
Where does envy creep in for me? Hmm. Sometimes envy creeps in when I look
at people that are more like me, other coaches who seem to be so much more
successful than me. Sometimes I can envy them when I’m comparing my
business with theirs. Now, several episodes, I talked about the difference
between envy and jealousy, envy is where we see something we wish we had.
And I know for me, it comes much more frequently when I’m looking at more
alike things, like people that are more alike me, like I don’t envy really
amazing artists because it’s not even in my brain at all to be a good
It is in my brain though to be the best coach that I can be to have a
really successful, organized business. And so that’s where sometimes envy
can creep in for me.
Now, how about jealousy? Jealousy is different than envy. Envy is when we
see something outside of us that we wish that we had. Jealousy is where we
have something and we’re afraid of losing it, okay? Now what does all of
this have to do with infidelity? Everything. I’m sure as you’re listening,
you can think in your mind how this relates to infidelity. When we have
been betrayed, it is very, very easy to compare.
It is very, very easy to wonder why we didn’t cut it. Why this other person
was more, whatever, right? We might feel envious of this other person
thinking if I were more this or that, then he maybe wouldn’t have done
these things. This is where I really want to challenge your thinking.
In preparing for this episode, I read a lot of different things about
comparison in regards to infidelity. And one of the fascinating things that
I read is that people who have had affairs often say that it had nothing to
do with the actual person that they had an affair with and everything to do
with their state of mind when they wandered.
Most people who have affairs or some kind of betrayal are in some kind of
state of insecurity. They’re either insecure or wanting a lot of validation
or feeling bad about themselves in some way. And oftentimes it’s the
easiest person, the closest person, the lowest hanging fruit that is giving
attention. And it’s so easy to take. It’s so easy to grab, and it has
nothing to do with this being this fine prize that they just are so proud
of. That is just not the case.
It’s easy. Easy attention. Easy to fall prey to it, okay? So when you are
comparing yourself with whoever the affair partner is, whether it be an
actual person or whether it be pornography or some other thing that feels
like a betrayal to you, I want to challenge you in, you’re comparing
yourself to them. What if you’re just plain wrong? What if there actually
is no comparison? Because in reality, there is no comparison. You are you
and you have all the amazing things about you that not a single person on
this planet can replace, not a single person.
You have amazing traits that are yours and yours alone. Comparison is a
thief of your own joy. Comparison is a thief of peace. It takes us out of
our peace to compare. Now, like I said before, comparison is something that
just happens to us. It’s very, very easy to grab to. It’s a kind of a part
of being human, is like sizing up the things around us, the people around
us, and seeing how we fit. It makes sense that it would be kind of a built
in structure in our brain to kind of help us feel safe in certain
situations. But in general it causes a lot of problems.
Okay. So what to do, if it’s just something that happens to us, what do we
do with it? I’ll tell you, okay? This is what Brene Brown says. “The good
news is that we get to choose how we’re going to let it affect us. If we
don’t want this constant automatic ranking to negatively shape our lives,
our relationships, and our future. We need to stay aware enough to know
when it’s happening and what emotions it’s driving.”
Okay, so one way that I have done this is when my brain starts to wander to
envy. When I feel envy or jealousy, I remind myself that I am amazing and
so is she. I am amazing and so is she, okay? I’m not putting this other
person down, but I am also not putting myself down. That little statement
right there has helped me so much because it redirects my brain to going
okay, if that is true, then what am I amazing at? And then I start getting
to work with my list of what I’m amazing at. And it feels so much better.
You can watch your brain start going to comparison and be the boss of it.
Notice when you’re doing it. Notice how you feel. Do you feel jealousy
creep in? Do you feel envy creep in? Or do you feel admiration? Do you feel
reverence? Why? What’s different? Why do you feel admiration sometimes and
envy another? Why is that? Figure it out, okay?
Look at the example that I gave of my friend, I feel admiration because I’m
not comparing my artistic ability with hers. That would be ridiculous,
because you know, what’s true. I don’t have any artistic ability. I can
draw a mean stick figure. That’s about it, okay? That is not my talent. And
so I don’t even find a need to compare myself. I can just admire her work.
I can just enjoy it. That’s how I feel watching the Olympics, like so much
admiration. I don’t sit there feeling jealous or envious, wishing that I
could be like them.
I just think it’s amazing. Look how hard they work to get there. Look how
talented they are. Look how beautiful that is, okay? Notice when you start
to feel envy and jealousy, why. What is the comparison? What are you
thinking? Find it. What are you comparing yourself to? What is it? Okay?
I’m going to tell you a silly story, okay?
So I think I’ve mentioned before that when I first got married to my now
husband, it was hard for me not to compare. Her pictures were all over and
my new kids wanted to talk about her. And he mentioned her sometimes and
lots of people in the community talked about her and it was hard not to
compare sometimes. And I struggled with it.
One of the things about her is that she had incredible hair. She had really
long, thick, thick hair. I do not. I do not have incredible long thick
hair. My hair is more fine. I have quite a bit of it, but it’s fine. So it
doesn’t look thick and I can’t grow it very long without it looking kind of
straggly. Well, I used to be kind of jealous of it just this day. I told my
mom something kind of funny. I told her that when I was pregnant with my
daughter, who’s now almost six months old. I made a comment to my husband
about how I just wish that she could throw in a little bit of her hair
genes from heaven, his first wife who passed away, knowing of course,
there’s no genetic connection to her whatsoever. But I said, I just wish we
could borrow some of her hair genes. Well guess what? My baby has the most
incredible hair. She has amazing hair. She’s almost six months old and she
has such long hair.
I can put it up in little pigtails. I can put it in a little pony in the
back, crazy hair. And none of either of our other kids had hair like that.
Neither of them, none of them, none of our 11 other children had hair like
that as babies. And so it kind of makes me chuckle a little bit about that
comment. Could she throw in some hair genes? And I can only say that
because I don’t need to compare anymore. And when I notice my brain going
there, I shut it down.
And you know what else? Sometimes I just let it be like, yeah, she was
super amazing at that. She was amazing at that. Like I know that she was
really good at sewing and quilting and things like that. That is again, not
my talent and I can just admire it and go, that’s so cool that she was
really good at that and enjoyed it.
And I’m amazing at these other things. There’re other things that I’m
amazing at and I can let her be amazing and I can be amazing too. When it
comes to infidelity, I want to just caution you that when your brain starts
to go to comparing, I promise you, it will not take you anywhere good.
There may be comparisons that you find that are accurate. Maybe you learn
about this person that she excels at some certain thing that you don’t. It
doesn’t matter. There are things that you excel at that she doesn’t, okay?
It doesn’t matter. But even more important than this spending time in this
space will never be useful. The end, period.
When you notice your brain start wandering to comparing, this is where you
be the grown up of your brain. This is where you reign it in. This is where
you notice it. And you talk to yourself and parent yourself and say, “You
know what? That may be true. Maybe she was better at this and this and
this, but is this useful?” And you know, a lot of the time, I would venture
to say most of the time, that your brain starts making comparisons, you’re
probably wrong. Just like the grass is always greener. It’s an illusion.
It’s not actually greener. It’s just an illusion, okay? Be onto yourself.
All right. My friends. That’s what I’ve got for you today. I think about
all of you all the time. If you have things that you’d like me to cover, if
there’re topics that you want to know more about, shoot me an email,
email@example.com. I love hearing from you and I love all of you and
wish you all the best take care. Bye-bye.
Thank you for listening to The Heal from Infidelity podcast. If you would
like to be kept in the know about upcoming free classes, new podcast
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