Comparing hard times leads to strife

But, I have it worse than you.  No, I have it worse than you.  Seriously, though, I have it worse than you.

Yep.  We all know people like this.  No matter what you say, they always have it worse.  It’s a comparison game.  It can drive you batty.  I have a person in my life who is an overachiever at this game.  The problem is what she is comparing to whatever I’m saying isn’t even remotely close to being the same thing.  It gets very frustrating to say the least.  Most times I just laugh it off knowing that’s just her.  Other times I want to pull my hair out.

I’m not sure why there is a competition over who’s life is the worst some times, but I’ve seen it so many times and it so many ways.  Of course, I’m perfect and have never engaged in such a competition.  Yeah, right.  I’d love for that to be true.  I’ve most definitely had my moments.  It’s super easy when things get hard to look around and moan and groan about how easy everyone else has it.  And if they only knew how hard things are for me.  Yadda, yadda, yadda.  I’ve so been there done that.

As a new parent, I really struggled with that.  The only problem was that I was competing with my husband more than anyone else.  I was frustrated that he didn’t know how hard I had it.  I had a newborn.  I was up with her throughout the night.  I had mastititis.  I had to stay up past her and pump.  I had another bladder infection.  I had to get up before her and pump.  I had to try to squeeze in work at some point.  I had to change diapers.  I had to wash pump parts.  I had to wash bottles.  I had so much to do. It was so hard on me.  Me, me, me!  (I’m sure hormones were in this mix somewhere, too.)

What I eventually realized is — even though I wanted to smack him upside the head when I’d fall back into bed in the middle of the night because he was sleeping — he had it hard, too.  He was waking up throughout the night, driving 3 hours to work and back each day, figuring out how to be productive while there and then coming home and taking over baby duty for a few hours so I could snooze.  And I never even thought to offer the poor man dinner.  He had his own struggles and challenges.

I still have issues with this from time to time.  But, I’m learning to remind myself when I do to think of things I appreciate about my husband and what he’s dealing with.  Instead of being jealous of the guaranteed three hours of alone, quiet time he gets during his daily commute, I think about the crazy traffic he has to deal with.  And how tired I know he is after long days.  It seems so less glorious then.

At the same time, he’s got to appreciate me and help me for me to be OK doing that.  It’s a give-and-take.  While I thought after five years of dating and 12-1/2 years of marriage that we have all the kinks worked out, I’m learning that we don’t.  There are always new kinks.  They especially spring up with parenthood.  We are learning some new ways to communicate.  While before we had leisure time to talk without interruption, we now have limited time to talk without interruption and added stress of taking care of a little person on top of that.  Our communication has sped up and gotten clearer.  I’ve never been a person to play games or beat around the bush, but I do have times where I tend to lean to passive aggressiveness.  And nothing pushes my husband’s buttons more than passive aggressiveness.

I’m remembering that I don’t have to be a martyr.  Poor Stacey. Look at how hard she has it.  When he’s taking the kiddo’s weekend nap time to play a video game and I’m taking the same time to fold laundry, straighten up the dining room and start on dinner, I have a couple of options.  I can ask him to help.  Or I can do it on my own and be thankful he’s getting a chance to relax after a hard week, especially when I might remember how he snuggled and played with the kiddo just a couple of hours earlier so I could take a long shower or read a magazine.  It’s much better than shooting him glares he’ll never notice while folding laundry or slamming kitchen cabinets to make a point he won’t notice while making dinner.  The problem is if I’m feeling like I need help and not asking for it (and to my husband’s major credit, when I ask, he almost always complies without a fuss) then later in that day, I usually get incredibly angry at him.  And it blows into this whole big thing and I get wrapped up in how much I have to do and how hard I have it that it becomes so much a bigger issue than it should have been.  It goes back to communication.  Heck, I have two degrees in communication (journalism), so you’d think I would never struggle with it.  And it also goes back to being so focused on myself and how hard I have in in comparison that I don’t even see his side of things.  Of course he can’t read my mind.

In the end, I find that many problems in life and many disagreements really come down to who has it worse.  In our human nature we get into that comparison game.  I think I have it worse than my husband when I’m doing household chores and he’s playing a video game.  One mom thinks she has it worse than another because her kids are younger.  Or whatever.  The thing is somebody does always have it worse than somebody else.  Life works that way.  We aren’t all dealt the same hand at the same time.  But, we are all dealt struggles.  Unless you know someone’s story — and really KNOW their story — you don’t know how hard their life is.  You think they have it easy.  You think they are better off than you.  But, they’re dealing with their own worries, doubts and fears.  They’ve got their own stuff going on.

The best thing we can all do is get outside of ourselves and listen, really listen to what those around us are saying.  What are our spouses dealing with right now that is weighing on them more than we had thought?  What are our friends going through that is breaking their heart when they are home alone?  It’s not a comparison game.  It’s a fight and struggle to get through this life.  And we’re not the only ones in the fray.  Everybody is backed into a corner in some way throughout their week.

My challenge to myself and to you is to stop our comparisons when they creep in this next week and start looking around us.  Start looking outside of our own struggles and realizing the people we’re dealing with (who may be driving us insane) are struggling, too.  Maybe they deserve to be cut some slack.  Maybe they don’t.  Maybe they really just need someone to listen and validate what they’re dealing with.  And maybe that can be us.

In the end, it’s not about who has the most battle scars.  It’s about who helped the most soldiers survive the battle.

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