We all come into marriage with a past. Our upbringing. Our past experiences. Our previous decisions. And, our past romantic relationships or even previous marriages. These people and experiences have shaped who we are, but we must understand that we cannot continue fostering a relationship with our former flames. When we marry, we promise our spouse to “forsake all others” and to “leave and cleave,” and trying to remain “friends” with or being mentally and emotionally attached to past romantic partners goes directly against this promise. I know this can be especially tricky when a previous marriage with children are involved because ex-spouses must choose to correspond in a cordial and healthy way for the sake of the children. However, there is one important truth that we must always remember when it comes to any and all of our past romantic relationships: we cannot compare our spouse to any of our previous partners or compare our marriage to any of our past romantic relationships. Here are 3 important reasons why:
1. It belittles your spouse.
Whether you state it verbally or simply think about it from time to time, comparing your spouse to a previous flame affects how you perceive and treat them. And, it breaks their heart. This comparison makes your spouse feel like they can’t do anything right because you compare everything they do to this other person that you once cared for. Even if you make favorable comments to your spouse like, “You are such a better cook than Cindy ever was,” or “You treat me so much better than Mike ever did,” these kinds of comments are still comparative and therefore, out of bounds. They make your spouse feel awkward and hurt because they realize that you are still thinking about that previous partner/relationship. It’s understandable that we might have a thought about an old flame from time to time, but we must consciously take those thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and ask God to help us to keep our mind focused on Him and the spouse and family that He has so graciously given us.
2. It degrades the sanctity of your marriage bed.
This is a big one. You absolutely MUST resist the urge to compare your sex life with your spouse to your past sexual experiences, and for goodness sake, DO NOT compare your spouse’s body to your ex’s body. Verbalizing these comparative thoughts will break your spouse’s heart and most definitely kill the mood, but simply thinking these thoughts will affect your level of intimacy with your spouse. More so, we shouldn’t bring any people (in person, thought, or even virtually) into our marriage bed because God created sex specifically for one husband and one wife who have promised to “forsake all others.” So, again, we must take these comparative thoughts captive and be intentional about focusing on God and our marriage.
3. It stunts the growth of your relationship with your spouse.
A strong, healthy marriage takes work–intentionality, kindness, forgiveness, encouragement, trust, consistent and conscientious communication, and significant time and attention. So, when you are preoccupied with comparing your marriage to your previous relationships, you keep yourself from fully embracing and appreciating your spouse and marriage. Over time, you can become disillusioned and dissatisfied with the life you have. This isn’t what God wants for us! He wants our marriage bond to grow stronger every day, and we simply cannot do this when we are focused on how our spouse and marriage are better or worse than previous flames and relationships.
Don’t pick fights or give ultimatums. Just love them. Pray for them. Serve them. Be the best husband or wife you can be to them for as long as you remain their spouse. Try to diffuse the tension with love. Even if they’re being hateful towards you, love them in return. God loves us even when we’re acting “unlovable,” and we must do the same for each other.
So, what if you have developed a habit of comparing your spouse and marriage to your previous experiences?
You can consciously make a different choice today. Let today be the day that you end this cycle of comparison. First, say a prayer and seek God’s forgiveness and ask Him to help you to keep your mind and heart focused on Him, your spouse, your family, and His will for your lives. He will forgive you, and He will give you the presence of mind, the right words, and the power to end your comparison habit and bring healing to your marriage. Then, go to your spouse and apologize for the comparative comments you have made in the past, and tell your spouse how much you love them and value your marriage. Finally, keep praying and seeking God as your source of strength and right thinking. If comparative thoughts enter your mind, take them captive and replace them with thoughts of gratitude to God for your spouse and marriage. And, go to your spouse, verbally tell them how thankful you are! Your intentional and consistent gratitude will refocus your mind and reignite your heart for God and the beautiful, incomparable marriage and family that he has given you.