I recently heard from a wife who was being hurt by her husband’s constant comparisons between her and other women. Sometimes, he compared her to her sisters, friends, coworkers, or acquaintances. Other times, he compared her to complete strangers. She had been trying to ignore this for a while, but lately, it had been angering and grating on her so badly that it was very negatively affecting her marriage.
The wife said in part: “My husband compares me to everyone. And the comparisons are never favorable. I’m not as thin as my sister. I don’t make as much money as my coworker. I’m not as good of a mom as our neighbor. I’m not as good of a cook as his best friend’s wife. I’m not as good of a lover as his old girlfriend. It’s got to where I cringe anytime we pass or discuss another woman and he goes to open his mouth. At first, I used to ignore him, but this is starting to happen all of the time and become much more hurtful. And it makes me so angry that I’m afraid that I’m going to snap back with something equally as nasty. How would he like it if I compared him to other men? I would never do this because it would hurt his feelings and he’s my husband. But he doesn’t give me the same consideration. And when I call him on this, he says I’m too sensitive. It’s gotten to a point where he will openly stare at other women right in front of me. This is hurting my marriage and I’m not sure how much longer I can take this. What do I do?”
After a little more clarification, it became apparent to me that the husband would make these comments and the wife would withdraw and give him the cold shoulder for a short period of time afterward. Over time, she had learned that bringing this up would only make her husband accuse her of being over sensitive. And if she tried to snap back at him, then he would become angry and things would just get worse. So instead, she would say nothing and she would stew. This caused resentment and deteriorated their marriage. More and more, she’d been avoiding spending time with her husband because of this and other problems. So this was something that I felt had to be addressed and couldn’t be left in the hopes that it would just work itself out. In the following article, I’ll offer some tips on understanding why a husband may constantly compare you to other women and how to best deal with it.
Why A Husband Might Compare His Wife To Other Women: The wife could not understand why her husband would be doing this. He didn’t act this way when they were dating. It was only within the past five years or so that he had begun this type of behavior. There are various reasons that a husband might act this way. Sometimes, this is their passive aggressive way of drawing your attention to something they wish was so. And, they may be saying it’s about your parenting skills or your work ethic, but it is usually about something else completely.
Many men criticize you for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with you. They are often trying to get your attention in the hopes that you will pay more attention to them or to things at home (as unlikely that this might sound.) So they will often hit you with very low blows in an attempt to push your buttons just to get a reaction.
Other times, a man will point out your perceived flaws because he is very aware of his own. Sometimes, a man’s comparison of you is really driven by his own lack of self esteem or because of his own worries. Sometimes, when I speak with the men on the other side of this situation it’s clear that they try to pull their wife down because they don’t feel that they deserve her. They secretly worry that if she knew how special she really was, she would leave him so one way to make sure that this never happens is to point out her shortcomings. And sometimes men react to stress by being critical of who is most convenient.
I am not defending this behavior. I am just trying to let you know that if you are in this situation, you can be assured that these comparisons aren’t reflective on you. They are reflective of him and you have to decide if you want to change it, continue to live with it, or remove yourself from it. (My recommendation is to attempt to change it if you can.)
How To Handle It When Your Husband Always Compares You To Other Women: The wife in this situation didn’t want to walk away. She insisted that there were other redeeming qualities in her husband. But she didn’t want to continue to live this way either, nor did she deserve to. And each time her husband did this, it deteriorated her marriage even more. I know that she hesitated to confront this because it seemed to only make things worse, but ignoring it just ensures that it keeps happening.
I suggested that the next time her husband compared her to someone else, she should make a note of it and vow to bring it up at a time when things were calm. If you try to address it when you are hurting or angry, you run the risk it becoming even worse. So, when things are going well and you are calm, that is the time to address it.
I would suggest saying something to the effect of: “I need to discuss something with you that has been weighing on me. I am telling you this because I love you enough to care about our marriage and I don’t want to allow anything to deteriorate it. Yesterday, you compared me to (fill in the blank.) This was hurtful and unnecessary. Honestly, this happens a lot. You may not realize it, but you compare me to other people a lot. And when you do, this makes me feel like I’m not making you happy or that you wish I was different. If there is something bothering you about me or our marriage, then let’s discuss it. But I can’t let you continue on with the comparisons. I worry that over time, it will make me resentful. And I know that you don’t mean to hurt me. So, from now on, when it happens again, I’m going to draw your attention to it and ask you what is really bothering you.”
This is just a suggestion. You can use the words that are most appropriate to your husband and your situation. But the point is to address it in a constructive way, to open the door for him to tell you what is really bothering him, and to let him know that in the future, you will addressing it each time it happens. This lets him know that he can no longer have a free pass to keep up the comparisons.
Sometimes, just approaching it when you are both calm can inspire open communication that allow you to get to the real root of the problem. Because the comparisons are often a good indicator that your husband is trying very hard to get your attention and this can sometimes indicate some issues in your marriage that shouldn’t be ignored.