Do You Compare Yourself to Others?

man and woman walking by ocean; woman is elevated

Author Tim Kreider wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times a couple of years ago. While it’s not the latest ground-breaking dating news, it’s worth a look if you’re making tough decisions about your dating life or relationship.

As the author sees it, “the Referendum is a phenomenon typical of (but not limited to) midlife, whereby people, increasingly aware of the finiteness of their time in the world, the limitations placed on them by their choices so far, and the narrowing options remaining to them, start judging their peers’ differing choices with reactions ranging from envy to contempt. The Referendum can subtly poison formerly close and uncomplicated relationships, creating tensions between the married and the single, the childless and parents, careerists and the stay-at-home. It’s exacerbated by the far greater diversity of options available to us now than a few decades ago, when everyone had to follow the same drill. We’re all anxiously sizing up how everyone else’s decisions have worked out to reassure ourselves that our own are vindicated — that we are, in some sense, winning.”

The author – 42 and never married – looks at his married friends’ lives of kids and houses and soccer games with wistfulness, meanwhile notes that the “obscene wealth of free time at my command must’ve seemed unimaginably exotic to them, since their next thousand Saturdays are already booked.”

Read the article here. Do you ever spend any time looking at others’ lives with either envy or scorn? I’ll admit that I do – but a lot less now that I’m established in my career and in a happy relationship.

Look forward to hearing your thoughts below…

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Comments:

  1. 1
    God Men and Money Blog

    Hands down…one of the best opinion pieces I’ve read ALL year.  Kreider is a beast, and his witty insights….just WOW

    Thanks for posting.  

  2. 2
    Steve

    I intellectually understand the lack of time married people with children have, but I can’t grasp it a gut level.  I’m single and have a job that rarely goes beyond 40 hours a week……..but time seems very scarce to me.

  3. 3
    Nia

    Really interesting article – thanks for sharing… I can relate to lots in it, especially married people’s absolute facination at my single life… seemingly thriving on hearing all my stories…
    However I don’t relate to this sentence at all ‘Although they may miss the thrill of sexual novelty, absolutely nobody misses dating.’ – I *love* dating!!
    I absolutely love the excitement of meeting a new person, never being 100% sure of what they’ll be like – and then when you know you’ve clicked enough for there to be another date, I love the infinite possibilities of what may be about to unfold… always makes me smile, lots :)

  4. 4
    Sara

    Brilliant article, really interesting (and now I have a crush on Tim Kreider!)

  5. 5
    zann

    Good writing, great cartoonist.  I used to look longingly at solid, long-term married couples I know who have managed to hang in there all these years…but no longer. I’m fortunate to have had my married w/ kids years, but there is plenty of life beyond that. And I’m grateful to have finally arrived at that conclusion before growing old and bitter.

    Kreider’s got my vote, cuz:   I. Hate. Dating. 

  6. 7
    NN

    I have had couple of friendships destroyed because I am single and I don’t even care to settle for what I can get..
    For example one woman said to me that “you will die alone, and your dogs will eat our face”. She continued that “she has to teach me how to settle and live a proper life”. The problem seemed to be the fact that she had 3 children and all that went with it, and I was free as a bird. I should have found a man, and make babies to keep me company when I am old. Right!

    I don’t envy anyone I know for the relationship they have. I look at them and I think “no, not me”

    Most couples I know.. when I listen to them, they bicker with their partners with a negative undertone that makes me want to say to them, “if you don’t respect your partner, find someone new”.

    I look at some men, whom I find attractive, but as I don’t know their women, I don’t feel envy either.
    For what I know of women, they just don’t appreciate their men as much as they should.. and I don’t want to see the men I like mistreated. But still… if the men in equestion are downtrodden enough to stay in a relationship where they are not respected nor valued, then the men are worth what they have got, and they are not what I would want to have.

    Anyway…
    One of my best friends does have a good relationship, but as I don’t find him sexually attractive, (and we did try to date one summer but he is not sexy in my eyes) I am glad he found a woman who appreciates him in all levels as he seems to appreciate her. =)

    I want a mutually supportive relationship like that _with_ _great_ _sex_ .. But still we come back to the fact that I won’t settle from important factors. including the sex…. as long as I don’t get it, why take anything less and change my current lifestyle for worse?

    If I fell in love, I guess I could find myself being a mother or step mother.. =/
    It is not a deal breaker.. but when I think of it now, I find picket fence-life as well as the idea of leeches (children) suffocating. Most parents I know are uptight and stressed, short of time and money, and plain boring.. even if I then miss the (dubious) pleasures of raising a child, what I don’t know or value, so I can’t miss either.

    I spoke about the women in the beginning who said to me that “when you are old, you will be and die alone” – as if it was a child’s duty to keep me company when I am at my 80’s??
    Wrong reason to have children.. they don’t owe you anything, as they didn’t choose to be born either.

    All parents proclaim.. “children give so much to you”, but in my eyes it is mostly a case of “make a virtue out of necessity” as you can’t go back.

  7. 8
    Kirsten

    Good article…I have been the target of “jealousy with a halo” several times since my divorce and it has strained relationships with some of my married friends. I have to honestly say that I used to spend much more time paying attention to or being jealous of my peers’ lives before I was married and during my marriage than I do now. I guess if there’s a silver lining to the hellish process of divorce, it’s that I’ve learned that you can’t judge the happiness of a marriage/relationship from the outside very well at all. The author is very correct when he states that a friend cautioned him, “It’s not like being married makes you any less alone”. Exactly. I was never more lonely in my life than during my marriage…and I figured everyone felt that way, and possibly many people do and just suck it up and carry on because no crisis ever forces the issue. They get locked in by responsibilities and can’t leave or are too afraid to. But that’s the point, we all get locked in, and there’s no turning back, and it’s human nature to contemplate and seek validation for our choices after the fact…but it really doesn’t matter as long as you decide to be happy with the outcome.

    “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…” and they were worn about the same.

  8. 9
    Shaswata

    This is where true devotion to your religion/spiritual tradition helps..Bith Christianity and Brahmacharya and Buddhist tradition of Dharmic religions place huge emphasis on life long chastity and celibacy in thought and action….Dharmic Religions even have rigorous spiritual training to achieve that..12-15 years of sperm retention is seen as minimum for devotion in monk or Brahmacharya tradition of Dharma…..And once you engage in this sort of life you will wonder whether you could have ever made time for spouse and kids as seen Brahmacharya tradition and your career will take up all of your time…So people who willingly want to take up lifelong singularity this is an attractive option

  9. 10
    melie

    Hmm.  Interesting article.  I never think of my single, childless friends as having missed out on something, however, I do believe they think they have missed the proverbial boat, at times.  I do think, with fervent angst at times, that I would have, only as an after thought, have preferred not to have had children; alas, one cannot send them back from whence they have come.  And during their growing up years I would have loved to have left them to the street corner fairies to befall what may, simply due to the fact they were making my life a bit more stimulating than I preferred at the moment.  They are grown now, and together we often look back on times when they were being particularly trying, as some of the “fun” times in their growing years.  And I now have the added benefit of grand children.  Wouldn’t trade that for anything! 

  10. 11
    A-L

    I’ll admit it, I compare myself to others, though hopefully not in a judgmental fashion.  Perhaps it has something to do with theorizing about what would have happened had I chosen a different path (professionally, geographically, etc). 
     
    For instance, I went to college in the midwest and housing is far less expensive there.  So I could have a significantly larger house for significantly less money had I stayed there (salaries are comparable, or even more generous there).  Because of that difference, my husband and I would have more options about what to do if/when we have young children.  (For instance we could live on one teacher’s salary with the cost of living in the midwest, whereas we couldn’t do the same where we live now.)  So I know that some of my friends will have more options than I do, but I realize why they do, and understand that our choice to live where we do has additional costs. 
     
    So by comparing myself to others it makes me realize the choices I’ve made and whether or not I think they are worth it.  Does that make sense?

  11. 12
    Bettina

    Had an epiphany this past week, after spending a vacation abroad and returning to a fulfilling job and a clean apartment all my own and paid for: There is no downside to being single and childfree.

    Wish I’d had the presence of mind to say as much to the folks over the years who tried to make me feel like a weirdo for not coupling up in the traditional marriage/kids way. If you’re happy with your lot you don’t have to put down other people for making different choices.

  12. 13
    Ellen

    I’ve had every sort of life now I think and I so have sometimes been the one envied by friends, whatever their situation. I myself am seldom jealous of anyone as I feel gratitude often for my circumstances, whatever they are. The good and the bad (the bad often is the best teacher). Gratitude is key.

    Those who second guess your choices, seem jealous of your situation, etc. are seldom happy people deep down in my experience. I mean you could GIVE them exactly what they wanted and it still wouldn’t be enough.

    Re kids: For women anyway, the fifties are when the love affair with children finally ends (before grandkids anyway!). In her fifties a woman will finally step out of “sacrificial” mode for the first time and begin living for herself. The latter is so necessary for personal growth and not selfish at all! Go to http://www.errantparent.com sometime. It’s all about not taking your children soooo seriously.

    After my second divorce last year I finally realized I would be happier single, if for no other reason than, I am finally my authentic self. No longer pretending to be happy in a marriage that didn’t sustain me emotionally. I think it’s rather hard to be your own authentic self in this culture, frankly.

    It also helps to have true faith/belief in something higher and/or in future lives, folks. I learned the truth of reincarnation many years ago and trust me, it goes a long way in helping you understand you will DO IT ALL before you’re thru and reach spiritual perfection.

  13. 14
    Kana

    I am glad to read another mans perspective on singledom and is proof to me that in the long run, singledom sucks for both men and women. I do not think I have ever read an article by any committed person in a relationship wishing they were single again. If there are any, well, let me know. I am currently single and while I am okay with my life, I am very looking forward to the day I can confidently say I am in a relationship. 

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