The Monogamist: Comparison Schmarison

If another couple jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?

A few years ago, I was designated driver during a long night of excessive drinking. My friend, we’ll call her Monica, was in the passenger’s seat and her boyfriend, uh, Joe, was in the back. Joe said something that pissed Monica off and a screaming match ensued, complete with swipes from front-to-back-seat and vice-versa. It was loud, violent and whiskey-soaked and it escalated to the point where Joe threatened to jump out, even opening the car door while we were going about 40 on a highway entrance ramp. This rare, too-intimate look into their relationship was something I never want to see again. It’s not that I’d ever thought what they had was all champagne and roses, but actually seeing what goes on when their social guard was down and their gloves were off was like watching an episode of Jerry Springer without all the swearing bleeped out. They’ve since gotten married, and from what I can tell, they’ve mellowed and matured. I can’t be sure, though—I’ve never rehashed that night with them, but I do still wonder if they always fight like that, if they used to fight like that and they’ve stopped or if they were so drunk that they don’t even remember it happening.

I was single then, which is probably how I got ended up being DD, but now I’m in a monogamous, long-term relationship, and I’ve hit the point in my life where most of my friends are in them as well. We’re now doing things like getting together for couples’ nights, where we make dinner, play board games and drink craft beer. It’s not quite the raucous clubbing of our youth, but sometimes it’s nice to settle a bit. But the downside of being settled into this relationship is that I often find myself comparing what I have to those I see around me, from Monica and Joe’s tumultuous fights to my parents’ old-married-couple bickering to Lily and Marshall’s codependent newlywed glow on How I Met Your Mother. Mentally, I know it’s something I shouldn’t be doing or something that’s healthy for the relationship I’m in, but still I persist, almost involuntarily.

I suppose it’s part of human nature, like comparing apartments or new cars, but at least with tangible objects, it’s a solid apples-to-apples comparison. The dynamic between two people ebbs and flows, changing daily or even minute-by-minute. I’ll never know what’s actually going on behind closed doors in any of the relationships I’m judging, good or bad. I had friends who I thought were the model couple—storybook romance, big house and frequent, fun party hosts. That is, until their marriage ended and he starting banging his secretary. It was a huge shock, to say the least, and she’s since stopped doling out relationship advice. Which I think is wise: Rather than giving and getting advice and rehashing stuff that may not be significant or focusing so much on what other people have or don’t have, I have to remind myself that it’s more important to spend the time and energy building what I do have into something long-lasting.