Relationship column: You and Your PhD
Other Relationships Look Better Than Mine
Dear PGR Auntie,
I’ve been with my partner for about two years now, we’re based at the University of Glasgow. We’re getting along well and we work hard on our relationship. But of late, I’ve found that other relationships look happier than mine. Other couples seem to progress and develop better and faster, they seem to like each other more and not have to work as much as I do on my relationship. Is this a sign that something is wrong with my relationship? Are there ways to improve it?
Thank you in advance.
Thank you for sharing your personal experiences and worries with us. This sounds like quite common relationship envy to me. According to some academic literature, envy traditionally arises when someone lacks another’s superior quality, achievement, or possession, and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it. I would add that often this is about perception. The perception that another person is somehow better or more accomplished than yourself is not necessary true.
Envy is a human emotion, and it’s absolutely natural and acceptable to feel it. In a big city like Glasgow and especially at a big university like UofG, it’s easy to fall into the trap of envying all these other people who seem to be doing so much more with their life. It’s pretty safe to assume that we all have felt envy at one point in our lives. So, my first advice would be to not ignore it or push it away, but to accept the feeling, and don’t judge it. It’s so easy to judge ourselves for not being as good as others or for feeling negative emotions. Instead, let yourself feel it without judgement.
If feeling envious is a regular occurrence for you, then maybe use the opportunity to ask yourself why that is. It can easily be a sign not that other relationships are happier, but that you are dissatisfied with something about your own relationship. Maybe your attitude towards it needs some tweaking? Maybe there’s a problem you have to work on?
Secondly, I would recommend to practice being thankful for what you have and live in the current moment. A bit of mindfulness, if you like. Realise that relationships always differ from each other. They all need sometimes more, sometimes less work put into them. Comparing your own relationship to others’ is likely to add little value to your own relationship. Envying other peoples’ lives is taking focus away from your own life that you could be enjoying in the meantime. So, remind yourself of and revel in the things you have achieved already, be proud of all the hard work that you have put into getting to where you are, and remember all the great moments when you have felt happy about what you were doing.
Last but not least, always be aware that you’ll never know the full story of someone else’s relationship. They might post great accomplishments on social media or brag about their status to others, but that’s only a sliver of their reality. Maybe they are not so sure themselves if they ‘re doing well and, therefore, hope for some external approval.
If you’re still worried, Peter, maybe speak to some friends. Maybe you have a couple of people who have been giving you advice and guidance on your relationship anyway? They will be able to give you good advice because they know your relationship much better than I do.
I hope you’ll be able to cope with your envy and move past it. It sounds like you have already come a long way in your relationship and that you still want to be in it – focus on that and be thankful for what you
PS: Also, don’t forget to get involved in our love letter competition! Writing a love letter to your partner can also help make you appreciate what you have and be proud of where you are. And you can win great prices!