THE BLOG
04/16/2008 11:46 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Grass is Rarely (Almost Never) Greener

I'm here to (gladly!) report that other people are the most inaccurate measuring stick you will ever hold up to yourself.

Hi, my name is Samara, and I've been single for six years.

Hi Samara.

Oh no, sorry--wrong group of people.

Anyway, as a long-term single person, I became somewhat of an expert on relationships. I'm around couples all the time, and I have a tendency toward intense observation (always looking for a story to write). I couldn't help but notice some of the goings on. The life lesson I'm about to share is a direct result of my doing that, and it has really come through for me in the past two years. I'm here to (gladly!) report that other people are the most inaccurate measuring stick you will ever hold up to yourself.

The peanut gallery tends to assume single people are always looking for a significant other, and many of them are -- so it's a reasonable assumption. This assumption, however, is based on the fact that life is better when you're in a relationship. The birds sing more often. The sky is bluer, and you don't have to deal with pesky emotions such as loneliness and dejection. My keen eyes can confirm that this is, in fact, not true. Every depressing sensation you can feel as a single person -- misunderstood, isolated, and sad -- you can certainly feel while in a relationship. And the elations you feel in a relationship -- satisfied, triumphant, and ecstatic -- you can feel while being single.

The key is not to kid yourself that the other guy has it better than you do. So if you're single, shrug your shoulders and know that being in a relationship doesn't make life any easier, and if you're going through a rough patch in your relationship don't let your single friends tell you they have all the fun. They have their good days and their bad the same as you do, and the same as you will if you were to switch places with them. Bear this in mind, too, if you've been nervous about switching statues. If the only reason you're still in a relationship is to avoid being single or you're reluctant to give up life as a bachelor(ette), trust, if the time is right, the alternative isn't as bad as you think.

As I mentioned, I first noticed this when comparing single people to those in relationships, but then I started applying it elsewhere. Career moms compared to stay-at -home moms. Big breasts compared to small ones. Large salaries compared to modest ones. Notice I say "compared to" and not "verses," because this isn't a competition. No matter what state of being you're in you'll be tempted to look at someone else's state and think they have been magically alleviated of any and all problems. They must have it better than you do. They don't. I promise. They experience embarrassment, stress, pain, insecurity, and wishing they had what others have all the same. The garden on that side of the fence has both flowers and weeds, so it's in our best interest to stay on our side of the fence and maintain our lawn the best we can.

Unexpectedly, this maxim has enabled me to be much happier for my friends when they're experiencing a personal victory. Where I once was potentially bitter and envious that things were going well for them, the knowledge that their lives aren't perfect levels the playing field. It's not that I think Ha! My life has troubles and so does yours. Hooray! but rather We're all in this together, and I'm glad to share in your joy and pain knowing that you'll be with me in mine.

There are times in our lives when we're going through a great time and we know someone who is not. Perhaps they've just been fired in close proximity to you being promoted, or maybe they've just been dumped while you're in the early throws of infatuation. In these instances, it can be a great act of kindness not to talk at length about your feat. You don't have to lie; you just don't have to elaborate. If that idea sounds absurd and you can only enjoy your success if others are suffering in the knowledge and wake of it, then you can never truly enjoy your success.

This concept pertains not only to other people but also other circumstances. While it's true one job may be better than another, every job has its disadvantages--as does every relationship and every location. I'm not suggesting we all become perpetual pessimists and assume everything in life will be bad, just that we don't fool ourselves into thinking anything in life will be perfect. If you find yourself saying, "Things will be better when. . ." When we move. When we're married. When I'm making more money. Then you're setting yourself up for disappointment. This is where the caveat, "Be careful what you wish for" comes from -- because anything (and everything) you wish for comes with its own set of clandestine consequences. You won't know what they are until you get there, just know that something about any situation will let you down, and hopefully that's nothing compared to the parts that lift you up.