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Why I Hate the Phrase Champagne Problems

Why I Hate the Phrase Champagne Problems

Recently my friends have been using the phrase “Champagne Problems” when they chat about the stresses and issues in their lives.  According to Urban Dictionary Champagne Problems means:

  “Problems when compared to issues of poverty, natural disasters and war are not that big of a deal.”

To be honest, the more I hear this phrase the more I have an issue with it.  On one hand I think it is great to recognize that deciding between a job with a higher salary or staying home with the kids is not as drastic as deciding where you are going to sleep that night after a tornado has obliterated your house.  I realize that stressing about getting your to-do list done is not as dire as stressing about your child who is in ICU for the 5th time because of a rare cancer diagnosis.  So yes, it is good to have perspective and to realize that we need to be grateful for our lives and it could be worse. I agree gratitude and perspective are must haves when it comes to living happier.

However, what I have noticed in my office and in my daily interactions, when people use the phrase “champagne problems”  it allows them to minimize, belittle and basically not deal with their very real issues.

So for example lets take Lisa (not a real person). She feels unappreciated in her home, her kids are in school and she is wanting more from her life. Recently her and her husband have been arguing more over ‘who does more’ and her feeling unappreciated.  It appears to be a champagne problem, no one is going to die today because of it, food is still on the table and the kids are clothed.  So when she takes the risk to share this with a friend she minimizes it by saying “it’s just a champagne problem” her friend, who might feel similarly in her own marriage laughs and agrees that they really have it pretty good.  They both go on their way repeating to themselves that their feelings are silly and they are just being privileged snobs.  They just need to get some perspective and be grateful and all will be well!  Meanwhile Lisa heads home still feeling unappreciated and lost but now she tries even harder to push that problem down and hide it under gratitude and getting perspective.  The fights continue and pretty soon the fighting has chipped away at the foundation of her marriage and herself to the point that she is more lost and more confused.  Over time, left unexplored the so called champagne problem has turned into a messy divorce and being forced to work full time at a job she hates so she can help support 2 households.

If we could REPLAY that scenario and simply have Lisa’s friend:

“It might be a champagne problem and we are really lucky, but it sucks to be feeling unappreciated and fighting with your husband all the time. We have been fighting a lot as well, about similar things”. “Maybe we should figure out a way to fix this in a real way.”

Champagne problems when ignored and belittled can become very BIG problems.  Champagne problems are not to be ignored.  Yes, many of us are privileged. Many of us have pretty good lives and we still have problems.  Problems around anxiety, identity, inner critic, what comes next, parenting , career and relationships.  These problems aren’t stupid or silly.  They are REAL issues that affect our lives in REAL ways every day.

The phrase Champagne Problems reminds us to be grateful of what we DO have.  But by being grateful and appreciative that doesn’t mean we don’t have problems.  It doesn’t mean we can’t speak up and share our needs, issues and desires.  It is my belief that this world would be such an amazing place if we all could honestly and openly admit where we are in life, what we are grateful for and what we are struggling with and work to appreciate and change at the same time.

In the comments I would love to hear from you:  Have you heard of this phrase? What do you think about it? Does it help you with perspective or keep you from dealing?

5 Responses to Why I Hate the Phrase Champagne Problems

  1. Oh, you know I’ve struggled with this one. In fact, I am regularly grateful that you were (and continue to be) the one who reminds me so clearly that I am still allowed to have problems and give myself permission to feel sadness or struggle around them, even while my life has so much privilege. Having my “champagne problems” quite directly cause my scary and dangerous car accident was quite a wake up call, though. Left unattended, struggles can lose their so-called “champagne” shimmer quite intensely. Thanks for writing about this. It can be a tricky topic to talk about (for me, it is, anyway) and yet we really need to talk about it. Xo and love to you.

  2. I think the “champagne problem” concept not only minimizes the very real issues (and invites self-shaming right into one’s living room!) but also kinda reinforces social division. If my problems are “champagne” then it also separates me from those medical problems, natural disasters, political upheavals, what-have-yous that go on elsewhere.

  3. I agree it is a tricky topic–I was a little worried to write this one. But in my opinion, it is a phrase that minimizes problems more than makes us feel grateful for our lives. I never thought about it that your accident was a result of the ‘champagne problems’ mantra. Thank God you heard the wake up call–as they say the wake up calls just keep getting louder until we can hear the 🙂

  4. I know I am 2 years too late to this blog. But I was googling champagne problems and it came up. I have a completely different perception of the term ‘champagne problems’. I would only use it to describe a problem that is not serious and overwhelmingly has a silver lining. The ones you describe above certainly are problems and definitely serious. For example, “I can’t decide whether to take the 150k per year job or the 125k plus Audi sports car job. Poor me.” It is satirical and meant to lampoon people for whom these things may well be ‘problematic’. What you describe above I would never call champagne problems. They may be middle class problems and not Life or death, but relatively serious and important all the same.