Comparison Shopping in Relationships
Whenever I introduce a new math concept, I begin my comparing it to something they already know. It helps to anchor their understanding to examine the similarities and recognizing the differences helps them deepen their understanding of the new topic.
Comparison is natural. Adaptive. It is a tool that our minds use to help sort information and make sense of our world.
But that tool can sometimes turn on us.
And instead of helping us construct meaning, comparison turns on us and brings feelings of inadequacy and scarcity.
We all suffer needlessly at times when we compare our lives to the lives of those around us. When we believe that the grass is always greener rather than watering our own lawns. It’s such a common response that it even earned its way into the top ten list of sins.
But there’s another kind of comparison that often sneaks in after divorce and undermines our happiness: the comparison of a new date to your ex.
Again, comparison is natural. Adaptive. By holding a new person up to your ex, you can easily see the manifestation of traits you want/ don’t want again in a partner.
But it can also turn on you, leaving you pining for the past and unable to accept the present as it is.
It keeps you stuck. Gives you an excuse to stay safe and impenetrable.
It can happen silently, as you measure your current beau against the last even while continuing to act as though you are fully in the present. Sometimes, it may slip through your lips as you verbalize some area where past and present are different. Or, all too often, it exists on a subconscious level, a slight hum of dissatisfaction that can undermine the new relationship.
If you find yourself comparison shopping for a new relationship, try these strategies to change your thoughts:
Recognize when it happens. The first step to changing any habit is to be aware of it when it occurs.
Affirm that different only means different, not better or worse. We tend to fear the unknown and perceive change as always trending towards the inferior. But different is just different. And it is always uncomfortable at first.
Interrupt the thought. The more you allow your thoughts to follow a particular path, the more worn and easily tread the path will become. Stop the comparison thoughts when they happen and don’t allow the pattern to ingrain.
Focus on the positive differences. Make a list of all the ways your new partner is better than the old. Write it down to make it real. If you find yourself measuring a negative, shift the thought to, “Yes he/she isn’t as …. as my ex; however, he/she is so much better at ….”
Understand that developed can’t compare to embryonic. If you are in the early stages of a relationship, do not compare it to a mature relationship with its associated vulnerabilities and intimacies. Apples and oranges.
Fill the cavities. If there is something that your ex provided that your current relationship does not, seek another way to fill the void. Loved to watch foreign films with the ex and new beau prefers action flicks? Find someone else to meet your love for foreign films. No one person will meet all of your needs and as you transition from one relationship to another, you will have to shift what needs are met elsewhere.
Recognize that the past is rose-colored. It’s easy to paint the past as perfect when its sweaty socks aren’t strewn across the floor of your present existence. Don’t compare reality to a dream. You’ll never be satisfied.