How to stop the comparison trap

The more we look at what others have the more dissatisfied we become with ourselves and what we have. We rarely compare our strengths to others weaknesses. It is more natural to compare our trials to others’ blessings. In this way looking to others ensures that our relationships, our partner’s, and ourselves rarely measure up.

Additionally, longing to be with someone else or in a different situation negates any blessings and tender mercies God may be giving us. When we focus on how we aren’t friends with or dating the popular people in our Church group, class, neighborhood, or social situations, we fail to recognize and appreciate the loving and warm people who are ready and willing to invest in us. When we focus on the beautiful people who aren’t giving us the time of day, we devalue the attractive and loyal people who are willing to give us all they’ve got.

The consequence of comparing yourself to others is that you’ll feel less emotionally attached, committed to, and invested in your current relationships (refer to the 3 Dangers of Dating the Best). Perhaps this is why coveting is included as a sin in the ten commandments.

“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.” (Exodus 20:17).

So how do you avoid the pitfalls of the comparison trap when you’re still single and free to pursue someone who is more attractive, talented, or desirable than your current partner? Is it better to grow where you are planted or to seek bigger and better pastures elsewhere? What do you do when fantasies and memories of an ex get in the way of your current relationship? How do you apply the wise proverb, “It’s not getting what you want. It’s wanting what you’ve got,” to your life and relationships.

  • Remind yourself to stay in the present rather than worrying about a stage that is several stages away. For example, when you’re in the early stages of dating just focus on the goal of fully discovering and enjoying your new partner rather than worrying about whether you could or should marry them. Looking too far ahead will make it harder for you to avoid your fears and will make you worry about what you might miss out on. This will make the comparison trap harder to avoid. By staying in the stage you’re in you can give yourself permission to practice skills for avoiding the comparison trap for now rather than worrying about having to do so forever. The more you practice these skills and the deeper your relationship gets the easier it will be to do this for extended periods or a lifetime.
  • When tempted to compare your partner to others or covet a person or relationship that you admire, pray, “I choose _______________ (the person’s name). God please help me to love my choice. Show me how and what I need to do to embrace this relationship fully.”
  • Withdraw from social situations that increase your doubts or provide too many distractions.
  • Act more like a couple rather than a single person.
  • Share your struggles as appropriate with your partner. This increases your vulnerability and dependence on them and helps you to be accountable to others so you don’t continue contact with an ex or someone you know is not good for you. The fact that your partner knows about your struggle will help you to take greater steps to avoid the problem in the future.
  • Be active, not passive. Don’t say, “I should do something to change this.” Say, “I will do ______.” In other words, take responsibility, create a plan, and ask for help from others so you are accountable as appropriate.
  • Stop any wandering thoughts immediately. If you notice your mind wandering to someone other than your partner, stop yourself, repeat the steps above or say, “I’ve made my choice. And I choose to love my choice.” Then distract your mind with music (for example) or playback all the things you love about your partner.

Don’t let this problem deceive you into believing that you will always struggle with this and doubt your relationship. If you take these steps you will find in time they dramatically reduce or eliminate your struggle with the comparison trap.

4 ways to learn more

  • Schedule a free 30-minute consultation

    Alisa Goodwin Snell is a dating and relationship coach who spent 17 years as a marriage and family therapist. She’s written 7 books for singles, created numerous audios, videos, and articles, is a popular public speaker, and has been on over 100 TV and radio programs nationwide. Learn more.

  • Get Stage 0, which will lay a foundation for you to move forward

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  • Get Everything, because you are not currently in a relationship and need to learn how to lay a solid foundation and navigate all 5 stages of the dating process.

6 thoughts on “How to stop the comparison trap

  • I compare when I see men have many girl friends and they are beautiful women! I feel less then, I am short and chubby and mexican and I tell myself I can never have a man like that based off the girls he has a friends and what they look like….. I also feel I need to protect myself once again and then I distance myself from men so I do not end up getting used or hurt again when the guy chooses the skinny blond ! Its a never ending cycle. I do feel the need to protect myself for falling for men though Do I distance myself. How do I get out out of this but at same time protect myself.

    • What you describe is common and hard, but the trick is to train yourself to focus on the tools that will make you effective with the right men for you. If you allow yourself to focus on the men who aren’t investing in you than you will always feel less than. But if we focus on making yourself feel confident, looking great, and make others (who invest in you) feel great, you will get closer to the lasting relationships that will be best for you. I know this sounds like a lot to do, but you will find that the techniques I teach can help a ton. This is a faith based program that will strengthen your confidence and help you to see that God is aware of your situation and needs and has a specific plan for you. You have to do your part (which is where I can help) but he intends for you to succeed. If you are interested in learning more, you can give me a call at (801) 447-6000 and we can discuss how I can be of help.

      Wishing you love and happiness,

  • Another comparison trap to avoid is comparing yourself to other girls/guys by saying, “If they can’t get a boy/girlfriend, then there is no hope for me to get one.” It is important to remember that that kind of beauty is only skin deep. We each have so much more to offer someone other than just our looks.

  • Love the tips! Thanks for sharing this! When we compare, it’s a losing battle! We’ll either find 1 trait better in someone else than other. It’s a matter of looking at the whole person and the whole situation. Well done!

  • Scott wrote me this by personal email (he was having difficulty posting it through wordpress as a comment).

    Great thoughts Alisa – I think these are very common things in our society right now. Everybody seems to be chasing the next best thing, and nobody is finding it (because it’s become impossible not to daily see other opportunities.)

    It’s another demonstration of the trap we’re all prone to which is “if I feel it it must be true”. (It needs a good name and article…) Whether the thought is “You’re a failure”, “You’re not good enough”, or “You should only have the best – you have to marry up – you have to be perpetually crazy about your choice of spouse”, It causes depression, anxiety, and a loss of connection whenever we feel like we have no control over our thoughts, and that those thoughts are true and final.

    The days are gone of just choosing a spouse and forgetting about it. The marriage decision these days needs more than good feelings because when thoughts like these comparison thoughts present themselves we all naturally go to our default thoughts about why we choose to continue faithful (in a marriage or relationship). If we don’t have some solid reasons, we’ll have a lot of anxiety. So you choose someone with whom you have reasons you believe in, and then you stay with them. You have to recognize that those are two different sets of reasons. Reasons why you love/married them, and then reasons why you stay with them. Hint – you’ll need a moral code or religious/spiritual principles, or the odds are against you. I think that’s why dating is so hard these days – because we all have highly developed reasons why we’d marry someone but not very developed reasons why we’d stay with someone.

    I love your suggestion of never being passive. You feel something, it’s depressing or disheartening, and you ask yourself, ‘what can I do about it?’ then ‘what will I do about it?’. You can’t feel good about yourself unless you are taking responsibility for what you choose to do. It’s only that choice that separates one from being an animal – animals are bound helplessly by their feelings and passions.

    K so it’s a bit of a ramble, but just want to say thanks for the good thoughts and I agree. I hope this article helps a lot of people!

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