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.
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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.
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