How to Stop Comparing Your Relationship to Everyone Else’s

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Getty ImagesCultura RM Exclusive/Matt Dutile

Thanks to social media, you know more about other people’s love lives than ever before. You see photos of couples kissing, going on romantic dates and epic trips, and celebrating what appears to be the perfect union. Often, these posts are their own kind of fake news. You’re seeing only the good moments that someone has chosen to show. What you don’t see: the bickering, the blow-out arguments, or the boring nights spent at home. The same can be true IRL. Couples may show only a specific side of their life in public—usually, the happy one.

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That’s why, even though making comparisons to twosomes you admire is perfectly natural, it can take a toll on your love life. Those curated images may leave you plagued by thoughts like, Why don’t my partner and I go on big adventures? even if you’ve never been interested in such excursions and your relationship is otherwise satisfying. Or if you’ve recently had a huge fight or been dumped, you may wonder, Am I the only one this has happened to? This kind of thinking puts unwarranted stress on you and your partner. It can also make you feel lonely and singled out, when in reality, other people are experiencing the same thing as you are.

Couples may show only a specific side of their life in public—usually, the happy one.

To protect your head and heart from unhealthy judgments, try these five methods to squelch the romantic comparathon.

1. FIND COMFORT WITHIN

When you look to outside relationships to define or validate your own, it can be a sign that you’re lacking confidence in your current status. For instance, if you get the sense that everyone but you is suddenly coupled up, you may start to doubt your ability to find love, even when you’re not currently looking for it. Similarly, if your friends are getting engaged and you and your partner are still dating, it can make you question the progress of your relationship.

To feel more confident, fight the urge to let other couples’ romantic benchmarks dictate your own. Instead, remind yourself of the various desires you have besides romance, and celebrate the areas in which you’re finding fulfillment, such as school, work, or time spent with friends and family.

Rather than employing blame or shame, focus on what you like about your connection.

2. AVOID THE BLAME GAME

When said aloud, feelings of inferiority often sound like “Why aren’t we more like Kristen and Rob?” or “If I was with someone like him or her, everything would be great!” But these sentiments place blame on your lover without taking any responsibility for yourself, which can chip away at the positives of—and trust in—your bond. It’s also unrealistic to believe that acting like or being with different people will suddenly solve your relationship problems.

Rather than employing blame or shame, focus on what you like about your connection: how much your mate makes you laugh or the way they care for you. Then, actively do more things to please each other (like playing golf, even if that’s not your favorite), and voice your appreciation when they do the same (as in,“I like doing this with you”).

3. GET REAL WITH FRIENDS

Shatter the assumption that your friends are in ecstatic relationships by having more open and honest conversations with them. Share your own love challenges, and ask them if they’ve ever had a similar experience.

Listening to a pal talk about her personal strife (such as how she coped when her partner began acting odd) can help normalize the way you feel about your current situation. It shifts your inner dialogue from a sense of defeat (Ugh, no one else is going through this) to relief that you’re not alone. And once you reveal more, your friends can offer advice and support.

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4. TURN JEALOUSY INTO ACTION

Your first reaction may be jealousy when you see a couple on Instagram hiking a beautiful trail while you and your love are riding the couch. But remember: You have the power to change! So if you can’t help but compare, use a duo you respect as inspiration. Envious of their recent date night? Plan one with your mate. Frustrated you and your partner are at a bar again while another pair is perusing a cool museum? Ask your partner to go to one with you.

5. TAKE A BREAK FROM SCROLLING

If all else fails, get off social media for a few days…or weeks. The time away will help you realize that striving to be someone else is a frustrating experience. Instead, focus on being the very best version of you and staying grounded in the here and now of your own life.

For more relationship advice and tips from Esther Perel, pick up the August 2018 issue on newsstands now, or click here to subscribe to the digital edition!

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