How to stop comparing yourself to others and their relationships

Are you constantly comparing yourself to other people’s relationships or dating styles? Psychotherapist Hilda Burke shares with EliteSingles advice on why and how to stop.

One of biggest the threats to our well-being is comparing ourselves to others. Whether it’s our waist size, our home, our job, our level of core strength, it’s a corrosive yet powerful drive for us to want to measure ourselves (sometimes literally!) against our friends, siblings, and colleagues. With the huge increase in use of social media, it has become all too easy to compare our lot with that of our 387 ‘friends’.

Why can comparing yourself to others be a recipe for misery?

If we’re single the temptation to compare and contrast our state of singledom with others’ relationship status is very tempting. Firstly, being single in itself. Why are we single? We look around and we see happy couples everywhere. We wonder why that isn’t us – one half of a perfectly contended pair. The Morrissey song ‘Heaven knows I’m Miserable now’ really nails this feeling – “a couple entwined pass me by and heaven knows I’m miserable now.” This feeling of being ‘left out’ in the cold, looked over can be quite toxic as it actually serves to push us further away from the possibility of meeting someone.

It’s a mental position of ‘scarcity’ (thought: “there’s not enough to go around – this guy/girl has taken something that could potentially be mine”) rather than ‘abundance’ (thought: “isn’t it wonderful to see such a loving looking couple, I can see that for me”. In both cases, the ‘trigger’ is the same but the thoughts and feelings are vastly different.

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But it’s not just couples that singles compare ourselves to, it’s also other singles. Many times I hear my single clients comment on the way their singles friends are dating – they’re seeing too many people, not enough people, the wrong kinds of people, playing too hard to get, not hard enough.. The possibilities for judgement, and, by association comparison, seem to be infinite. We can spend so much time thinking about what others are doing/not doing that we forget to pay attention to ourselves – what it is we really want and how we’re going to go about achieving it. What may be right for some, may not suit us. We need to find our own way and remaining stuck in a state of comparison muddies our vision.

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How to stop comparing yourself to others

Step One: Find a Mentor

Instead of comparing ourselves relentlessly to others – both those who are coupled up and other singles – I would recommend stepping back from your current situation, looking around and observing those whose relationships you admire. Most of us know at least a few people who are in very strong relationships. The temptation of course is to compare – contrasting what they have with what we haven’t. However, there is another way – a state of being curious and receptive, considering how they built this great relationship, how did they get there? In her book Surrendered Single, Laura Doyle recommends using a happily married friend as a mentor when you’re dating, referring to them for advice when needed.

Although it may seem a bit contrived, I think the basic idea is good – it could even be a couple of friends who are in strong relationships that you feel you can refer to and trust for advice. This takes some humility – admitting that we need help, that we’re not the expert – but often our friends are only too happy to help. Plus it’s hugely flattering to say to someone that their relationship is one that inspires you and for that reason you’re looking to them to give you good guidance.

Read more: What is the secret to a healthy relationship?

Step Two: Finding Acceptance

Ultimately, I think a certain amount of comparing self to others is part of human nature. But when it gets out of hand, it can inhibit us being authentically our unique selves. The less we accept ourselves as we are, the greater the tendency to look over our shoulders and compare how we are faring with those around us. If you’re thinking about putting your toe in the dating pool, this is a self-sabotaging act. For if we believe ourselves to be inferior to others, it will come across all too clearly when we date. The key quality we need to nurture if we are to control the extent to which we comparing ourselves to others is self-acceptance. So firstly, try to work on accepting yourself just as you are right now. If you can do this, the temptation to compare will lessen.

EliteSingles editorial October 2015

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