Is relationship comparison always a bad thing? Two experts explain
After you experience a breakup, the people around you will likely tell you two things. One: get a clean break and avoid any temptation to backslide. And two: don’t fall into the trap of comparing future partners to your ex.
But despite it being the general consensus that weighing old and new flames against one another will only cause harm, it turns out that there are plenty of scenarios where this kind of comparison can actually add to your relationship, rather than take away from it.
“It’s only natural to reflect on past relationships, but it’s also essential to focus on the present and the potential for a positive future with your new partner,” Kate Mansfield, a dating and relationship coach working with dating app Badoo, tells Stylist.
Naturally, when comparing an ex-partner with a new one, there are factors to consider that will enable you to build trust and nurture a new relationship – and others that will do the opposite.
When You Shouldn’t Compare Your Partner To Your Partner To Your Ex
“When comparing an ex with a new partner, it’s crucial to focus on the emotional and relational aspects that truly matter for long-term happiness, rather than superficial or transient attributes,” explains Laura Cannon, founder and head matchmaker at Twelve Stories. With this in mind, you should probably avoid likening a current partner’s material possessions, physical appearance or financial status to that of an ex.
“Avoid directly comparing specific qualities, physical attributes, or personality traits of your ex with your current partner,” Mansfield suggests. “Each person is unique, and making direct comparisons in this manner can lead to unrealistic expectations or hurtful judgments.”
As Cannon explains: “Financial situations can change and material possessions don’t define a person’s worth or their capacity to love. Similarly, comparing physical attributes can lead to surface-level judgements and overlook the deeper emotional and intellectual connection that may be at play.”
According to Mansfield, you should also refrain from constantly referencing or comparing the dynamics of your past relationship with your ex to the dynamics of your current relationship. “Each relationship is distinct, and you should try to approach your current relationship with a fresh, trustful, confident perspective, as free as possible from the baggage of the past,” she adds.
Finally, avoid using past mistakes, regrets, or conflicts from your previous relationship as a basis for comparison. “Holding your current partner to a standard based on past relationship experiences can be unfair and detrimental,” Mansfield says. Instead, you should focus on open communication, forgiveness and growth in your current relationship, addressing any issues as they arise without making them solely about comparisons to your ex.
When You Should Compare Your Partner To Your Ex
When it comes to what you should be comparing, the rules are much simpler. “Consider the qualities that make your new partner unique and compatible with you instead of how they compare to your ex,” shares Mansfield. “Look for shared values, interests and goals and think about how well you connect emotionally and intellectually.”
“While no partner can fulfil every need, there should be a clear effort to align with and prioritise what’s important to you, whether it’s making proactive dinner reservations, getting excited about travelling as much as you or visiting your grandma.”
Mansfield also advises evaluating how your new partner contributes to your overall emotional wellbeing. “Do they support you, communicate openly, and help you grow as an individual? A healthy emotional connection is crucial so see the value that your new partner brings in comparison to your ex,” she adds.
Cannon agrees: “Emotional support is foundational to any meaningful relationship. A partner who celebrates your successes, empathises with your struggles, and shares your dreams is invaluable.”
It’s only natural to reflect on past relationships
Overall, Mansfield advises attempting to let go of the pressures from previous relationships and embrace the uniqueness of your new connection. “Foster open communication, and work together to build a healthy, confident and fulfilling partnership based on shared values and mutual respect,” she adds.