How not to compare your partner to others

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Comparing your partner to other people, and the way you do it, can affect the level of stress and conflict in your relationship.

It’s natural to make comparisons. It’s one of the ways we make sense of the world to ourselves. We choose our partners because we like them more than we like other people, so it’s understandable that we would keep comparing them to others. But it’s the way we do it that matters.

For example, if you notice that your partner isn’t as good at tidying up around the house as your best friend’s partner, you might start to find them lacking. However, if you find yourself understanding that perhaps your partner doesn’t have as much free time as your friend’s partner, or that you actually quite like tidying, then you might be more willing to let this go.

This kind of justification can help you to view your partner in a more positive way. It’s when you don’t, or can’t, justify the negative comparisons that you risk feeling more stressed and facing more conflict.

One of the things that affects the way we’re able to make justifications is the way we view our role in the relationship. If you see your relationship as a unit, and refer to yourselves as ‘we’ and ‘us’, rather than ‘I’ or ‘me’, you may be more likely to compare your partner favourably to others, and even let things go when the comparison is less than positive. This is called ‘self-other overlap’ and helps you see the best in your partner.

When you talk to your friends about what you’ve been up to lately, try to notice whether you say ‘I’ or ‘we’. Saying ‘we’ might just be the key to seeing your partner in a more positive light the next time you find yourself comparing them to somebody else.

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