Getting Away from Comparisons: The Maze Is Different, So the Map Will Be, Too

an elaborate maze like labyrinth constructed of half blue and half red legos. A hand is pointing to the center of the maze.
Image by anvilon / CC BY

Hi Page, I’ve been reading your blog for a long time. I particularly love your post on how to feel more secure in relationships. I did have one question though: How do you stop comparing yourself to others?  I know it’s not doing me any favors to worry about how I measure up to my partner’s other partners. 

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Human beings are hardwired to compare. We do that. But really comparison at the most basic level is just about assessing similarity and dissimilarity.

The problem comes when you start ranking people. When you start assigning value to those differences.

And it’s a hard question to answer, how to get away from that practice of assigning value to those differences, because everybody’s emotional maze is different. It would be easiest if I could just give you a map, but directions that will set one person free might drive another into the wall.

So I’m sorry to say that there’s no one solution that’s going to work for everyone.

But I can tell you what worked for me.

Perspective Taking: When I Was in Love with Two People At Once, I Didn’t Rank Them, So Why Would They?

I didn’t get it until I was in love with two people at the same time. And I was just so freaking happy all the time. I wasn’t sitting there micro-accounting for their scores in certain areas. I wasn’t sitting there saying, “Okay, well this person has an 85 in French kissing, and this person has a 72.” Or whatever. “This person speaks four languages. This person can fix cars.”

I didn’t sit there and do that. I didn’t add up all of their good qualities in numerical form and then assess inequalities. I just enjoyed myself. Because they just both made me so happy. I would go to one and be so happy and feel like I was very in love and then go to the other and be happy with them. I didn’t try to figure out who made me happier. It didn’t matter.

And if I thought about them at once, it was as part of the realization that both of those people were really great not just because of their inherent qualities (although of course those were wonderful) but also because they allowed me the freedom to maintain other relationships in my romantic life. I’d sort of lord over how cool they both were – in isolation, sure, but also as part of a large polyamorous system where we prized our partners’ happiness and celebrated their joys even if it didn’t directly affect us.

So I got in this space where I realized that and knowing that I was that way allowed me the ability to perspective take when my partner had some Big Feels for someone else and realize that my partner probably was just happy, the same way  I was. Not micro-accounting and ranking me and my metamour on Olympic medal podiums.

And If They Did Rank People, They Weren’t Someone I Wanted to Date

I knew I could be wrong of course. We can’t read other people’s minds. So there was no way to know for sure that they weren’t doing this. But I stopped worrying that my partners were micro-accounting. Because I’d lost respect for people who would do that.  And so for me, my way through the maze was realizing that if they do that and I do come up short in this micro-accounting and they vote me off the island (so to speak), then they’re not somebody I want to date anyway, and it’s for the best.

That’s the map for my maze. Yours will likely look different. Since we’re different people with different experiences. Afraid of different things.

Incidentally, that’s also why it’s tough to compare better and worse without losing something important in the analysis.

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Books by Page Turner:

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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