Comparing your Partner

One of the major reasons we see people unhappy and dissatisfied in their relationships is when they feel their partner is not as good as others. A psychological phenomenon is known as 'self-other overlap' is explained by psychologists as a determining factor for comparison in relationships. Self-other overlap is the degree to which people view themselves and their partner as one unit. People who are low in self-partner overlap have difficulty maintaining positive partner perceptions following threatening comparisons of their partner to others.

By highlighting the benefits of high self-partner overlap, this research may identify a possible future intervention technique. We all aspire to have the best things in our life, make our life perfect, so is the case of relationship. In order to have “the ideal relationship,” we often look for the best in other couples, characteristics in other people and use them as models for our relationship. It is okay to have some aspirations and an idea of how you want things in your romantic relationships, however, we use other people’s characteristics as measures for the success of our relationships it brings us problems.

As it is said, ‘the grass is greener on the other side’ it may appear appealing to see other’s relationship flourishing, other people being better than your partner on certain aspects. However, we can never really know what hardships and challenges other people or the relationship is going through. We look at how well our neighbor treats his wife or how madly in love your best friend’s boyfriend is with her and expect our husbands and partners to treat us the same way, or look at how smart and understand our friends' wife is or look at our grandparents and wish if our relationship could be as loving and long-lasting as theirs. Comparison with others is never a good idea. It affects an individual's self-confidence and sense of self-worth.

Every individual and relationship is unique and deserves to be treated similarly. Although it's good and also important to set expectations, it's also equally important to discuss them and communicate them to the other person as well, so that both the individuals involved are well aware of the limitations of the other person.

This phenomenon can come when the initial phase of exploration is over and the individual is well aware of the characteristics of his or her partner. Overemphasis on these feeling then leads to differences in the couple leading to conflicts which are distressing and harmful for our mental wellbeing.

What do we compare about our partners?

  • Physical appearance:

    Mostly we compare our partners with others with respect to their looks and physical appearance. We see some other people dress up more appealingly, having a good physique we may find ourselves feeling bad for our partner not having these features.

  • Expression of Love:

    How our partners express their love and feelings towards us is also one of the aspects we compare with other people’s relationships. We see other’s partners bringing flowers and presents, cooking for them, planning surprises as a way to express their love, we think these things are missing in our relationship.

  • Financial status and Background:

    In many couples seeking counseling for relationship concerns it is seen that financial discontentment leads to criticism amongst the couple is the source of major fights and differences. One can compare his or her partner for not being financially good enough or for the kind of family background partner has.

  • Education and intellectual stimulation:

    Comparison for some people can also be comparisons in intellect. We often compare our partners with others who can have intellectually stimulating conversations.

How counseling can help you?

  • Counseling can help in understanding whether your aspirations in the relationship are realistic or not.
  • Overcoming the tendency to compare and criticize your partner and build a fulfilling bond with your partner.
  • Improving your emotional expression towards your partner in a healthy way.
  • elf-improvement by changing your perspective and approach towards growth as an individual and couple.

Session structure

  • History taking:

    is involves understanding the challenges a couple is going through because of the tendency to compare. What are the issues relating to the conflicts and fights amongst the couple. The initial session aims to build a therapeutic relationship enabling the development of a safe space for the client to vent out about his or her distress.

  • Understanding the reasons for comparing the partner:

    Next 2-3 sessions will help you understand the reason for being dissatisfied and unhappy about the relationship, exploring what are the unaddressed needs and deficits which may have increased the comparison and criticism. The counselor explores the things the client thinks are missing in their relationship.

  • Working on the deficits and concerns:

    he main aim of the therapy is to help you look at your relationship differently, help you embrace the things you have, allowing you to be grateful. This positivity will help you build your relationship better. Towards the intervention phase, the counselor will help you learn effective communication so that you can communicate your needs with your partner appropriately. By being less critical and by addressing your own emotions and feelings through reflections will help you gain insight into the concern.

  • Couple sessions:

    Couple sessions can also be very helpful in making both the partners aware of the imbalance in the needs and aspirations as couples. Through couple counseling, you can work effectively in attaining mutual goals as a couple and being empathetic towards each other.

  • Follow-Ups:

    Towards the last phase of the therapy all those activities the counselor makes the client does help him or her apply the intervention to real life. Regular follow up sessions are conducting to address the difficulty the client faces in implementing the awareness from the sessions. There would be situations that might make you go back to the comparing thought process are reported in these follow-ups and during these times you go back to your learning and keep moving ahead.

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