A Relationship Goal that’s Better Than Perfection - Verily
Tips for avoiding the comparison trap

We all have those couples we idolize. They seems to always be happy, never argue, are incredibly photogenic on all their social media accounts, and just seem, well, perfect. We want to be just like them.

When we look at how amazing and perfect others seem, it can tempt us to only see how we don’t measure up. The comparison casts doubt on the quality of our relationships. Why does it seem so easy for them to be perfect while we struggle so much? This is when the dissatisfaction with our relationships can start to creep in.

It’s good to have mentors we look up to and couples that inspire us to be better in our relationships. But we have to be careful that our admiration remains aspiration and doesn’t slide into the comparison trap. Here are five ways you can nurture your relationship using other couples as inspiration instead of a source of disappointment.

01. Focus on the positive in your relationship (not on what seems to be missing)

Looking at your dream couple, it’s probably really easy to see what is missing in your own relationship. For example, maybe your dream couple is very active. They always seem to be hiking and exercising together, but you and your significant other definitely don’t. Instead of letting this difference discourage you, focus instead on what your relationship does have. Maybe you enjoy cooking together or you are currently reading the same book. Focusing on the good that you do have in your relationship is important to remember. It’s easy to point out what’s missing, but it’s often more important to remember what’s great about your relationship.

02. Be mindful of your social media use

We forget that our dream couples (or, #couplesgoals) are real people who aren’t perfect. (News flash: No one is perfect.) But we so easily forget this when we only see a filtered version of their lives. In the filtered version, the good parts of their lives are publicly celebrated through social media while the less glamorous moments are hidden. It’s far too easy to forget this is the case when we’re scrolling through our newsfeeds. And when we forget that no one is perfect and that the “perfect relationship” in fact doesn’t exist, what’s meant to inspire and challenge us instead discourages us.

That’s why it’s more important than ever to be mindful when using social media. Before you log onto your favorite social media app, remind yourself why you are scrolling through your newsfeed. Most likely, you are looking for information and inspiration so go in with that mindset. If you find that you are starting to feel negatively about yourself or your relationship, it’s time to take a break.

03. Be compassionate when you both make mistakes

I can’t say it enough: No one is perfect and no relationship is perfect. People will make mistakes. Your significant other will make mistakes. You will make mistakes. Your dream couple makes mistakes.

Rather than seeing mistakes as a sign of how your relationship doesn’t measure up, be compassionate. Ask for forgiveness and be ready to forgive. What matters more than making mistakes is how you deal with them as a couple. And the good news is that you have control over how you respond as a couple. Respond with compassion and an honest look at remedying the mistake and watch your relationship grow stronger. When you know that mistakes can (and will) happen, they’re much less disastrous-seeming than if you think your relationship should be mistake-free.

04. Focus on your relationship’s unique needs

“Comparison is the thief of joy” is a helpful phrase we should all keep in mind. I’ve written about this powerful quote before (here and here) in addition to using it with my psychotherapy patients and in my personal life.

Remember that your relationship is different from anyone else’s relationship. Be inspired by others, yes, but don’t compare your relationship to theirs. Just because the couple you admire runs a thriving business together doesn’t mean that your relationship is lacking if you and your significant other don’t. Maybe you work in completely different industries or don’t have the personalities for working together, and that’s okay. Instead focus on the fact that the couple you look up to likes to spend time together and has a shared project. Then try to emulate that in your own relationship. When framed in this way, you are motivated to improve your relationship rather than feeling discouraged.

05. Remember you are a team

Remember that you and your significant other are on this journey together. Your partner is just that, your partner—not your enemy. If you have concerns about your relationship, don’t keep them to yourself where they will only eat away at you. Bring them up to your significant other so that you can work through them together. Communicate your concerns and you will be glad you did!