Po-TAY-to, Po-TAH-to, and How Making Comparisons Leads to Calling the Whole Thing Off
So I totally feel like Sarah Jessica Parker right now….
This just begs to be Sunday brunch conversation fodder for the Sex and The City Girlfriends. What. The. Hell. When your significant other compares you with their ex…..
So I’m just going to leave some white space here for that to sink in.
This has happened to me more than once. On none of those occasions did it go over well. (My two cents, if you’re thinking of doing this out loud or even just inside your head, don’t. Super terrifically horridly bad idea.)
A few years back, a work friend of my mom’s knew the “perfect” person to set me up with on a blind date. Before I knew it, this redneck form a little country town had my email and cell phone number. Before I was done cringing that they didn’t ask me before handing over my contact information, Mr. Smalltown emailed me a surprisingly charming introduction, complete with an out that didn’t even require a response. Turned out we were going to be at the same place for the same event a week later, so we decided we’d just shake hands and laugh at how everyone tries to set us up constantly. I met a really kind, smart person who I’d happily call a friendly acquaintance. I ran into him another time and got to know this person a bit better. Super. Nice. Man.
Then it happened.
“You remind me so much of my wife…You’re built just like her and even have the same spunky personality.”
I kind of wish I could have seen the look on my face. The “wife” had died a few years earlier after a horrible battle with cancer, and this guy had been nuts over her for all of their 25-year marriage.
While I appreciate many parts of this scenario, from a self-preservation perspective, I ran as quickly as politely possible. Because what girl doesn’t want to be compared in at least three ways to someone’s perfect dead wife?
Fast-forward many years and I find myself in a completely different scenario. Part of moving on when you’ve got one failed marriage under your belt and two children who come with the deal means that it can get complicated. Single-parent dating means there’s always one foot on different piers–the parent pier and the relationship pier. Sometimes those are side by side, and sometimes they just aren’t. In the end, every good parent I know jumps onto the parent pier when the splits are imminent. Kids need positive examples of healthy adult relationships–particularly kids whose parents are not an example of a healthy supportive adult relationship.
I live in a smallish place where everyone knows everyone else’s entire life story…or else they just make it up. So dating someone whose ex was once part of our community, it could easily get tricky. For me, it really hasn’t been an issue because it’s just not where I choose to focus my energy. I figure I’m just me, and my dating relationship is not anyone else’s business outside of my own and the person I’m dating. That’s a really mature, healthy, and naive perspective.
I am compared to her often. Mostly behind my back, which says very little about me and infinitely more about those engaging in such conversation. That’s just the nature of dating when you’re a single parent. But when people a bit closer make comparisons in ways meant to create discord or dissension, it’s just not cool. It’s cheap. It’s damaging. And to say it’s hurtful would be an understatement.
It takes a lot for people who have survived the loss of a marriage, endured a divorce, and pulled themselves down the road to a place where even the consideration of allowing someone in again feels anything other than terrifying. Comparing someone to an ex communicates a litany of things, all of them feeling something like being dangled off a cliff. Or walking down a path hand in hand when suddenly the lights go out and you’re completely alone in the dark without a clue where to go next.
Comparisons lead nowhere helpful.
They breed mistrust and make space for one to question if the other is in a place where moving on to a new relationship is healthy or possible. While past experiences are important in the understanding of where someone has been and what they have endured, it also robs a new person of their individuality. Getting to know the intricacies of an individual provides the space and opportunity to be human. Projecting the sins of an ex onto someone who isn’t responsible for that behavior corner them in a way that feels both unfair and a bit helpless. Remember they weren’t there and they don’t know every detail of what was endured. Blaming someone for past hurt isn’t fair, but sharing with them the way this situation makes you feel will help someone new relate to and gain empathy for where you are. It’s an opportunity to build strength in a relationship with promise. Afterall, isn’t everyone due something wonderful after enduring heartbreak?
Comparisons are at the least poor form and at most equate to game over. Every human being deserves the attention of being known for who they are, what they bring to the table, and their own perspectives. Jumping to conclusions never got anyone anywhere productive, and if someone is worth knowing, give them the chance to be known for who they are rather than of what they remind you. Making comparisons communicates that you are bitter, angry, and unable to see or appreciate the person who is currently invested in your life. If we spend our time worrying about people who are long gone, we will miss out on the beautiful present and an even brighter future. Think on that a bit…
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