Your ex spontaneously brought you flowers after work, so why doesn’t your partner do that? Your ex made a big deal out of your birthday, so why hasn’t bae done the same? It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of building expectations for your current partner based on your ex’s behavior. It’s not necessarily fair to hold your SO to these standards.
According to Susan Trombetti, matchmaker and CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking, it’s problematic when you have your ex on a pedestal and you’re always asking yourself, “what would my ex do?”
“If you have your ex idealized, your partner is always going to come up short,” she explained. “If you broke up with the ex, this isn’t usually a problem. When they broke up with you, you start to think they were perfect. Your current man or woman isn’t perfect because no one is, so you wind up sabotaging the relationship.”
Of course, if you feel like your needs aren’t being met in your relationship, there are ways to talk it out in a healthy, productive manner with your partner. Letting them know it would mean a lot to you if they surprised you with a bouquet once in a while or that you’d love for them to plan something for your soirée, gives them the opportunity to learn more about your wants and try to fulfill them. On the other hand, harboring a list of “should's” that your SO doesn’t even know about will likely lead to pent-up resentments that your partner isn’t even aware of.
Remember: Your significant other may not do all the same things your ex used to do, but the odds are that they also have many other positive qualities and habits that make you happy in new ways.
While learning not to compare your partner to your ex may not be easy, it’s well worth the effort. Not only can these comparisons start to cloud your judgment about your relationship, but they could wreak some havoc on the state of things between you and your partner if they notice they’re being measured against your ex. Keep in mind that everyone gives and receives love differently and engages in conflict differently, and no one is a mind reader — so if you feel like you’re longing for something in particular from a current partner, it’s important to give them a chance by communicating that to them without criticizing them for behaving like your ex.
As the saying goes, the past is in the past. It’s unrealistic to expect that you won’t occasionally be reminded of an ex during your current relationship, but it’s immensely important to give your new SO as much of a clean slate as possible without comparisons to past experiences. If you're struggling with this, Trombetti recommends working on potentially "rewiring your thinking," with some outside help from a therapist — of course, communicating directly with your partner.
"Your SO is a different person — and that isn’t a bad thing," she says.
Entering into a relationship with an open mind and an open heart will give you and your partner the best possible chance at finding what works for you two as a unit, as opposed to fixating on what worked or didn’t work for you in the past. Remember — love is fluid and complex, not one dimensional.
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