Whenever you start dating someone new, you can’t help but compare them to your ex — both the good and the bad. ‘He’s not as funny’, ‘she’s got a jealous streak’, ‘he’s probably another cheater’, ‘she doesn’t get along with my family as well’…and so on. Not only does this hurt your chances of finding a satisfying, lifelong relationship, but it also hurts your date’s.
So today we’re bringing you seven tips for breaking this bad habit:
1. How really were things when you were dating your ex?
There were probably moments that proved the person you were dating wasn’t your be-all and end-all — but you just didn’t want to see them. It’s like in ‘500 Days of Summer’ when Tom’s younger sister tells him to look back on his now-defunct relationship. Taking a step back, he sees things very differently, like when he reached for Summer’s hand at the record store and she pulled it away. When you’re no longer riding that love high, you get a new perspective. Try to objectively think about the relationship you had with your ex and be honest with yourself.
2. Take the Time You Need to Heal
You may already have a tendency to compare the people you’re dating to your ex, but not taking the time to fully get over them will only make it worse. Give yourself a couple of weeks, months, or whatever you need to reflect on what went wrong, clear your head, focus on yourself, and move on. You deserve a clean slate, and so does anyone new coming into your romantic life.
3. Don’t Make Quick Judgments About Your New Date
It’s only natural to judge people every now and then and form an opinion before we’ve really got to know them, but do your best to give this person the benefit of the doubt. Block out thoughts like “Crap, he holds his fork just like Tom did. He’s gotta be a compulsive liar, too.” Or, “Oh no, she collects tiny gems, soaps, and things just like Chelsea did. I’m a sucker for quirky girls.” For now, your job is to ask them questions and figure out what kind of person they are, not how much they have in common with your ex.
4. Cut Off All Contact With Your Ex
If you’re actually friends with your ex, this will be hard to do, but it’s necessary, at least for a little while, if you can’t stop yourself from making comparisons. There should be no calling, texting, or social media interaction between the two of you. Out of sight, out off mind. If you need help, recruit some friends or family members who can support you and rein you in when you feel like you’re about to cave.
5. Focus On Your Date’s Unique Traits
Instead of honing in on the similarities they have with your ex, make an effort to explore the traits and interests that make them stand out (e.g., “I’ve never met someone who’s so into kayaking. What drew you to that?” or “I’m not that really into ‘Game of Thrones’, but tell me more about why you like it and what I might not be getting about it.”). This is supposed to be one of the most fun parts of dating, and you’re going to miss out because you can’t get your mind off an old flame.
6. Practice Some Mental and Breathing Exercises
A good way to keep from being reminded of your ex is to train yourself both mentally and physically. Try some mindfulness exercises to practice controlling your thoughts and your breathing like this one . Find exercises that’ll work for you and your lifestyle, or ask for recommendations from the people you know. You could also try working out if you don’t already or amplifying the workouts you already do. Adding new, small goals to your day and accomplishing them could make a big difference.
7. Remember No One is Perfect
Expecting someone to be everything you want and need in life is a lot of pressure to put on a person, especially if you don’t know them. Imagine how you would feel if the person you’re dating kept comparing you to her or his former boyfriend or girlfriend. It probably doesn’t feel great, right? It’s worth putting yourself in their shoes once in a while, which will help you come back down to earth and be present in the moment.
Getting over an ex can be one of the most difficult things to do in life, particularly if it was a long relationship and/or one of your most meaningful. You may not believe it now, but you will find someone who makes you feel that way again. But the only way you’re going to do that is if you give your new dates a chance with no baggage attached.
Hayley Matthews is editor-in-chief at DatingAdvice.com, a popular site with tips from more than 250 experts. In addition, DatingAdvice.com provides comprehensive reviews of the best dating sites, and ranks Match.com as the #1 dating site for seniors, black singles, lesbian and gay singles, Christian singles, and for singles overall. When Hayley isn’t writing about dating and relationships, she’s listening to The Beatles or watching Harry Potter movies.