Ethical Nonmonogamy | Polyamory, Love & Relationships

The other side of the comparison trap

I talk about the “comparison trap” a lot, but I usually talk about it in terms of how it’s harmful for any of us who are having trouble with accepting our partner’s relationship(s) with someone else.

Most often, it’s advice I give to monofolk who are in relationships with polyfolk, and struggling with the “not enough” and the “but what makes me special” of it all.

This time, it’s meant for the other side of this equation. This is about the dangers of falling into the comparison trap between two or more of your relationships.

Most of the world is highly competitive. Capitalism is competitive by nature, and even in places where capitalism doesn’t exist, we still LOVE to rank things in the spirit of worldwide collaboration. Like the Olympics, for example. Here’s an opportunity for so many athletes representing nearly every country in the world to get together and showcase their skills and talents and athleticism, and what do we do? We rank them and we elevate those who achieved higher, further, or faster with top honors.

I mean, we literally elevate them. Not just by assigning them an arbitrary medal of predetermined value, but the person in first place stands on that platform in a higher position than the one in second, and then third.

It works for sports, and I guess it works in capitalism as it can fuel progress and fill unmet needs, (though the long-term effects of prioritizing “being the best” and using money and power as the yardstick for what it means to be “successful” are quite scary).

But this post isn’t about sports or capitalism.

It’s about skin care products.

To paraphrase the question that inspired this post: a poly person shared that they preferred sex with one partner over sex with the other partner and were concerned that they were “doing poly wrong.”

I want to preface this analogy by saying that this particular question is not uncommon when people are newly opening up their relationships. Like I said, we’ve been socialized since birth to view everything in terms of “which is better, which is worse” and it’s really difficult to unlearn that habit. It’s also, I think, stemming from the same place that monocorn fear over being compared to their partner’s other lovers and falling short comes from.

So, here was my response:

I was a Lancome girl. My mom took me to the Lancome counter when I was 16 years old and bought me my first skincare and makeup regimen. The ladies at the counter taught me how to apply the foundation, and over the next fifteen years, I would try different foundations and different skin cremes and toners – but they were always Lancome, because that is what I knew and that is what I loved and it always worked the way I expected it to.

And then I joined ipsy, which for those who are not aware, is a subscription based program where you are sent five samples of various makeup and skincare products every month for $10. Suddenly I was exposed to a bazillion other brands. I realized that, while I still thought the Lancome eye makeup remover was the best I’d ever tried, their foundation wasn’t. I learned that toners weren’t really a thing that I needed, and that there are so many mascara options out there I can’t possibly commit to just the Definicils for the rest of my life.

Sometimes I liked things more. Sometimes I liked things differently. Sometimes I’d apply the “raisin” Lancome branded lipstick at home, but reapply the Smashbox baby pink gloss throughout the day because I liked the color of one, but the gloss and hydration of the other. Sometimes the best mascara option was a layer of clump crushers by Cover Girl over a layer of Tarte mascara, because one had the right color and thickness, but the other separated and defined my lashes.

Either were fine on their own, but having access to both gave me the ability to customize my lash experience, which made it all the better.

I’m committed now to keeping an open mind. I might not be a strictly “Lancome” girl anymore, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t still appreciate some of their products.

If you having better sex with one partner means that you’re no longer interested in having any intimacy with the other, then perhaps you’re still applying that monogamous spirit to your polyamorous relationships. Despite wanting to minimize this implication, if your reaction to “it’s better with one person” means you no longer have a sexual interest in the other person, then you may need to do some internal work to figure out what it is you really want.

But it’s more likely that you’re just falling into the habit of comparing. Try to get out of the comparison trap where there has to be a “winner” and then by default a “loser.” There is no need to rank because there is no need to choose one and only one.

When you’re polyamorous, there is another option: the one where everybody wins.

1 thought on “The other side of the comparison trap”

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