There is the idea that you learn from each relationship. You know more about yourself and what you want and what you don’t want. Theoretically then, your current boyfriend should be an “upgrade,” right? When that doesn’t seem to be the case it can feel super alarming and have you questioning your relationship.

Dr. Marie Land | Psychologist Washington DC | Relationship Therapist


When you first start dating someone new it’s natural to compare them to your ex, particularly if it wasn’t that long ago that you ended your past relationship. If your ex was seriously lacking in some essential quality (i.e., he was incapable of assigning your relationship any type of label although you were dating for months), you’re likely to be on the lookout for similar traits. You avoided a crash by getting out of your last relationship, and you’re hypervigilent to do the same now. Nothing wrong with a little caution, right? The thing is, you can’t look at individual traits by themselves. “Flaws” are always housed in the context of another person with their own unique history and buffer traits (being awesome in many other ways so that the negative trait could potentially not be such a big deal).


It’s important to acknowledge that when relationships don’t work out, they don’t work out for a reason. Usually it’s not about someone not trying enough (well, at least one person was probably trying enough). There are so many reasons a relationship may not be a long-term fit. You need to remember the reason that that one trait in your ex was problematic. Yes, it was the behavior he had or lacked. But why did it bother you? Was it because he didn’t meet some fundamental need you had (i.e., to be respected, adored, loved)? Remind yourself that those underlining issues are the ones that you need to be on the look out for in your current relationship. If you can’t be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t totally adore you, that’s fine. Just know that everyone has different ways of expressing that feeling and your current boyfriend’s behavior may mean very different things than it did for your ex.


If you’re really wondering if you have a downgrade, try to look at things objectively. Your current boyfriend’s qualities on paper. If it’s how he treats you in public, on Facebook, around friends, whatever. If he has morals, a job, etc. Look at the whole picture of this guy and see if you were standing outside your life as an observer, would you actually think this is a better match. Second, determine your level of happiness with this current partner. You may recall less or more intense emotions with a previous relationship, but memory for past feelings and attachment can be skewed and a bit distorted. Your overall happiness when with your current partner is more indicative of determining if your boyfriend is an upgrade or downgrade, not necessarily the memory for romantic feelings in the context of a lot of drama. Your overall happiness when around your boyfriend should be a good determinant of his upgrade or downgrade status. And yes, you really should always have an upgrade!