Many of us want to find a healthy relationship where we achieve growth, solace, and meaningful companionship. But how do we avoid turning our search for love into a competition?
Naturally, in trying to fulfill our natural instinct to find love, we develop crushes and attachments. Most of us can think of a list of the qualities we want in the person we decide to be with. We learn what we are attracted to, and we develop a sense of what we want, or need, in the other person. The Baha’i writings advise us that, “The light of a good character surpasseth the light of the sun and the radiance thereof.” Once we meet a person that we like who fits our list, whose character matches our expectations, we can easily lock in on them as the person we want.
“When we view finding love as a competition, anxiety, jealousy, and ego easily slip into the picture”
But no matter how certain we feel, the person we like isn’t guaranteed to reciprocate those feelings. This reality can make it feel like we are in competition with the other prospective partners our crush might have. Even after relationships end, it’s easy to compare ourselves to and try to out-do the person we had an interest in is now with. We can become trapped in a game of trying to “win” the person we want. This is a common tendency, but is it healthy?
When we view finding love as a competition, anxiety, jealousy, and ego easily slip into the picture. Rejections can fuel us to focus on bolstering up our ego rather than developing our spiritual qualities. The Baha’i writings warn against focusing on earning the admiration or acceptance of others. As Abdu’l-Baha, the son of Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith wrote: “Man must seek to gain the acceptance of God and not that of the different classes of men.”
When we try to impress the person we like, measure our worth by the standards of others, or try to outshine other “contenders,” we can get sucked into seeking money, status, or conventional beauty standards. We might also want to enhance the deeper parts of who we are for the sake of winning others’ admiration. But if we show kindness only to gain the love of another person, that kindness is fleeting.
Unfortunately, our society sometimes romanticizes love as a competition. Our love stories are full of love triangles, bad communication, and “winners” and “losers.” It can be hard to detach from these harmful conceptions of love. While I don’t have all the answers, here are a few things that have helped me stop treating my love life like some kind of competition:
Facing My Insecurities:
I pay close attention and address my own underlying insecurities. It’s profoundly helpful to remind myself that we are all on our own journey, and “losing” the person I liked to someone else simply means I have another path to take. I’m reminded that Baha’u’llah wrote, “O Son of Being! Thou art My lamp and My light is in thee. Get thou from it thy radiance and seek none other than Me. For I have created thee rich and have bountifully shed My favor upon thee.” It helps me to remember that my “light” is not dependent on someone else.
Remembering My Purpose
While seeking love is certainly important, I have other aspirations when it comes to serving my wider community, and I should focus on those too. Baha’u’llah wrote:
It is incumbent upon every man of insight and understanding to strive to translate that which hath been written into reality and action…. That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race. The Great Being saith: Blessed and happy is he that ariseth to promote the best interests of the peoples and kindreds of the earth.
If I allow someone to become a distraction from this higher calling, it’s a sign that I’m veering astray.
Trusting in God
This has been almost like a spiritual crutch for me. Baha’u’llah wrote that “The source of all good is trust in God, submission unto His command, and contentment with His holy will and pleasure.” I try to trust that what is meant to be will be and that God protects and guides all of us, whether we recognize it or not.
With these few actions, I find that it becomes easier to treat the process of searching for love as the beautiful, selfless act it should be, rather than as an intensely rigorous competition.