The Folly in ‘Trading up’.

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paper heart caught in spider web

Love changes, even non-romantic love; but sometimes it’s hard to know whether to stick it out with those we are accustomed to or move on to bigger and better things. While there will always be good reasons to upgrade relationships, there are also huge downsides to ‘trading up’ and leaving behind established friends and lovers. 

Newer isn’t always better.

Consider the idea that what you have might be as good as it gets. Everyone thinks that smarts, money and popularity will make them happy, rather than asking themselves what actually makes them happy. The friendships we end because they are not sophisticated enough, may turn out to have been better than the new crowd we’ve been tempted to follow.

Having friends with cash and connections gives us the illusion that we’ve progressed in life, but will the wining and dining lifestyle really make you happy? I’ve seen this time and time again. People swap their old friends for new and shiny ones. There are parties to go to and a great time to be had, until one day they wind up missing the nights of pizza and board games. By then it’s sometimes too late to recapture those moments.

I spent ten years as a busy entertainer, hanging out with people from all walks of life. I learnt that rich and well educated did not always make a person of substance, intelligence or class. Conversely, growing up in a poor neighbourhood taught me that a low income didn’t always mean criminal tendencies and a low I.Q. The rich crowd showed me that money had little to do with happiness. And then there’s this Princeton University study into well-being that states that at a relativity modest point, happiness stops being related to income.


“The best things in life are free. The second best are very expensive.” – Coco Chanel


Trading up blindly has it’s drawbacks. You run the risk of exchanging genuine friendships for social status. Some friends may be poor, but they may also be loyal, trustworthy and supportive. They may not be intellectual, or popular, but they might have a sense of wonder and a true zest for life. It’s important to know when you’re on to a good thing, look deeper and know that fulfilment is not always found where society tells you it is.


When does the search end?

In a speech to a group of newly accepted college students, C.S Lewis speaks of the shortfalls of searching for a ‘newer and better’ circle of  friends:

“Once the first novelty is worn off, the members of this circle will be no more interesting than your old friends. Why should they be? You were not looking for virtue or kindness or loyalty or humour or learning or wit or any of the things that can really be enjoyed. You merely wanted to be “in.” And that is a pleasure that cannot last. As soon as your new associates have been staled to you by custom, you will be looking for another…”- The Inner Ring, C.S Lewis


What C.S Lewis is describing is the endless loop one can find themselves in – trying on friendships like we try on clothes. The pitfalls became apparent to me years ago when I tried online dating. I eventually found love online, but not before I went through two years of endless dates that often had about as much depth as flipping through a shopping catalogue. Indecisive partners, who were just going through the motions. They often seemed to be mentally ‘trading up’ before the date was even over. I realised that many people were hooked on the belief that the next person they meet might be even better.

Relationships happen when those involved make a solid decision to stick it out, in doing so they give the relationship a decent chance to grow. The reason my partner and I got along was because both of us noticed the detrimental effects of this endless ‘search pattern’ and set our minds toward making a choice. My partner never gave me a reason to not like him and in return I kept giving him my time. I didn’t cave to the notion the I might find better, I picked the wonderful man I already had in front of me. I’m yet to regret it.

Instead of trading friends and lovers like baseball cards, love what you have and focus attention on upgrading yourself. A great place to start is to get a better idea of who you are and what makes you happy. Live up to the responsibilities of your relationships and spend time cultivating the love you already have. People who make a choice and stick it out are often happier than those constantly looking for more.


Don’t make permanent decisions based on temporary situations.

Teddy bear left in raid 

I recall in my early twenties I was in a pretty bad place. I’d just graduated from my performing arts degree and I was certain I was on the fast track to a life in a cardboard box. To top this off I had huge problems with my family and most days I was left overwhelmed and emotionally wrecked. There were people during those days that stood by me through it all and there were people who threw me on the scrap heap and never looked back.

Fast-forward two years and my life was completely different. I’d used my hardship as motivation to succeed and had my own nationwide entertainment company. I was flying around the country hiring staff and giving other performers work. To discount other people as no-hopers, is a fools game. Someone may seem down and out one day, but the next they could just as easily be doing amazingly well and vice-versa.

Dig a little deeper and see that almost any issue within a relationship can be improved. If you think that those close to you aren’t attractive enough, work together on getting into shape. Clothes and makeup can be easily upgraded, or simply consider accepting people as they are. Intelligence can be improved via study or by picking up new passions. Re-explore what you define ‘smart’ to be. Academic achievements are not the be-all-and-end-all, there are other important forms of intelligence such as ‘street smarts’ and ‘emotional intelligence’.

Good relationships endure minor shortfalls. If your loved ones are supportive and caring, then you are luckier than you think. These characteristics alone are worth sticking around for.

delete couple


The Fall Out…

Sometimes there are valid reasons for “trading up”, for example, no one should stay in relationships that are abusive. But to disregard friends for superficial reasons, or simply to live up to an ill-thought-out ideal, will not bring you the fulfilment that you seek. It is always important to remember that in all interactions you are dealing with living, breathing people – not objects.

Do not allow people to pour their time and emotions into you if your mind is set on throwing them away because they are not what you deem ‘enough’. Do not accept anyone’s love and kindness if you have no intention of giving the same level of vulnerability back. Trading up might seem exciting and glamourous, but be conscious that many people will put everything they have into a relationship. One of the worst things you can ever do to another is to trade-in their love for the promise of ‘something better’.


Hope you enjoyed today’s post. I love reading and responding to everyone’s comments, so feel free to leave a comment of your own.

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Image credits: Neal Fowler, Darren Tunnicliff, Giuntini Jonathan


  • MIke Mike
    July 15, 2014 - 9:48 am · Reply

    Katerina – wonderful post. I’m reminded of the old saying, “Rather than admire the grass that is greener on the other side of the fence, why don’t you fertilize your own?” I have been guilty in the past of jumping ship or trading up, always looking for what glittered brighter. I found through far too many wrong choices that happiness comes from within and anyone set on ‘trading up’ will find it elusive. The short of it is – find ways to be happy, right where you are. Often, the rewards are immeasureable.

    • Katerina Simms
      July 18, 2014 - 11:05 am · Reply

      Hi Mike, I think we’ve all done this to some extent, but hopefully we notice the pattern of behaviour before it does some major damage. There is always the word “sorry” for when we do realise. 🙂

      • MIke Mike
        July 18, 2014 - 7:16 pm · Reply

        I have come too close to major damage Katerina and perhaps that’s why I’m so aware of the folly now. It still bothers me however, when I realize my stupidity over the years. This post certainly struck a nerve but in a good way.

  • philliptrees
    April 20, 2018 - 11:49 am · Reply

    So appreciate the CS Lewis quote which led me to his full essay. Thanks! I’m a minister researching the “trade up” theme. Your points are so true. What we think are trade ups that will make us “happier” are actually lateral trade ins! And Lord knows we never come out good on trade ins!

    • Katerina Simms
      June 9, 2018 - 12:04 pm · Reply

      Thank you, I’m so glad you got value out of this post. I really do hope that with more education and self-awareness, our society as a whole will shift toward kinder ways of being toward each other. We often pin our futures on such transient things.

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