“It is necessary, and even vital, to set standards for your life and the people you allow in it.”
~ Mandy Hale
Relationships are dynamic and ever-changing just like the universe. We are changing moment by moment even when we are unaware of it.
Our thoughts, emotions and perceptions are also fluid. By this I mean, you may feel one way in the morning (for example), and another way in the afternoon. This is true for our perceptions too, and can affect how we feel in relationships.
The beauty (yet complexity) of this is we can feel different emotions toward someone who we even love.
It may be bliss and joy at one moment and frustration and anger at another.
In the age-old expression, “Something that can be a blessing can also be a curse.”
Take for example when you first met your partner.
What was the immediate feeling you had and what attracted you most to that person? What were the qualities?
Fast forward to now – these may be the very same qualities that you dislike or that irritate you as the relationship progressed.
What I am trying to illustrate is how you “feel” about your partner can change over time.
This is not necessarily a bad thing or something that indicates that you have to “run for the hills.” It simply indicates that you are dynamic and fluid because your are human.
But, what if you are in a situation in which you feel unsure or ambivalent about the relationship?
As you read this article, you will be able to distinguish if you are settling or being realistic in your relationship. These step will help you gain clarity in your situation and my hope is you’ll do what’s best for you.
1. Feelings Change
Be aware that how you felt in the beginning of the relationship or the “honeymoon phase” can change overtime. The initial “high” of the relationship, often describes as “romantic love,” can fade and change to “mature love.”
Don’t rely on feelings of elation and passion as a sole indicator that the relationship is not the one for you.
2. The Difference between Emotions and Intuition
Emotions are fluid, therefore can change based on how you “feel” yourself. For example, you may wake up and not feel like being close or intimate with your partner, and later that day feel closer.
On the other hand, intuition is a “gut feeling” – for example, that you do not feel safe or comfortable at all to be close with your partner. Usually, going by your gut feeling or intuition is a safe bet in making decisions.
Refrain from reacting to how you feel.
Take a pause, reflect and address the issue at the end of the day. If it’s something that still bothers you after some time, address it. Speak up. You are in charge of how you feel.
3. The Relationship as a Whole
Often when we are in conflict about a relationship, we get caught up in our partner’s specific behaviors that we dislike. This leads to an unconscious process of “keeping score.” In this we have columns in our mind – one for our likes and the other our dislikes.
The problem with this is because our feelings and perceptions can change over time, a like can become a dislike and vice versa.
A healthier way to view a relationship is as a whole. I encourage you to step back from the relationship and ask yourself if you are satisfied as a “whole.”
A deal-breaker in a relationship is something you won’t tolerate in a relationship and can result in the relationship ending.
Most of us have an idea of what we will not put up with in a relationship. Or, it may be a case that you may not know what your deal-breaker is until it happens and are faced with making a decision.
Some examples are: emotional, verbal or physical abuse; an emotional or physical affair; and chronic alcohol or drug dependence etc.
An individual’s deal-breakers are personal to him or her. They are often linked to their personal histories, previous relationship and past experiences.
Make a list of your deal-breakers. So if it occurs you’ll be more aware of the next step you need to take.
5. Changing Yourself vs. Others
A common issue that brings clients into counseling is how to deal with another person’s behavior. Whether it’s their partner’s attitude/behavior/decisions or how the individual is being treated in their relationship.
You can only change yourself not anyone else.
If you are in a situation where you have difficulty coping with another person’s behavior, look at how you can change your reactions. Examples of this are how you handle your emotions, whether you have proper self-care, whether you are aspiring to achieve your own goals and if you are happy within yourself.
You can also make a request for your partner to seek professional help. Remember the choice to do so is theirs not yours. If you have tried all of the above and still feel the same, maybe it means you need to make a change.
6. Always Be Yourself
Often I find that my clients are in relationships where they can’t be themselves. Either they cannot assert what they feel or need or they don’t make the choices that are tied to their own happiness. It may be a situation where they are “people pleasing” to gain acceptance or avoid conflict.
When you compromise your own self, to remain in a relationship, you will develop resentment, be unhappy and in some way “settling.”
Always be YOU.
When you can honor and respect yourself, trust that the right people will enter your life.
They say that the grass is not greener on the other side. Always make sure your are looking through a lens of self-love, self-respect and self-acceptance, then what you’ll see will be perfectly clear. Brown or green, the grass will always be imperfectly beautiful, because your love for yourself will out-color anything.
Kavita A. Hatten, MS, LPC, NCC- www.phoenixcounseling.net
I see many women in my practice who question whether they’re settling in their relationships.
These women usually have aggrandized ideas of what romantic relationships should look like. For instance, they feel they should be having wonderful sex daily with their partner, or that household work should always be split evenly in relationships.
In order to provide these women with some clarity, I often ask them to do a journaling activity called red light, green light. I ask them to draw three columns on a piece of paper.
- The red lights are traits they see as deal breakers in possible relationships; things like smoking, not liking animals, or not having a college degree.
- Green lights are traits they really want in a partner; wanting to have kids, ambition, or being within a certain age range.
- Yellow lights are traits they could live with if there were enough traits in the green light category and not too many in the red light category.
This journaling activity allows women to stand back and determine if they’re settling in relationships and dealing with more red/yellow lights than they’re comfortable with.
The women I see in my office who feel like they’re settling often find they’re expecting perfection in their relationship.
Perfection in relationships is generally unattainable.
We all have to take the good with the bad. Relationships will go through rough patches. Sometimes we take the brunt of the emotional burdens in a relationship, sometimes we go through periods of unfulfilling sex.
It’s important to have realistic expectations of our partners and our relationships. The red light/green light activity helps clarify these expectations.
Katie Schubert, PhD, LMHC, CST, NCC- www.drkatieschubert.com
I work with many women who are worried that they are settling in their relationship.
Women get so many mixed messages! “Don’t settle, but don’t be picky!” “Raise your standards in your relationships, but be realistic.” “Be grateful for what you have, but you’re selling yourself short.”
There are a number of simple ways to understand the difference between being realistic and settling.
A realistic relationship isn’t perfect, but it does include a partnership of communication, mutual respect, and support.
It involves people who actively work to build each other up and not tear one another down. While it is unrealistic to think that a partner will be your everything or will perfectly fit into your ideal image of what a partner should be, there are key ways to examine if you might be settling.
1. You might be settling if you are staying with someone because you are scared to be alone.
Feeling the fear of not having a partner is not a good enough reason to stay in a relationship. Find a therapist to help process this fear so that you can be free to find a fulfilling relationship.
2. You might be settling if you feel that you cannot be yourself when you are with your partner.
If you feel the need to hide important parts of yourself from your partner, you are never going to feel authentically loved and accepted. All people have quirks and weird characteristics that make them unique and you shouldn’t need to hide those from your partner. Everyone should have the opportunity to feel seen, understood, and accepted by their partner.
3. You might be settling if you are ignoring your needs, wants, and desires.
If you notice that you are staying in a relationship, but are neglecting what you know you want, you are definitely settling.
Think about your non-negotiable desires and know that it’s okay to wait for the right fit.
Even if your partner is unable to fulfill certain aspects of what you want from your life, in a healthy relationship those issues need to be spoken about and addressed.
4. You might be settling if you are not getting the sex you want.
The frequency, quality, and type of sexual intimacy that people want can vary from person to person. If you are not feeling open to discussing your sexual preferences with a partner, that could indicate feelings of mistrust or fears around intimacy.
If you feel unsatisfied with your sex life, a healthy relationship can be a great foundation to explore different types of sexual play with your partner.
When you feel uncomfortable asking for sex or talking about it, that needs to be addressed because that conversation doesn’t usually get easier with time.
5. You might be settling if your partner asks you to give up a part of yourself.
If something is important to you, think long and hard before you give it up for a relationship. Giving up a part of yourself for a partner is a recipe for future resentment.
A realistic relationship is always going to involve challenges to work through, difficulties to face, and tough conversations.
When you make a decision to be with someone long term, it makes a lot of sense to evaluate your relationship. If you do so and you feel like you might be settling, it’s worth taking the time to make sure this is the right relationship for you.
Jodi Erin, LPC, MA, RDT – www.jodierin.com
The pressure to settle can be very real.
Harassment from friends and family when you’re still single after a certain age, the social stigma due to a solo status, the biological clock that ticks, or religious beliefs that don’t allow premarital sexual relationships are only a few examples that might make you consider to settle down for the wrong reasons.
How can you know that you are settle for less than you want and deserve in a relationship?
Sacrifices and relationships go hand in hand. But when does it become unhealthy? Do you always give in? Is your partner not willing to engage in compromises?
In a healthy relationship partners always try to find solutions both can live with, not get their way at the expense of the one you’re supposed to care for. If you are always making the sacrifices you’re most likely settling.
Growing up we let go of our early dreams about marrying “prince charming” or Johnny Depp. Letting go of unrealistic expectations is part of maturing.
Accepting each other’s flaws is part of real love.
Height, looks and status are features you can compromise on. That’s realistic. If you, on the contrary, give up values like kindness, respect, or open-mindedness in a partner then you are selling yourself short.
If you give your own dreams up to make your partner happy that’s settling.
Yes it’s true, realistically it will require some compromises to include your partner into your plans, but no loving companion would demand to give up your goals and aspirations.
Sometimes you have to take the back seat, that’s being realistic. But never being supported in your ideas and goals is settling for the wrong guy.
Probably one of the biggest reasons to settle is the fear of being alone.
But isn’t it better to be alone than to be in a destructive relationship? You should never prioritize being in a relationship over the quality of that relationship or a potential partner.
Researchers found that fearful participants in bad relationships were just as depressed and lonely as fearful participants who were single.
Ergo, settling doesn’t change how you feel, just adds a stressful load to it.
Being alone is not a bad thing.
Being single is an opportunity to build strong friendships, devote yourself to activities and causes that you’re passionate about, and develop a sense of self-worth and identity that is not attached to a romantic partner’s love and approval.
Being single means freedom, the time to take care of yourself. Sometimes it’s more important to be able to be at ease with yourself before you let another person in.
In my practice I often hear women say that their man is not making them happy anymore.
Well, we all are responsible for our own happiness. A partner can only add 10% to our happiness. The main part has to come from within. Don’t count on another person to find joy. We call that co-dependency. If you settle for an entangled relationship instead of a healthy one, it will stand in the way of your happiness.
Settling for an unhappy relationship because you’ve already invested a lot in is another reason why people would stay in an unhealthy relationship.
That is like going to a concert you already have tickets for, even though you’re sick, or continuing to invest in a company that is doomed to fail. Loss is inevitable in these cases; it’s just a matter of whether you get out now and lose less, or stay invested and risk an even greater loss.
After my first husband died it felt like my life was over.
I thought that I was too old to find somebody new. I thought nobody would want me, and having a child would make it extra difficult. However I learned through experience that there is a market for every age.
In life we get more chances than we think.
I have a great new husband, with values that match mine, an awesome conversation partner, and a wonderful father for my daughter. So never panic and settle for less than you deserve. There’s a Jack for every Jill.
Michal Andries, MS, LMHC – www.beachsiderehab.com
Settling is giving up on myself and my growth.
It is giving up on the fullest life I am capable of leading, choosing instead to lead a lesser version. I know what I am capable of, yet I don’t go for it. I want to keep myself small, isolated, familiar, and what I wrongly perceive as “safe”.
I tell myself I am living my best life possible, but when I am honest, I am not.
At every turn I am leaving huge pieces on the table, huge pieces of myself. I walk quietly, tiptoeing around what I love to do. I dip an occasional pinky toe into new areas, but for the most part, I let myself stagnate.
I think settling is the necessary glue that is holding my world together.
But the truth is, it is actually the very thing that is holding me back from truly living. Settling, in my relationships, in my career, in how I know myself, puts a cap on my life. In this place I do not grow, I stop caring to learn about myself, I give up.
I had a difficult time at first, writing about settling.
I had to get honest with myself. I looked at my life under a microscope, and staring back at me were numerous ways I was giving myself a lesser life. I was settling. I didn’t want to know “it’s me, too”.
And then, I allowed myself to see all the wonderful areas I have reenaged in my life. Areas like dating, where I am giving myself the fullest experience of me. Places I am choosing me at every turn. This is where I am no longer settling.
I began to appreciate how rewarding my hard work has been- taking me from a place of compliance, and moving me into a place of genuine excitement and growth in life. All by choosing me.
When I let go of settling, I choose to put myself and my growth first.
I am motivated to push myself into new areas, I hold myself accountable, and I make supportive choices. I explore myself. I find out who I really am, and in turn, I become the person I am meant to be.
On Being Realistic: Accepting Life as It Is
Being realistic is accepting life as it is, not what I expect it to be.
Being realistic is also letting go of my fantasies, fantasies that create expectations that hold me back from being a satisfied person and a loving partner.
When I am realistic, I don’t expect my world to change in order for me to be happy.
Instead, I take responsibility for my happiness and work on changing the only thing I can change- myself. Being realistic is opening up my eyes, looking around, and being OK with what I see.
This does not mean my life is perfect. Far from it. Perfection is a fantasy.
Fantasy is a lens that blurs my reality. Fantasies create unrealistic expectations of how my life should be, including the people in it, that have no basis in reality. As a woman, I have let my fantasies create expectations that can never be met, especially by a man.
- I have expected a man to make me happy for a lifetime, when the only person that can provide me with happiness is myself.
- I have expected a man to be my best “girlfriend”, instead of letting him be a man.
- I have expected a man to know what I was thinking and feeling at all times, without having to communicate.
I can never have a healthy, realistic, relationship with a man if I hold onto my fantasies.
If I do, I want a life that is not possible, with a partner that does not exist.
Being realistic is knowing what to expect in a relationship, and allowing my partner to be a man.
It is me taking 100% responsibility for my life, so I can let go of the fantasy of needing a man to take care of me, and start taking care of myself. It is letting go of how I “wish” my life could be, to step into the truth of what it already is.
It is up to me to choose to love and accept my life and to dive in. When I accept my life, without conditions, I learn to love and accept myself- exactly as I am.
Josie Warren, MA – www.josiewarren.com
Do you have that “settling” feeling?
When I do, it usually means that I am selling myself short. And when I sell myself short (in other words settling for something less than what I need or think I deserve), sooner or later I end up feeling cheated, angry and resentful.
Look. In the total scheme of things, maybe settling doesn’t matter all that much when it comes to a commodity – an item of clothing, a holiday or a car. In 25 years you probably won’t even remember about it.
But, when it comes to a relationship – well, that’s a whole other thing, because settling, or making do, and a lifetime of satisfying love are two concepts that don’t fit easily together.
Here are some signs that you might be settling for less than what you need, desire or what is healthy in a relationship:
- When you are with someone that you are not deeply attracted to, you justify: Well, attraction can grow with time. Maybe their other qualities will substitute for a lack of physical attraction on my part.
- When you are with someone who is emotionally unavailable, you tell yourself: Some people have problems expressing their feelings. So, with my help, they will open up. After all, they just haven’t found the right woman yet, someone they can trust with their feelings, someone like me.
- When you are with someone who has a dodgy relationship history – a pattern of short-term relationships and messy breakups – you think: Well, no one’s perfect. Maybe with the right partner (me), they might see how good a relationship can be.
- When you are with someone who’s current financial situation is unstable, you tell yourself: Well, no one’s perfect. Maybe with the right partner (me), they might get motivated and find their direction in life.
- When you are with someone who has trouble meeting their commitments and obligations in life, you might reflect: Well, no one’s perfect. Besides, I can help them meet their responsibilities.
- When you are with someone who is in active addiction, you tell yourself: Well, no one’s perfect. Maybe with the right partner (me), they might stop using and abusing their substance.
Of course. No one is flawless.
Maybe your new love is not the perfect physical specimen. Maybe your new love isn’t the high-powered, successful professional that you always dreamed of. But this person is good.
This person is decent. This person can express their love and appreciation of you. This person is a listener. This person is open and honest. This person is fully adult and fulfills their responsibilities honorably.
And with each passing day, your love for them deepens and your appreciation of them grows along with the physical attraction.
Now, if that is settling, bring it on.
Mary Rizk, Transformative Coach – www.maryrizk.com
Many of the women I’ve worked with over the years who ended up marrying a narcissist say they were lured into the relationship by promises of what could be.
They almost always report that they witnessed one or more outbursts or temper tantrums before they got married which continued to increase afterwards. They went ahead with the marriage thinking that they were being too picky, or feeling they should give the guy a pass because everyone has a bad day once in a while.
They settled for surface traits rather than deeper qualities.
Surface qualities such as good looks, charm, a glib conversationalist, and super protectiveness can be delightful in a date, but can hide a narcissistic personality.
A man who creates a picture of a perfect life of wealth, fancy vacations and promises to give you everything you’ve always wanted may be creating a fantasy for himself as well as you.
Working with couples for so many years, I’ve discovered that the deeper qualities of caring, listening, validating, being supportive of your abilities and dreams, and a good work ethic end up being much more valuable over time.
In recent surveys, women have listed a variety of qualities that they would want in a partner: Honesty, consideration, kindness, dependability, appreciation, respect, a sense of security, and unconditional love.
Almost every guy will have these qualities some of the time.
- Does your guy have them consistently, even when the situation is difficult?
- Can you depend on him to be level-headed and helpful in a crisis?
- Does he show caring and respect even when he doesn’t agree with you?
A life-long relationship will have many ups and downs, do you see him as being able to compromise and work together as a team?
If you’re making excuses to yourself or your friends about your man’s behaviors, better look again.
Consider if you would want to spend your life dealing with these reactions. What if those behaviors get worse or more frequent?
The deeper you get into a relationship, the more stresses you will have to face together.
- Do you find yourself having to appease his emotional demands when, in fact, you need to face the current stressor together as a team?
- Does he always need to get his way or he pouts or blows up?
- Does he put you down or dismiss your ideas, needs, and contributions?
Don’t settle for someone who is not consistently good to you.
Is it unrealistic to expect a man to be considerate, caring and respectful even when he’s upset? I think it’s perfectly realistic if you want to have a life free from chaos, turbulence, and emotional damage.
If he doesn’t meet your criteria now, it is highly unlikely that his behavior will improve when he no longer feels he has to impress you.
Margalis Fjelstad, Ph.D., LMFT – www.margalistherapy.com
No relationship is perfect and I definitely haven’t met anyone whose mate meets that long vision board list.
Being realistic in love is saying: “I recognize this is who they are, and I choose to accept and not expect to change it”. So often we settle because we don’t feel or believe we are worthy of having a relationship as close to our dream as possible.
In a relationship, if you are saying to yourself, “I’m going to be with this person until something better comes along”, or if you are feeling that something is “missing” in your relationship, you are settling.
Being realistic in relationships is seeing, understanding and accepting people’s vulnerabilities (including your own) and collaborating with that person to create something that fulfills both of you.
For instance, I dated this man for a while and he was hiding that he was a smoker from me.
When he finally confessed, he asked me if that was a deal-breaker and I replied “no”. In reality, it actually was a deal-breaker for me. It just wasn’t the smoking . . . it was all of the habits connected to smoking that I chose not to settle for.
You are settling if you keep trying to change the person, spend your time wishing that major personality traits will change, or keep hoping that the relationship was different.
It’s time to claim your worth and receive a relationship that is the best match for you.
Jennifer Urezzio, Master Intuitive – www.soullanguage.us
Do you know what you are looking for in a guy?
- Are you confused about what’s right for you?
- Are you always wanting what you can’t have?
- Striving for better, thinking the grass is greener on the other side?
This will keep you running around in circles, but getting nowhere and it certainly won’t get you a relationship. Sometimes we find it’s all about the game, the hunt, the capture – and once we’ve got our prey we’re no longer interested in them. Men are sometimes guiltier of this than women.
Instead, give the one you’re with a chance, by sincerely examining what your interests are, what you each dislike and like, what you want out of a relationship and you may find that the one you’re with is truly the right one.
I guess I’m talking about being more tolerant and accepting. It can’t hurt and it may get you your Mr. Right! It means being realistic that no one is perfect and that your “long-desired fantasy man “may not really be out there.
When you are being realistic, you let go of those childish ideas of the perfect relationship and your white knight whisking you away and living happily ever after.
Of course, you want to be happy, but the future isn’t perfect and there will be ups and downs in any relationship.
So are you settling by being with someone who gives you what you want, but doesn’t appear to be the man of your dreams?
Maybe not. Look for someone who shares your values, treats you well, loves you for who you are and who you love, too.
Look for a man who has the qualities you are looking for in a long-term relationship, ie: honesty, sincerity, integrity, humor, acceptance, respect, tolerance, understanding, responsibility, empathy, stability, etc.
This is the person you want in your life and while he may not possess all that you hope for, he should possess many of these “must-have” qualities for you to be happy.
You are not settling, but being realistic that no one is perfect, but you want someone to at least try to satisfy your needs because he loves you and cares for you.
Of course, you will do the same, and this imperfect partnership could lead to a perfectly happy relationship that lasts!
Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com
It can be really hard to tell the difference between a realistic expectation for a relationship and settling for a relationship that you don’t really want.
I think it’s important to be realistic about the level of satisfaction and happiness that you experience in your relationship. If your not happy, it really doesn’t matter whether you’re being realistic or settling.
We all know that relationships require compromise.
Nobody gets everything they want. But compromises need to result in agreements that you can live with. You actually have to feel good about a compromise even if it engenders some disappointment.
The compromise needs to feel fair, and it shouldn’t be only one person always making the compromise. That’s not compromising; that’s avoiding conflict by giving in.
Knowing what you want for yourself and for a relationship makes it easier to know when you are settling.
Telling yourself that something’s not that important when it really is, or making excuses for anything that really isn’t ok with you is a bad idea. Feeling bullied in any way to give in is also a big red flag.
Certain issues cannot be compromised on.
These involve matters of character and principle. There are some life-style choices that probably shouldn’t be negotiated through compromise. Although you can compromise on how many kids to have, you can’t compromise on whether or not to have them at all. If you want kids, or you don’t want kids that decision will change your life.
I think people who are desperate to be in a relationship are at risk for settling.
You can convince yourself of almost anything if you are unwilling or afraid to be alone. Ask any unhappily married couple; they will tell you that sharing your life with the wrong person is worse than being alone.
I always tell my clients that they need to learn to enjoy themselves and feel ok on their own.
The ability to be alone is the best recipe for not settling for the wrong person. Once you have settled for the wrong person you’re pretty much out of the game. You won’t be available when the right person comes along. You will be spending your life making do with the wrong person.
Sally LeBoy, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com
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