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How To Know If You are Settling For Less in a Relationship – 8 Relationship Experts Share Their Best Tips + Insights

How To Know If You are Settling For Less in a Relationship

“Ten years from now, make sure you can say that you CHOSE your life, you didn’t SETTLE for it.”

~ Mandy Hale

Mandy Hale Chose Your Life and Did Not Settle For it
Teresa Petersen Mendoza

When dating, many people get stuck in the cycle of “Could I be doing better?” This can lead to endless turnover in relationships every few months. I advise people consider three key aspects when evaluating their relationships.

1. Are these normal relationship growing pains? 

The fuzzy haze of lust eventually gives way to the realities of managing an ongoing relationship. Are you bumping up against learning his annoying habits or are you having problems with conflicting core values?

2. Does he encourage you to be your best self? 

If he seems to embrace who you are now, and encourages you to pursue the things in life that will lead you to be even better, then he may be the right guy for you. Great partners encourage us to be the best version of ourselves.

3. Is he your best friend? 

Over the years, we get used to the good looks and the material aspects of life with someone. What keeps couples together is that connection that comes from just loving to spend time with your partner.

Evaluating your relationship is important when dating. 

But don’t ditch out just because you hit a couple of bumps in the road. Leave the space for your relationship to adapt and grow. Talk about the issues you notice. If he’s willing to discuss them and adjust with you, he’s already the better guy!

Teresa Petersen Mendoza, MS, LMFT – www.linkedin.com/in/teresapetersen

Amanda Patterson

A common theme of the blog posts I write is about the need to have a vision. 

It doesn’t need to be a static list of ten checkpoints; however it’s important to have a specific idea of what you are looking for. This will help guide you to determine if you are settling in a situation or you are getting what you want. It’s also important to incorporate things you are willing to compromise on and things that are deal breakers for you.

Create a vision of what you are looking for in a relationship

You can create a vision board, a list or a paragraph style vision. Put this vision somewhere you see it on a regular basis, as a reminder and a tool for manifestation.

Create a list of deal breakers

You need to know the things you are not willing to deal with in a relationship. The clearer you are on this item, the easy it will be for you to make decisions when men have them.

Create a list of areas you are willing to compromise on

There are going to be things that you didn’t imagine would be part of your relationship but that you are willing to accept and love. Maybe you aren’t a sports fan but you are willing to go to football games and wear his favorite jersey in support of the team. Again , being clear on your compromise list will help you find what you are looking for.

Take time to evaluate your current situation and make a decision

Taking some time to take stock and inventory of your current relationship is going to be a paramount step, especially if there is a part of you that doesn’t know if you are settling. Sometimes people need a clear mind in order to make decisions. Set aside some time for you to evaluate the current status of your relationship.

Having a journal you use on a regular basis is important for you to be able to look into each of the action items . 

Talking to a trusted friend or therapist is another way to keep accountable and get some feedback. 

Be sure to have a healthy process to make decisions and in no time you will be able to figure out whether you are settling or if this is the kind of relationship worth staying in.

Amanda Patterson, LMHC – www.amandapattersonlmhc.com

Becky Bringewatt

You’ve been around the block a few times, and you know that relationships are difficult to navigate. 

Maybe you’ve been in some bad situations even, or situations you thought could go badly. Maybe you’ve even taken a break to re-set and find out what you want.

You’re in a relationship that’s pretty good, and even great sometimes, but you wonder if there’s something better out there, if you’re settling because you’re afraid you couldn’t find something better. 

Or maybe you’re tired of looking and feel like you don’t have a lot of time left to figure this out. How do you know?

We all have difficult patches when we are stressed or don’t feel so loving towards our partners. 

We don’t always feel that incredible draw we did at the beginning of the relationship where we can’t stand to be apart. But then we settle into a groove of daily life. 

If your groove has become a rut, find a way to change it up. 

Go on a weekend vacation without cell phones or do something fun and different together for an evening. See how you feel after that.

If you feel stuck in the rut, it might be time to talk about what’s happening and see if you’re staying in the relationship because it’s comfortable and it’s what you know. 

Maybe you both feel the same way. 

Maybe you’ve actually grown beyond this relationship and what you needed from this person when you started. 

It’s sometimes hard to make a change when nothing is particularly wrong. 

And it’s important to finish one relationship before embarking on another, or even looking. You’re more likely to jump into a similarly dissatisfying relationship if you don’t do this with good intent.

Honestly, there’s probably always something better. You can search and search and never feel complete, you can see greener grass everywhere you look if you look hard enough.

I think the easiest way to know if you’re in the right relationship is to ask yourself the following questions.

  • Do you light up when your partner walks into the room.
  • Do you look forward to spending time together?
  • Do you imagine growing old with this person beside you?
  • Do you feel safe in this relationship?
  • Do you know this person is looking out for your best interests as much as their own?
  • Do you smile right now just thinking about them? Trust your gut – it always knows.

Becky Bringewatt, MA, LPC, NCC – www.mantiscounselingandcoaching.com

Margie Ulbrick

I love the quote wherever you go, there you are! 

Relationships do well when we focus on being the best person we can be. 

When the focus is not on ‘what can I get but how can I give’. And of course the old saying the grass is always greener is never truer than in the relationship arena. 

Together with this goes the fact that relationships are often based on a fair bit of fantasy, at least the ones we create in our heads, the ones where we imagine the other person is pretty perfect. 

So, this question about settling poses some interesting paradoxes. 

When you focus on the being part of your relationship and on the giving at least as much as the receiving, and it still leaves you unhappy, how do you know whether to leave or stay, raise your standards and request better, or perhaps you need to understand and have compassion for your partner’s foibles as well as your own? 

We never know what will happen in future relationships and so it’s impossible to know if we can do better.

So, perhaps the easiest way is to bring it back to the matter of personal integrity.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are your relationship values and how are they being met in this relationship?
  • Do you compromise on fundamental things that cost you too deeply in terms of compromising what you know in your heart to be true?
  • Do you stand up for what you believe in and are you able to request changes that you know are necessary in order for the relationship and for the people in it to grow?

Don’t spend too much time comparing this relationship with past ones because the reality is you are possibly different now too or this relationship might have burdens and stressed that another didn’t. 

But use all of your experience and wisdom to follow your heart and to listen to your integrity. 

Discern between what is fantasy and what is real. 

Decide what you can tolerate and what you cannot. Assert what you need and face the truth about whether or not things can change. Work for the change you need and hold true to your inner knowing about what you want.

Margie Ulbrick, LLB/BA/GD SOCSCI – www.margieulbrickcounselling.com

Judy Hansen

The human longing for complete fulfillment in a relationship is a never-ending quest for a mirage. 

What I mean is that no one person can completely fulfill another’s hopes, dreams and longings. Whenever someone puts that much weight on a single person, it is doomed to fail. As humans, we simply cannot bear so great a weight from another without crumbling.

At the same time, we often settle into relationships that are destructive to our souls because they are familiar and “comfortable”. 

They fit us like well-worn clothing because all we have known is abuse and neglect. To consider being with another who treats us well, who respects our boundaries and who is kind, might strangely feel like scratchy, stiff clothing, so we say, “no thanks!”

Here is the question: is what you are experiencing as a lack, really something created by too great a demand for the other to meet your needs? 

Or is it because you know deep in your soul that your comfort in crazy is skewed and you long to be in a relationship that is healthy, even if you are unsure what that means?

Begin by doing a little soul searching: 

  • Reflect on the general culture of your circle of influence. Is it large or essentially nonexistent? 
  • Encouraging or discouraging? 
  • Do you often feel safe or unsafe? 
  • Do you rely solely on one person to meet most or all your needs? 

These questions are the beginning steps to seeing needed change.

Having a large circle of influence that is encouraging, where you feel safe and where you can go to when you are feeling lonely and needing comfort and support, is a healthy way to live. However, getting there from a place of lack is not easy. 

Begin by joining a social group, a church organization, or start your own small group around a book discussion.

As you interact with a wider group of individuals, you will have a greater chance of seeing healthier interactions, form new friendships and find support when you need it. It also has the potential to open doors of creativity, expand your worldview and offer you a more balanced view of relationships.

Judy Hansen, MA, LPCC – www.powerforlivingtherapy.com

Ileana Hinojosa

We often settle because we are comfortable where we are at and change is work. 

Settling means that it is easier to accept what you know rather than explore your potential to change and grow. 

If you settle for something then at least you know what to expect for the most part. 

There is always a risk if you leave a relationship that you may be alone for a while or meet a few more frogs before you meet the one that is for you. 

Dating and meeting new people is work. Change and growing as a person is work. What happens when you are growing and your partner is not? 

If you stay because it is safe, that is settling.

Do not settle and be resentful because you think the grass is greener on the other side. 

It is important to remember that if you choose to stay, you should not blame your partner for your choice. It you are restless in the relationship, then that is a red flag. 

If the relationship is just not working for you, please don’t settle because you are afraid of the unknown. 

If you settle, you are not only cheating yourself, but you are cheating your partner of finding someone that appreciates what he has to offer. Just like you would want someone that appreciates what you have to offer.

There is a saying, “You learn to love what is good for you.” Sometimes, the man you are with may not be the shiniest marble in the bunch, but he is good for you. 

Ask yourself if your needs are being met in the relationship. 

  • Can you be healthy within the confines of the relationship? 
  • Is there balance between your needs and his ability to meet those needs? 
  • What is the excitement that you are looking for and can you work with your partner to spice it up so that you get that need met? 

If the answer to these questions is yes, then your focus should be on nurturing the relationship that you have. 

Give your partner the opportunity to be the man he needs to be for you.

There is nothing wrong with being satisfied with what you have. At the same time, if what you have is not healthy for you, then it may be time to re-evaluate where you are at in the relationship. 

When you settle, you are not honoring yourself. 

No one likes change because the outcome is uncertain. There is risk in changing and challenging what you know. At the same, when you settle, you deny your own potential to be the best version of yourself that you can be.

Don’t be afraid. 

You have the capacity to manage change and uncertainty. You made it this far. Do things in a way that honors who you are. Be honest with yourself and take a chance if that is what is calling you. 

Evaluate your relationship and determine if there is potential to grow side by side with your partner. 

You will never know what the future might hold, but it is up to you to decide what kind of future you want. You will find that when you move in the direction of growth and staying in your integrity, you will attract what you need and the doors to those opportunities that you are looking for will open.

Ileana Hinojosa, MLA, LMFT – www.themindfullife.net

Amy Sherman

When you are dating, but are constantly looking for someone or something better, you know you have a problem. 

After all, you think the “grass is greener” somewhere else. 

The truth is, you are searching for what may be impossible — your prince charming to take you away. Be realistic and really look at what’s keeping you from giving yourself totally to the partner you have now. 

Here are some things to consider:

1. Be aware of your past and any unresolved baggage, which would sabotage your present relationship. 

Identify your feelings of anger, hurt, pain, guilt, and disillusionment and accept these feelings as lessons learned. It then becomes easier to be realistic about the challenges of a new relationship.

2. It is your responsibility to be all you can be when you enter a relationship. 

Therefore, avoid “fairy-tale” thinking. Dependency and neediness are not attractive qualities, so don’t assume anyone can meet all your needs or desires.

3. Be aware of your expectations. 

Are your demands about weight, age, height, financial success and other factors limiting your ability to find the right partner who you will love and appreciate? You must be flexible, objective and fair in your expectations, so you don’t set yourself up for disappointment.

4. Successful relationships are built on mutual respect. 

Therefore, the more you focus on negative aspects of your partner, the more you will deny yourself the positive, attractive aspects you noticed when you first started dating.

5. You, obviously, want a partner with good character, but don’t dismiss those individuals who fall a little short. 

Sometimes, you have to be flexible and accept those flaws that are not “that bad,” because everything else is terrific. You decide what you will accept, because the end result will be a match that you want, feel good about and know is right for you!

6. You probably know that if you don’t like who and what you see in the mirror, it will be difficult to convey your value to your dating partners. 

It’s all about feeling and acting confident. If you are having problems feeling good about yourself as a prospective relationship partner, don’t bother moving ahead with dating just yet. Instead take the time to find a counselor you can talk to. Join a support group. Do the inner work to grow your self-esteem; then test the waters on a few dates. You’ll be amazed at the difference in your results!

7. Not every happy and lasting relationship started with love at first sight. 

Studies have proven that many people marry someone who they were not that interested in, at first. Many times it is after dating someone for a couple of months, you start to realize what you really have. People get better looking, more interesting and more charming the more you know them. Therefore, you don’t want to pass up one of the “great ones” because you discounted them too quickly.

Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com

Sally LeBoy

Settling for less than you want is never a good idea. 

That said, of course nobody is perfect so nobody gets everything they ever dreamed of in a partner. Only you know whether you are settling or making a reasonable compromise.

I think a good clue to know if you are settling for less than you want is if you are staying with the person out of fear. 

If you are insecure about your ability to attract a partner who is a person you can love, you are likely to settle for less so that you won’t be alone.

There’s a huge difference between a realistic understanding that nobody can provide everything, and clinging to an unsatisfactory relationship. 

Begin by asking yourself if you are happy. If the answer is no, you should probably be questioning the viability of the relationship. Ask yourself why you are unhappy. 

If those reasons point to a lack of mutual respect or a lack of common values and goals, you are probably settling. It’s also problematic if you are the one who does all of the work in the relationship.

While passion won’t fix a bad relationship, it’s usually an important component at least in the beginning. I always suggest you wait until you can think with your head before making a serious commitment. 

If you are talking yourself into doing without chemistry because he’s “a really great guy” you may be settling. Some women really can make a go of it with a man for whom they don’t feel any chemistry, but not many. We’re wired to need an attraction to launch a serious relationship.

If you have had problems in the past with men who have ignited your passion but have failed you in most other ways, try to remember that it doesn’t have to be either or. 

You can and should have both. Work on valuing yourself. Figure out why you have a problem feeling to entitled to a good man for whom you can also feel passion. 

If you are settling, it’s not because of them; it’s because of your own insecurities. Trust me; they are out there. You just need to trust that you deserve them.

Sally LeBoy, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com

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