Would you rather find an “okay” relationship right now or wait a few years and find one that fits like a glove?
Have you ever been in a relationship where you felt you were settling, or someone was settling for you? If so, you know how lackluster and soul-deflating it can feel. Yet these relationships can be hard to escape from because you wonder:
- Maybe this is the best I can do?
- Am I asking for too much?
- Maybe this is love and people who claim to have found their unequivocal “person” are making things up?
If you’re asking yourself things like this, you’re probably settling. And it’s okay. Most of us have done it, sometimes repeatedly. Settling is alluring because it’s safe. It’s a comfortable alternative to living in the terrifying unknown of being single and hoping that what you want is out there…somewhere. It’s a way of protecting yourself from loneliness.
I know all of this because I settled. Repeatedly. I was terrified of being alone forever, so I decided that I was a “cool girl” could deal with anything that came my way.
- I settled for low-effort interest like intermittent check-in texts and watching my Instagram stories, but never showing real initiative.
- I settled for ambivalence and confusion — he was so into me, but now he’s distant, but he’ll come around. Right? Right?!
- I settled for poor communication and inconsistency because I told myself I was “chill” and could deal with lateness, missed commitments, and no follow-through.
- I settled for people I wasn’t attracted to, but they were nice so I thought that should be enough.
- I settled for love that looked good on paper but made my soul feel parched and uninspired.
I’ve settled a lot in dating and love and after finally meeting someone who I don’t have to settle for at all, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to settle either. This is not to say that you should be so rigid that you expect perfection. Everyone you date will have flaws and baggage, of course! But you can and should be discerning enough to choose someone who feels like your version of perfect.
Below are a few actionable ways to help you stop settling in love.
Be Ruthlessly Picky About What Matters to You
If you’ve been single for a while, you’ve probably heard some variation of you’re too picky, maybe you should lower your standards from well-meaning friends or family. So the temptation can be to do just that — compromise on things that are really important to you because you think that’s your only option. It’s not. The opposite is actually true.
The more ruthlessly picky you are about values and traits that are really important to you, the quicker you can sort through the wrong people to eventually find the right one.
Again this doesn’t mean being so picky that you sort everyone out, it simply means that you get clear on what matters to you, and you’re ruthlessly picky about that. If you know that you absolutely need someone who is honest, goofy, loves the outdoors, and wants kids, then you must not settle for less. You found an outdoorsman but he’s really stoic and serious? Next. You found someone who makes you laugh but she doesn’t want kids? Next. Your standards are never too high if they represent what truly matters to you.
Walk Away at the First Red Flag
Red flags can be obvious, like commitment issues, cheating, emotionally abusive tendencies, or extreme insecurity. And they can also be more subtle, like words and actions not matching up, a weak sense of self, or controlling tendencies that trickle out with time. Either way, red flags are typically easier to spot than they are to accept. Because if you really like someone, it’s a tough pill to swallow that certain traits of theirs are dealbreakers. But the truth is, the first red flag is often an early indicator for more.
The type of person you’ll end up with shouldn’t have any dealbreakers, so it’s better to cut your losses when you discover a red flag, rather than waiting around hoping that it’ll be the only flag, and that the person will change.
Change is possible, yes, but it can be a long and arduous process, and waiting around for it is usually futile or extremely frustrating. In almost all cases, it’s better to just accept red flags for the dealbreakers they are, move on, and wait for someone who’s red-flag-free.
Know What You Bring to the Table
This is also known as “know your worth”. One reason you may be settling is that you don’t think you can do better. You underestimate and undersell yourself, so you end up compromising because you don’t believe you deserve what you really want. But you do deserve it! You want what you want for good reason(s).
A great way to combat this self-underestimation is to make an honest list of all of your good qualities. What makes you a great partner, or even a good person in general? This could look like: I’m fiercely loyal, I’m an honest and caring communicator, I’m passionate about everything I do, I love to cook for people I care about, I’m curious about people around me, I’m a good listener, etc.
Once you start cataloging all your good qualities, you’ll probably start to notice that you are a lot of what you’re asking for!
And if or when you do spot areas where you’re not measuring up to the type of person you’d want to date, then you can note that and start working on developing those qualities in yourself. It’s a win-win strategy!
Learn to Trust Your Feelings
Your feelings are your friend. They are your emotional guidance system. But it’s often a habit to side-step how you feel because it doesn’t make sense at the time, or you’re headstrong and your feelings and what you think you want are at odds. You know those times when you had a niggling feeling about someone, but you pushed past it and it later turned out to be spot-on? These are examples of when your feelings had important information for you.
Listening to your feelings can clue you into relationship incompatibilities that you might otherwise overlook.
If you stop pushing away your feelings for not immediately making sense, or for being unpleasant, or for making you question your “good enough” relationship, you’ll notice that you often know that someone isn’t right for you long before you choose to act on it. Your feelings are actually trying to help you not settle because they’ll tell you when it feels wrong. All you have to do is pay attention.
Be Patient (Sorry It’s True)
Oh boy, this is never what you want to hear. Yeah yeah, I get it, good things come to those who wait. But truthfully this might be both the most important piece of advice here and the most challenging to adhere to. Patience sounds helpful in theory but is extraordinarily difficult in practice, especially when everyone around you seems to be coupled up and you’re left wondering if you’re going to be the one exception to finding a happily ever after. So you’re tempted to settle for the “good enough” that’s right in front of you.
But the question you have to ask yourself is — would you rather find an “okay” relationship right now or wait a few years and find one that fits like a glove?
What if you could trust that what you wanted was out there and it may just take a while to find? If so, a few months or years doesn’t really matter because you’ll get what you want in the end. You’re on your own timeline and it’s exactly right for you. There is no rush when it comes to finding your forever person.
The truth is, settling helps no one. Not you, not the person you’re settling for (or the person who’s settling for you). It will eventually lead to dissatisfaction and restlessness for both of you because there’s that small, quiet part of you that knows there has got to be something better out there. Something better than lukewarm. Better than almost good enough. Better than “you’ll do”.
Trust that small, quiet voice. Trust that what you want is out there and you can do better than settling.