It can be difficult to tell when you’re just being realistic about love and when you’re actually settling for less than you deserve. If you’re considering settling down with someone, it’s important to be able to make the distinction. If you’re unsure if you’re settling or just being practical about what to expect out of a relationship, here are 8 ways to tell the difference:
- You’re being realistic if you engage in compromise; you’re settling if you always make the sacrifices. Being in a relationship doesn’t mean getting your way all the time, but it does mean that both parties need to bend a little bit. If you’re always the one making sacrifices, you’re definitely settling, because love only works when both people engage in compromising.
- You’re being realistic if you’re letting go of what younger you wanted; you’re settling if you’re letting go of what future you wants. You’re not going to marry an astronaut or a pop star, who cares? Letting go of childish ideals is part of growing up. Your love might not be dashingly handsome or own a castle with a moat, but it could be a lifelong romance non the less. On the other hand, you’re probably settling if picking this man means you’re letting go of what you currently want for your future self. There’s no reason to give up on your dreams, because with the right guy, you can have love and achieve your goals.
- You’re being realistic if you can be open and honest with your friends and family about relationship problems; you’re settling if you’re being secretive or ashamed. The reality is there are issues in every relationship. There are days when everything your boyfriend says will annoy the crap out of you. If you can vent to your friends and family about these annoyances, then these issues might just be normal, tiny things. If your issues make you feel ashamed or embarrassed to the point where you’re being secretive, that’s definitely a red flag. The right guy would never make you feel that way, and you shouldn’t settle for a relationship with problems this big.
- You’re being realistic if you’re excited about a less than perfect future together; you’re settling if you’re afraid of a future apart. The future isn’t going to be perfect. If you’re OK with this because you’re excited about a future together even if it isn’t ideal, you’re just being realistic. If you’re alright with a less than perfect future only because you’re afraid of a life without him, you’re probably settling. No good relationship involves fear of any kind, and being afraid will definitely cloud your ability to see how good your relationship is.
- You’re being realistic if you sometimes take the back seat; you’re settling if you’re never supported. You can’t be the shining start of your relationship all the time, but neither can your boyfriend. If he can’t stand supporting you while you take the front seat, you’re settling for less than you deserve. You’re not just someone’s support, you’re their partner and their equal. If you’re not both supporting each other, he’s just taking advantage of you.
- You’re being realistic if you take responsibility for your own happiness; you’re settling if he gets in the way of it. It’s not always going to be sunshine and rainbows, but he shouldn’t be the cause of all your sad days. You can’t expect your partner to make you smile all the time if you’re not putting the effort in to be content yourself, but he shouldn’t get in the way of your happiness either. There’s a big difference between not making you happy all the time and making you unhappy.
- You’re being realistic if you factor each other into your goals and aspirations; you’re settling if you have to choose between the relationship and your dreams. There’s nothing wrong with factoring each other into your life choices, as long as you’re both doing it. If it’s just an ultimatum where you have to pick the guy or your dreams, you’re settling. Mr. Right wouldn’t ask you to choose, he’d help you figure out another way, or understand if you two just can’t be physically together right now.
- You’re being realistic if you put some effort into your sex life; you’re settling if he’s given up on your mind-blowing O. It’s not immediate bedroom fireworks for everyone the first time they go at it. If your partner needs a little experience and instruction to get you there, that’s not reason to bail out on the relationship. However, if he’s just rolling over and passing out, leaving you unsatisfied, you’re settling for an undesirable sex life. It’s going to be a long lifetime together if he’s not willing to learn how to please you, and you’ll most likely end up losing all interest in him sexually. If you want your guy to give you a mind-blowing orgasm, don’t settle for someone who won’t even try.
What’s the difference between settling and just being comfortable?
- You don’t question it. It’s a bit like those “am I gay?” articles that some of us spent our early teens trawling through. If you’re asking the question in the first place, you more than likely already know the answer. Most people that are just settling in love don’t question it. If you’re emotionally literate and you have a degree of self-knowledge, you will ask these questions at all stages of your relationship. Nothing good comes from leaving a relationship alone or presuming that everything’s fine just because you think it is. Having regular relationship check-ins ensures that you’re both having to consider the other person. It’s a built-in way of ensuring that you have good communication. Asking questions is natural. In fact, most people ask the most searching questions of themselves when they’re happiest because we’ve all been trained to mistrust the good things that happen to us. Go figure.
- Your friends are worried. This is a clear sign that you’re settling in love. The people who care about you in your life will always notice when you’re happy or if you’re unfulfilled. You might think that you’re unknowable and stoic, but a lot of the time the people who are important have a pretty good read on us. If they’re worried, ask them why. See what the perspective is outside the relationship.
- You don’t feel happy. Defining happiness is a bit like trying to catch toxic slime – it’s slippery and generally ill-advised. That said, it’s one of those gut-reaction emotions that you generally know when it’s there, but it takes longer to realize when it’s not. A bit like when you realize you’ve been gritting your teeth for the past three days. You only realize when you get relief. If that’s how you feel about your relationship, be kind to yourself and unpack your emotions. If not happiness, what are you feeling?
- You don’t doubt yourself. This means that you’re comfortable. Remember, comfort isn’t the same thing as settling. Settling is staying in a relationship that you know doesn’t fulfill you emotionally or aspirationally just because it’s the safest thing. Comfort doesn’t mean that you don’t still have an exciting or adventure-filled relationship. If you feel free and comfortable, you won’t be doubting yourself. Asking questions is natural and healthy, but continually lingering on negative emotions or resentment isn’t. You might worry about the future or have general stress about what your relationship might look like in the future, but you aren’t questioning your decision to be in one.
- You define yourself by their inferiority. One sign of settling in love is a power imbalance. One person has more control and authority than the other. It might even be that one person is more successful which forces the other person into the position of inferiority. This is just a power trip and not a relationship. You might feel content in this position of superiority, but if the only reason you stay in the relationship is to feel good about yourself at their expense, that’s settling. It’s also mean.
- You’re embarrassed by them. This means you’re settling in love. You should be proud of your partner. End of. If you dread going anywhere with them because you’re afraid they’re going to show you up or act out, that’s not good. Get out now.
- You feel stuck. Sometimes it takes saying it out loud to articulate the feelings you have bottled up for months. It’s damning evidence, though.
- You can’t imagine life outside them. I don’t mean that you can’t live without them – I mean the opposite. You have become so stuck in their unambitious lifestyle that you’re trapped and it’s brutal. Your progress is arrested and you’re dragged down by them.
How to avoid settling in love
- Put together a relationship pros and cons list. Sometimes you have to be pushed into action, and a pros and cons list will show you the undeniable truth of whether or not your current relationship (if you’re in one) is actually working. If on your cons list you find yourself listing things like low self-esteem, depression, isolation, or self-pity, it’s high time to get out.
- Stop believing in the fairytale. When you believe in Prince Charmings and happy endings, you’re more likely to excuse a guy’s BS because the fairytale rhetoric tells you it’ll all work out in the end. You believe he’ll change and turn into your perfect guy, but that’s never going to happen. You have to live in the real world and act accordingly.
- Don’t second guess your gut feeling. If your instinct is to run in the opposite direction from a guy you’re seeing, why on earth would you stick around? Your intuition exists for a reason—it’s there to help guide you and to protect you. Knowing something is wrong but keeping on with it anyway is just asking for trouble.
- Give yourself the love you’re missing. This a very empowering step to walking away and recovering from a relationship built on settling. What a guy can’t offer you, you’re fully equipped to give yourself. As you start filling that void, the question of worthiness diminishes and you discover and develop a new power. Knowing what you deserve and treating yourself accordingly will give you the clarity you need in all relationships.
- If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. He could be the nicest guy in the world—respectful, funny, thoughtful, the whole nine yards—but you’re just not feeling it and you can’t figure out why. Frankly, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you walk away now. If it doesn’t feel right in the beginning, it won’t suddenly start to down the line.
- Listen to what your partner is doing. If you express your needs and desires to your partner and he continues to fail to meet them, that’s telling you everything you need to know about the relationship. It’s pretty cut and dry: if you stay with him, you’re settling. There’s someone out there who won’t see you as a burden or your relationship as too much hard work. This guy ain’t it.
- Meditate, meditate, meditate. It seems silly, but meditating keeps you in the present and centered in how you feel. Sitting with your emotions creates a balance between your heart and mind, providing the opportunity to make sound decisions from a place of power. Chaos only works within chaos. It doesn’t operate in peace.
- Jump into advice mode. Another great way to see through your own delusion is to imagine what you’d tell your sister or BFF if they were in a similar situation. When it comes to giving advice, we’re ready to spill out everything our intuition is saying. It’s not always easy to follow our own advice, but it would serve us well if we did.
- Face your fear. There’s a fear holding you to this unfulfilling dynamic. Is it rejection? Abandonment? These tend to be deep-seated issues that existed before your relationship, but your relationship has brought them to life and exacerbated them. If you want to move on, you have to relinquish your fears. Once you do this, your life will get so much better.
- Don’t give up on your life. That includes your hobbies, friends, talents, and goals. These are the things that serve as the bones of who you are. They make you unique, special, and whole. If you feel like you’ve already given that up and have no idea who you are anymore, it’s time to rediscover her and never let her go again.