Settling for less than you want in a relationship can be dangerous?and this is why.
Photo by Johnny Cohen on Unsplash
by: E.B. Johnson
When it comes to relationships, settling is one of those words we don?t like to hear. And it?s especially one of those words we don?t like to think about. To settle means to give up, and it means to be with partner who is neither in love or invested in the same future that you are. When we settle on partners and relationships, we give up on better things that might otherwise have brought us joy and meaning. To ensure we avoid this mistake, we have to understand what makes us engage in this self-destructive behavior in the first place.
The pressure to settle down and get a boyfriend, girlfriend, partner or spouse is very real. As children, we think of ?soulmates? as the ultimate goal, and as adults this doesn?t necessarily change. We become so obsessed with meeting this goal that we often lose sight of ourselves, losing touch with what we both want and need, while burrowing down with people who provide neither. If we are truly seeking to create fulfilling lives that are our own, we have to let go of this desperate need to find someone at all costs, and start falling in love with ourselves; something which takes both time, patience and understanding to unlock.
Settling for less than we need.
Settling is a complex subject, and one that elicits many different opinions from many different people. Our mothers came from an age when settling was all that had, but modern life is much, much different. These days, we are (mostly) the masters of our own destinies, and that means creating the relationships and circumstances in this life that make us feel fulfilled. When we do find ourselves settling for less than we want, however, it can lead to some serious consequences both romantically and emotionally.
Settling isn?t the same as accepting someone?s flaws. It isn?t a noble martyrdom. It?s trapping yourself in something that makes you unhappy, and it?s doing so for little more than insecurity, fear or a dependence on the opinions of other people. It?s a toxic thing to do, and it?s something that?s completely preventable when you know who you are and become determined to live life on your own terms.
While the journey to self-determination may not always seem like an easy one, it is a worthwhile one. Realizing that we are settling is the beginning of a process that unlocks a life that is entirely our own. Getting there requires embracing our fears, however, and embracing all the other facets of the journey both hard and easy; pleasant and unpleasant. If you feel stuck, scared or chained to someone that just isn?t right ? read on. You can go-it on your own again and create a life that?s yours when you know how to do it correctly.
What it looks like.
There are a number of signs that you might be settling for less than you deserve in this life and in your relationships. Whether you?re filling up the space in your life with justifications and excuses, or you?re just racking up the endless irritations ? our inner self has a funny way of telling us when enough is enough, but we have to tune in and listen closely to get the message.
Justification is a funny thing, and one of the most common coping mechanisms we activate when we know we?re settling for less than we deserve. You might try to convince yourself that you and your partner are happy, or that things are progressing naturally ? even when they?re clearly not. Or, you might tell yourself that this is just how life is and that your partner has a right to be totally wrong for you. Only when we drop justifying where we?re at can we get honest about what we actually want.
Do you find that it takes a tremendous amount of effort for you to interact with your partner? Do you find yourself preparing mentally or emotionally before even putting yourself in the other person?s presence? This is one of the biggest tell-all signs that something isn?t right, and that you might be settling for someone who isn?t the right fit. Even in the lowest points of our relationships, it shouldn?t be a struggle to be around our partners. The right person is there for you always, and it always feels natural.
Inability to stop the comparisons
When we don?t have what we really want, our eyes are drawn to the outer world, where they find a sea of comparisons that don?t do anything to help our mental and emotional health. Thinking about someone else or thinking about what things could be like with them is a sign that you?re not getting what you want at home. While this could just be a temporary flaw in your partnership, it could also be a sign that you both would be better off in different circumstances, with different people.
Life moves quickly, and it draws us ever forward with its opportunities and temptations. When we?re truly content and getting what we need from our environment, this draw is less intense, and we?re happier to stay focused on the here and the now. When we?re not getting what we need, however (be that emotionally or physically) we keep seeking it, and that leads to a feeling of restlessness that can seriously undermine our longterm happiness and fulfillment.
All the complaints
As humans, we have a number of funny coping mechanisms that work to drive us toward what we need. These little mechanisms, however, can make it really hard for those around us ? especially those who don?t suit where we?re going. One such mechanism is complaining, which we use to signal displeasure to ap partner that isn?t doing something that we want. They can?t do anything right, and nothing that they do makes you feel attracted to or passionate about them anymore. It?s endless irritations, and a silly number of complaints that would otherwise not trouble you.
Why we do it.
We don?t just wake up and decide to settle for less than we deserve one day. It?s something that happens as a result of a number factors. Low self-esteem, naivety and even your financial dependence can leave you stuck in a rut and chained to a relationship that is neither healthy nor worthwhile. Getting free of our desperate need to settle requires digging deep, and getting honest about the reasons behind our need to be unhappy.
Low self-esteem is one of the most common reasons that we stick around long after things are no longer right. Feeling bad about ourselves, or thinking that we aren?t worthy, leads us to fall into the arms of people who aren?t right for us. And it keeps us stuck even after we realize they aren?t ?the one?. This is because low self-esteem forces us to believe that we deserve a poor life, or unhappiness. Something which just isn?t true?on any level.
Naivety is dangerous thing, especially when it comes to romantic relationshhips. When we allow ourselves to be blinded by innocent optimism, we make it easier to be taken advantage of. We also make it easier to keep ourselves stuck, settling for relationships that don?t suit our true purposes or happiness. This naivety might take the form of the belief that things will change or get better. Or, it might look a bit like someone who accepts things as they are ? no matter how bad ? in a type of ?expected martyrdom?.
Rose-tinted glasses are yet another reason that we hang around with partners and people that don?t have our best interests at heart. We might think our partner will change, or that we have the ability to change them. We might think things are better than they are or we might think that things are progressing naturally. Seeing things through rose-tinted glasses keeps us naive and helps to keep us stuck and unhappy.
Fear of being alone
Many of us stay in relationships that aren?t a great fit, because we think that if we let this person go, there will be no one else out there who will agree to love us. This is a completely ludicrous belief, however, as ? considering the fact that there are than 7 billion people on the planet ? there is literally someone out there for everyone. It?s a fear of being alone and, like all other fears, it destroys who we are.
Dependent or responsible
If you?re emotionally or financially dependent on someone, it can cause you to keep yourself chained to relationships that don?t actually serve your real happiness. Being dependent on someone, or feeling responsible for someone, keeps us sticking around long after things are longer working out. The trouble with this, however, is that it always leads to a further erosion of self and happiness.
Why it never works.
Though we might be led to believe that settling isn?t that bad, nothing could be further from the truth. Settling for anything in this life ? especially relationships ? is a bad and lazy habit to get into, and one that destroys our sense of self. If you?re struggling in this life and looking to be happy again, realize that settling never works.
You?re missing out on something real
In order to avoid settling you have to start thinking about your life in terms of real estate. Settling is giving up physical real estate in your life, and limiting the room and emotional space you have for other real and meaningful experiences and people. For example, if you keep yourself chained to a partner who is a poor fit ? you?re closing the door on the opportunity to meet the partner who?s the perfect fit. Settling is a bit like emotional squatting, which closes out any chance of turning that space into something fulfilling and successful.
The cravings will never stop
Just because you?ve allowed something else to take up physical space in your life does not mean that you will stop craving those intangible things you were searching for in the first place. When we settle, we don?t stop looking for the things we still want and need. Even though you might be in a committed relationship, the unhappiness will bubble to the surface and your eye will start to wander when you do find yourself in the vicinity of someone who has the qualities you need.
People don?t change for other people
Settling is a trap, and it?s one that often begins with the false belief that people can change?and you can be the one to change them. You can?t make your partner into the person you want. They can?t even make themselves into the dream partner you?ve been idealizing since you were a child. Not only does that person not exist, it?s not even possible to change the people around us. You can?t mold your partner into someone they aren?t, and you can?t control them or predict how they?ll fit into whatever future you have dreamed up. Are we possible of change? Sure. But only when we want that change for ourselves and we activate by ourselves.
Resentment, resentment, resentment
Perhaps one of the greatest dangers of settling in a relationship is the resentment that always results. When we don?t get what we need or want, it can lead to a number of emotions, least of which is not anger and dissappointment. You start to resent your partner, and then you start to resent yourself for getting trapped in the first place. You may even begini to resent the people who encouraged you to ?stay strong? or keep the relationship together, when you were clearly a poor fit in the first place.
Settling is a dangerous pattern to fall into, and it can seriously eat away at who we are and what we want. Sticking with someone who does not serve your needs or desires is unhealthy, and leads always to a questioning of self. When you spend all your time settling for less than you want, you start to believe that it?s all you deserve. And here sits the erosion of self-esteem that changes us dramatically from the inside out; destroying opportunities that we might have otherwise embraced.
Encouraging fear in your life
Being in an unhappy relationship is worse than being alone, because rather than empowering you to recognize your own inner strengths, it can undermine your physical and mental health. Settling encourages more fear and insecurity in our lives, and it creates the all-consuming belief that life is horrible because you are horrible. This downward spiral gets darker and darker, until you are consumed by shadow and followed everywhere by the fear that you will never be good enough or have enough to be happy.
How to stop settling and start creating the relationships you deserve.
If you?ve settled in the past, or even if you think you might be settling right now, the good news is that it can be changed. The first part of building the life that we want is realizing all the things that are holding us back or preventing us from engaging in the transformation we?re so desperately seeking. Once we?ve recognized these people and circumstances for who they are, we can dig deep and change them.
1. Ignite your self-awareness
The first step in getting authentic requires us to get real about what we want to do (and what we don?t). We have to be honest about who we are and what we want from this life, and we have to start building up the awareness we need to tap into our inner confidence. This takes spending time with ourselves, and digging deep into the meat of who we are on a regular basis.
A mindful journalling practice is a great place to start when it comes to getting in touch with our inner desires and emotions. Find a quiet space where you?ll be uninterrupted, and spend a few minutes each day asking yourself the important questions like, ?What do you want to have accomplished by the end of it all?? and ?What really matters to you?? Record your answers honestly, as they come, and don?t shy away from the truth they show you.
Only when we intimately get to know ourselves, and start recognizing the things that bring us happiness and the things that don?t, can we learn how to start forming the boundaries that will one day constitute the outer measures of our joy. Get real about what you actually want and what you don?t want in your environment. Be honest about your emotions, and be honest about the things you need in order to feel as though you are thriving.
2. Embrace all your gravest fears
Before you can leap into the unknown, you have to lean how to embrace your fears. We are all afraid of being alone, and we?ve all felt afraid that something within us isn?t ?good enough?. This isn?t reality, however, and when we embrace this commonality we can empower ourselves to reach for the things and people that are both more fulfilling and meaningful.
Accept that the fear of being single is normal. Accept that it?s uncomfortable, but accept too that it might be a better way to find something that fits you more accurately. Embrace all your insecurities, and all those fears in your past that has allowed you to remain chained to things that don?t give you what you need from this life.
Only when we learn how to embrace our fears and insecurities for what they are can we find the silver lining we need to transform them into strengths. Ask yourself: Is this how I want to live the rest of my life? In a continued cycle of self defeat? What do I really have to lose at this point?What?s so wrong with getting what you want? Realize that it?s much easier to face your fears than to spend time protecting them. Only by looking them in the eye and embracing your fears for what they are (and what they make you) can you find your way back to true joy.
3. Seek your passions
There is a lot of pressure from society to get ourselves into settled relationships and start procreating as quickly as possible. It?s not hard to get caught up in this pressure and lose sight of the things that matter, especially the things that matter only to you. When we lose sight of our passions and our joys ? in exchange for the pursuit of a ?soulmate? ? we lose sight of ourselves.
Seek the things that re-ignite the passions you once held in life. Lean into your friends and listen to them when they tell you the truths that you don?t want to hear. By reconnecting with the things and people (outside our relationships) that matter most, we can realize our worth once more and start to pursue the things that are more aligned with what we want.
Embrace all the pleasures that come with being entirely your own person. Take a class. Join a book club. Take that solo trip you?ve been talking about since college. Rather than scouring the world for other people, or folding yourself down into a shape that doesn?t fit, go after the things that make your heart sing. Reinstate your confidence and reconnect with the life that is lived entirely as you want it. Fill that hole in your heart with meaningful things, not people you wish were more meaningful to you.
4. Set some boundaries
Boundaries are an essential part of a happy, healthy life. Our boundaries form the basis of our security in this chaotic world, and they?re the primary means by which we protect ourselves from ne?er-do-wells and abusers who want nothing more than to take advantage of us in our weakest moments. If you think you?re stuck in a rut, lean on your boundaries to leverage your way out.
Your boundaries allow you to define your limits, and they also define the terms by which you interact with the world around you. If you?re struggling with someone manipulating your emotions, or pushing you around ? rework your boundary lines (slowly) and make it clear where the line stands for you.
In order to set workable boundaries for yourself, you first have to recognize that your needs matter and second that they are your responsibility. Take your time and create enough space between you and your abuser that you can honestly assess your feelings and needs. Once you?ve got your requirements to hand, communicate those needs to your partner in a frank and honest conversation that makes it clear you have a right to respect.
5. Don?t compromise your values
Whatever it was that led you to fall in love, take a few moments to reassess and realign yourself with the reality of the situation. Drop the delusions that led you to pine for someone and give yourself a set of terms (and a timer) that clearly defines when enough is enough. Within those terms, consider too where your values lie. If you truly want to stop settling, you?ve got to stop compromising your values ? especially when that comes to your romantic relationships.
Master the art of standing by your values by first getting comfortable with living transparently and authentically. Only when you are truly yourself can you channel the power you need to speak up and speak out when it really matters. Find your truth and stick with it. If something upsets you, clarify it. Start facing up and being deliberate about expressing what you want ? both to and for yourself.
You have to recognize your masochistic behaviors and stop self-harming yourself mentally and emotionally by sticking by the things that don?t suit. you. When the thoughts of worthlessness start seeping in, you have to come up with a dialogue that can counter it and turn it around. Tell yourself that you are as deserving of the things you want in this life as much as anyone else in the world and mean it. Take care of yourself and get to know the beautiful soul that you are inside and out.
6. Shift your thinking
Letting thoughts like ?I can?t? or ?I?m a failure? rule your life can cause you to lose touch with not only your self but your voice as well. Losing these things, we become completely detached from who we truly are and replace that wth negative thoughts and thought patterns. You have to replace that negative voice with a subtle, more loving one that compliments the things you actually do well, and let go of your need to meet your poorest expectations.
Transform your inner voice from one that tears you down to one that lifts you up. Find your own voice by transforming your inner voice, and little-by-little you?ll learn that you are the one that holds all the power over your own life.
The more you tune into that voice which raises up your strengths in song, the more you?ll come to realize that whispering longing that?s been within you all along. Your soul has been singing out for good things all this time, calling them on, but you?ve just been pulling up the tracks before it could arrive. Realize this by finding your voice and finding your way back to the powerful, authentic person that you truly are.
7. Align words and actions
After getting a better grip on who you are and what you want, you need to define your purpose and go after it with everything that you?ve got. Define what it is you want to communicate through your words, decisions and actions. Clearly identify also what it is you want to contribute to the world around you. You?ve got to give your life meaning to find meaning in your life. Pick a purpose and go after it like a dog on the scent. No one is stopping you but yourself.
Align your words with your actions, and apply them to your life in order to activate your boundaries. If you tell someone you won?t tolerate certain behaviors ? cut them out when they violate those wishes. If you?ve spent the last 3 years telling people you wan to get married and move to Fiji ? start taking the steps that lead to that life.
Being yourself and living a life that is entirely yours doesn?t mean wearing the clothes you want or dying your hair that crazy color (though those things are certainly a part of it). It means standing up for what you think, laying personal boundaries and sticking to them, and aligning your words with your action. Falsity distracts us from the path. We have to drop the charade if we want to find our path and our happiness, and get proactive about transforming the world around us.
Putting it all together?
When you live a life that?s wracked by fear and insecurity, it can be easy to find yourself settling for relationships or opportunities that don?t really suit who you are or what you want. It?s critical that we refuse to settle in this life, but that takes courage and it takes some radical self-acceptance too. We settle for a number of reasons, but the results are always the same: sadness, low self-esteem and even lower opinions of who we are and what we need.
Ignite your self-awareness and get brutally honest about where you?re at and where you truly want to be. Take a realistic look around and compare where you?re at to where you need to go. Settling is easy, but creating a life that is our own is a little harder. Embrace your fears and understand that we?re all a little terrified of change. Seek your passions and let them lead you to the things (and the people) that you really want to be around. Set boundaries and stop compromising the values that would otherwise define who you are and what you want. When we settle for partners and opportunities that aren?t right for us, it?s often a sign of low self-esteem and low self-opinion. Shift that negative thinking and align your words and desires with the actions you are using the manifest the future you want. We have limited amount of time on this planet. Make the most of it by letting go of your fear and your desperate need to settle for less than you deserve.