You deserve to be happy, so don’t get caught in the trap of okay-enough.
“Don’t settle,” is relationship advice as old as time. But, as your best friends begin coupling off and well-meaning grandparents start nagging, it can be tempting to rationalize each new relationship as possibly the one.
Sometimes it can be as blatantly obvious as overlooking your top deal breakers, but, in other situations, settling can simply look like suppressing your gut instinct that perhaps this great person isn’t the right great person for you. Psychotherapist Mary Jo Rapini breaks it down for us, “Every relationship requires you to negotiate but there are things you should never settle for. Settling for things that aren’t part of your value system is a no-no in healthy relationships.”
But, how do you know the difference between accepting that everyone has quirks and giving up on your core values? We asked the relationship experts to explain what is settling, how to recognize it, and what to do if you’re faced with the reality that, gulp, you might be settling.
What Is Settling in a Relationship?
Michelle Mouhtis, a Relationship Coach and Licensed Therapist, defines settling in a relationship as, “Settling is when your wants, needs and desires in a relationship are being chronically unmet because your partner is incapable of meeting them.” She goes on to add, “Settling means there’s a compatibility difference between you and your partner that’s so significant that one of you is chronically sacrificing your needs in the relationship.”
Settling isn’t just resigning yourself to a lifetime of conflicting preferences in Netflix shows or cleaning up your partner’s late-night snack crumbs. It’s deeper than surface-level behaviors. It’s a genuine disconnect in the way you two see the world –– and, yet, for many reasons, looking past this schism to believe that this person is worth pursuing a long-term relationship with.
Therapist and writer Sara Kuburic explains that, often, settling comes from a place of fear of returning to a single life. Someone is unwilling to let go of a less-than-happy relationship because it seems better than nothing. She says, “Settling is being with someone who you do not truly want to be with, but are committed to from a sense of obligation or fear.”
Kuburic goes on to make an important distinction, however, between settling and compromise. She notes, “Compromise, or being realistic, is understanding that no one is perfect and accepting the flaws or shortcomings of your significant other.” You and your partner will have differences and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, which is why it’s critical to recognize the signs that you are, in fact, settling, rather than compromising or negotiating.
Signs You’re Settling in Your Relationship
If you’re reading this thinking, “I thought I was just compromising with my partner and putting in the work to have a successful relationship, but maybe…I’m actually settling?”, we have four signs that can help you work through those feelings and insecurities.
Here’s what the experts say you need to know if you’re concerned you might be settling in your relationship.
You look for reasons to be annoyed.
Everyone gets annoyed with their partner on occasion! But, in healthy relationships, both parties work through it and move on. They don’t look for reasons to get angry. However, if you’re settling, you may already be on edge and reaching for reasons to take that out on your partner.