Are You Settling? What Does That Really Mean?

When relationships keep going awry, you naturally think about what you can do differently the next time. When you're learning from past experience, you might try not to set such hard and fast rules for what you're looking for in a partner. Be more flexible.

But then there's the danger of being too flexible. Of settling.

How do you know if you're settling? You hear that term bandied about after a breakup. In hindsight you can see that maybe you compromised too much on your standards. Maybe you stuck it out too long with someone who didn't treat you the way you want to be treated.

Is that settling? Or is it being patient and leaving room for the relationship to grow?

No Fear
We'd like to think that there is a soul mate for us out there. When we meet that person, we expect to just know that it's right...no doubts, no fears.

That would be nice, but it's not so realistic. Age is a factor in this thing we characterize as settling.

Holding Back
When we're young and believe in love at first sight, we ignore all those red flags and dive right in. We give a new relationship our all and expect our sweetheart to do the same.

When we're a bit older, both partners have usually been hurt before. So we approach relationships more cautiously. We hold back. We take time to see if we're a good match before we go all in.

That cautious period requires some patience. Neither party wants to be overwhelmed by clinginess. Neither party wants to be treated like an occasional convenience either.

Balancing Act
So how do we know if we're allowing the relationship to develop or allowing our doubts to be buried? Pay attention to your instincts, but heed the warning signs too.

It doesn't mean you're settling just because...

  • Your friends say your sweetie is not good looking enough for you.
  • You'd like to be with someone who makes more money or has a higher-level job.
  • Your partner doesn't have the same level of education that you have.

You might be settling if...

  • You don't feel intellectually stimulated by your partner.
  • You feel taken for granted by your partner.
  • You don't feel that spark when you touch your partner.

You're definitely settling when...

  • You feel disrespected by your partner.
  • Your partner ignores you and rarely communicates on a meaningful level.
  • You make at least 90 percent of the effort and your partner makes very little.

Although some of these relationship problems are clear signs, others are difficult to see when you're trying to make things work. Settling is much easier to judge when you get out of the swampy relationship and onto firmer ground.

If you're losing your patience, that's a gray area. If you're losing your self-respect, that's a waving red flag. Remember, it takes two to make a relationship. So if you're the only one with solid feelings, then you're most likely settling. In that case, find a sweetie who helps you create a firm foundation, not a mucky morass.

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