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Date & Relate
by Sara Hodon

Why We Settle

A friend of mine has been having relationship problems.  This happened once before, and they actively worked on their issues.  It got better for awhile, but now I’m hearing many of the same things — loneliness, general unhappiness, and lack of any real connection anymore. Since there hasn’t been any substantial change, it’s possible that it’s time to take a good hard look at the relationship.  And figuring out what to do is often the scariest part—things aren’t working, but it’s more comfortable to not do much about it.  This is also known as “settling”. 

Chances are you’ve been in at least one relationship where everyone else can see that it’s not going anywhere, or that you weren’t a match in the first place, but you either can’t or won’t admit it.   You’re unhappy.  You’re not being treated the way you’d like to be treated.  You wish that something would change, but when it comes down to it, you stay in the relationship.  It’s frustrating to give your all to something that clearly has no future, but for many of us, settling sure beats the alternative. 


There are plenty of reasons why we settle for less than we deserve in relationships:

Comfort level.   
Sure, you’re miserable, but you’ve gotten used to it.  So there’s not much common ground to talk about.  Their habits drive you crazy.  There’s been a lack of intimacy for months.   Maybe there’s been some bad behavior on one or both sides (has one of you cheated?)—it’s not great, but that’s how it is.  Maybe things will change.  Guess what?  They won’t.  Not unless one of you takes the initiative to change them.   You’ve gotten used to being treated poorly, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep it that way. 

Being alone = Bad.
I’ve been single for more of my life than I’ve been in relationships, and I can tell you that it’s not the end of the world.   I can say with total confidence that although being with someone can be great, being single—“alone” sounds so depressing—has its good points.  You can go out with your friends whenever you like.  You don’t have to answer to someone if you go a little crazy with the credit card.  If you feel like having cereal for dinner, that’s what you have.  Even in the best relationship, it’s also very important to have some time for yourself.  Think of it this way—would you rather do something fun with your friends this weekend, or talk your significant other into doing something they wouldn’t enjoy in the first place, and watch them sulk all evening? 

Change is scary. 
This goes along with comfort level.  No doubt about it—it’s hard to change a routine and start all over again.  Your significant other has become a huge part of your life, and it’ll take some time to untangle your life from your life as part of that couple.  It may take months to stop tearing up when you pass places you went together.  But when you do decide to get out and take the steps necessary to end the relationship, you’ll be amazed at how empowering it is. 

Lack of self-confidence or self-respect. 
I apologize for using a very old cliché, but the saying “You can’t expect someone to love you until you love yourself” is uncomfortably true.  Maybe you struggle to love the person you are, but you should definitely respect the person you are—enough that there are certain traits in a date that you simply won’t accept.   I don’t consider myself to be the most self-confident person on earth, but even I’ve had the fortitude to break off relationships that weren’t working for me anymore.  Even if you have those insecure times (and who doesn’t?), it’s very important to have enough self-respect to know that you deserve better.  When I went through a bit of a serial dating phase a few months ago, I would give every guy a fair chance.  I’d hoped we’d hit it off, but if he was clearly a jerk, immature, or not a good match for me, I didn’t hesitate to be honest.  If your self-confidence is on the low side, you may be more willing to continue seeing the jerk regardless of his behavior or attitude, simply because you think “I can’t do any better”, or “This guy is better than nothing.”  Wrong!  Once you start thinking that, you’re doomed. 

Feeling obligated to the other person. 
Guilt can be very powerful.  Maybe you met someone online and you hit it off, and things are getting serious.  There’s just one tiny problem—you live in Texas, and they live in Chicago.  You talk about it some more, and they agree to uproot their life in the big city to move to Texas.  After a few months, you realize that things aren’t as great as they could be.  You’re arguing.  Your family and/or friends don’t really like them.  But what can you do?  They changed their whole life for you, so you feel that you owe it to them to give your relationship another shot.  Wouldn’t it be better to admit that you made a mistake rather than be involved in a relationship that’s basically on life support? 

Though we’ve all been in relationships that didn’t quite live up to our standards, the important part is to end it before things get more serious.  It’s a hard and often scary decision to make, but a huge relief once you’re out of the situation. 


Date & Relate is published every Thursday by Online Dating Magazine columnist Sara Hodon.

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