A new relationship is intoxicating.
There is such intensity around the other person that we become psychologically and biologically smitten.
Hormones and other brain chemicals are released, ensuring that you will be blissfully happy and a bit stressed at the start.
You spend long nights talking and hours in each other’s company.
But time erodes all things.
Life challenges and personality quirks emerge, and eventually, you wonder, am I settling in my relationship?
What Does It Mean to Settle in a Relationship?
But how to know if you are settling? At its most basic level, settling means there is a difference in compatibility.
It may not be that you are 100% compatible, your partner may check some of the boxes, but your most profound wants, needs, and desires still need to be met.
It often means being with someone out of fear or previous relationship issues.
When you settle, there is usually a general sense of restlessness or unhappiness as your inner voice insists that something is wrong.
It is just a question of whether or not you will listen and recognize the signs.
So how to know if you are settling? Isn’t this just how all longer relationships work?
Maybe, but there are also signs that you may be settling in your relationship.
- You look for reasons to be annoyed.
- You feel resentful.
- You are waiting for a commitment.
- Your self-worth has diminished.
- You feel like you are wasting your life.
- You subtly sabotage your connection.
Why Do People Settle in a Relationship?
Finding a mate is both biological and socially driven. In many cultures, there is a strong and pervasive pressure to marry.
And those that remain single are somewhat ostracized. In this environment, it is common to do whatever it takes to stay coupled.
But there is more at work in settling in a relationship. In youth, everyone expected the perfect mate, the prince, princess, or millionaire.
But life interferes, and dreams and values become compromised. People accept their fate. Eventually, believing they deserve who and what they get, they accept the first person who shows interest.
We all have things we prefer, but most are not deal-breakers in relationships. If someone has brown eyes instead of blue or loses their job, their hair turns grey, or they gain a few pounds, these are not reasons to believe you’re settling.
Settling means letting go of things important to who you are and allowing your inner self to be compromised.
Unfortunately, society, Hollywood, family, and friends have blurred many of the tenants surrounding relationships until being unhappy, or at least not as happy as you could be, is an acceptable fate.
But what are the reasons people start settling for someone in a relationship? When you’re reaching for reasons to justify staying with a partner, that’s a big red flag.
1. Fear of Being Alone
Being single is hard. Many choose to remain in a relationship because of a fear of what others will think.
They may not want to risk losing their status in their family as a partnered person. Or they need to stave off loneliness at any cost. The pain of being alone is worse than the pain of being with the wrong person.
2. Relationships Are Hard Work
Relationships are hard. They take effort and a willingness to open our hearts and communicate our feelings, thoughts, and dreams.
But sometimes, our partners are not interested, which clearly signifies we are in an incompatible relationship. However, if you choose to remain in such a relationship because being miserable is easier, there are more than a few things wrong.
3. Pressure to Make the Relationship Work
Children are the primary reason people remain in relationships. Although it’s changing, the stigma of divorce remains a deterrent in many circles.
And the financial and social difficulties of a single-parent household are all too real.
4. It’s Just a Rough Patch
Couples argue. And yes, one partner may banish the other to the couch for the night. Couples may even need their own space for a day or weekend.
But when these difficulties become a constant occurrence, this may signify a larger problem in the relationship.
5. Things Change in the Dynamic
Sometimes little things change. But it takes willingness and an enormous amount of effort to change the fundamentals of a person’s personality.
If you accept an unhappy situation, waiting for a partner to change without effort and communication, you may be there a very long time.
13 Ways to Stop Settling in a Relationship
The first step in reclaiming your self-worth is don’t settle for less in a relationship – any relationship.
Recognize and accept that there is a tangible separation between what you have and what you feel you deserve. Then take steps to remedy the situation.
1. Stop making excuses.
Pay attention to the rationalizations you are making. Don’t settle for inappropriate or even bad behavior from your partner. Everyone needs to be held responsible.
2. Accept that change is hard.
Waiting around for someone to change their basic behaviors suggests you are settling for less and wasting your life.
The key question is, what happens if they never change?
3. Believe it is okay to be single.
Being single has a bad rap. But being able to live with yourself is a talent.
If you remain in a relationship where you are not happy or if you cannot conceive of being alone, no matter the compromises, then there’s a more significant issue.
Get support to learn to love yourself enough to be comfortable by yourself – until you find someone you don’t need to settle for.
4. Stop rationalizing.
Do you rationalize why others mistreat you? Why? Chances are you are not responsible for every negative thing in the relationship, so stop taking credit and giving your partner a pass.
If our mate dismisses your concerns, then it’s clear you are settling for less than what you deserve.
5. Communicate your needs.
Communication is key to fulfilling each other’s needs. Be mindful of your inner desires, large and small. Enlist your friends and family, respecting boundaries, of course.
Express your needs to your partner. And if you then find yourself in a situation where those needs remain unmet, it is a neon sign that you have been settling in this relationship, and it may be time to move on.
6. Don’t just say yes.
While no one wants to be around a contrarian, saying yes to avoid conflict or keep the relationship intact is not a healthy option.
If you agree to things you dislike, or life’s path differs from your goals and dreams, then you’re compromising your identity.
If asked about your vacation choice or which movie to watch, answer truthfully and authentically. If your needs are not being met, ask yourself, “Am I asking for what I want?”
If your choices are ignored, then it may reveal your willingness to settle.
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7. Be confident.
Be confident in your looks and abilities. Remind yourself that you do not need validation from anyone to complete you.
If your partner is controlling and constantly criticizes your looks, career, or even personality, you are settling. A loving partner should lift you up, not tear you down.
8. Ignore the rules.
Relationship rules 101. There are no rules about relationships. These are arbitrary concepts that change from one moment to the next.
Every relationship is unique. Stop worrying about what other people think. Your expectations of the relationship are important, not your family’s or friends.
If you spend all your time following other people’s expectations, you will miss the love and joy in the relationship.
9. Identify and maintain your core values.
It is difficult enough to maintain a solid moral center in today’s constantly changing society. However, ignoring what you feel to be right and wrong for the sake of a relationship can be disastrous.
You are not compatible if the two of you do not agree on the fundamentals. Yes, there are exceptions, but those relationships are unique.
10. Communicate about everything.
Withholding your thoughts, needs, and feelings doesn’t change your partner for the better. It erodes any trust or communication in your relationship.
If something is bothering you, bring it up calmly, in a non-accusatory manner. Don’t just hold it in. Your comments may even spark an argument. But how you handle conflict in a relationship is as essential as sex or love.
11. Remember, it takes two.
Relationships require a lot of work, both physical and emotional. When we talk about working on a relationship, we often refer to the big fundamentals. But it is often the little things that are the most important.
These things include money, household chores, and romantic gestures. One partner can’t carry the weight of keeping the relationship fresh and connected.
Relationships are 50/50, but each individual must be willing and able to give 100% of themselves for the partnership to work. If you are the only one giving to the relationship, then it may be a sign that it is time to move on.
12. Maintain your interests.
It is common in a new relationship to spend so much time with your partner that you forget about your hobbies, interests, or even friends.
But once you surface, it is crucial to maintain your interests and activities. It reinforces your inner self and separate identity.
If your partner asks or expects you to give up everything, it’s a flashing neon sign that you are accepting less in your relationship.
13. Imagine a brighter alternative.
If you are still unsure that you can leave a relationship even though you are settling, think about how bright the future could be.
Imagine what you can achieve as a person and as a couple when you support each other with a caring partner. Imagine having a partner who values you and your contributions to the relationship.
Settling should never be an option. Yes, sometimes a bad relationship sneaks up on us, but there are usually signs. And everyone has a slightly different breaking point. But if you know your boundaries and value yourself, imagine the possibilities.