What Happens When You Settle

When I use the term “settle” or ask the question, Have you settled in your relationships? what I am referring to is the issue of settling for circumstances that are less than what you would prefer.  In the case of your relationships, I’m asking if you have accepted or continued with a relationship that is not what you would have preferred, but you went ahead with it anyway.

Sadly, it happens all the time, for any of a number of reasons, which I’ll touch upon in a moment.  You may settle for a partner who is not your first choice.  As a couple, you may continue a less than perfect relationship.  As a single person, you may believe that none of your choices, in the end, will be what you really want because that has been your experience.  That is often more a failure of expectation than it is a failure of intimacy.

Whatever the case may be, any time you are in a relationship, or contemplating a relationship in which you feel it falls short in some way, you are settling.  Most people have two responses to settling.



They either do nothing (accept settling) or dump the relationship.  Rarely do people consider the third option, which is to co-create the relationship they really want.  Why is that?  I’ll tell you what I think.

Couples encounter entirely predictable problems in communication and in understanding each other, and then tell themselves that the love has died. They feel like quitting. The tragedy about this choice is not that their love has died, necessarily.  They may only think their love has died because they are experiencing a failure of imagination and a lack of the necessary skills to bring into reality the relationship they have dreamed of having.

The thing is, dumping the relationship  isn’t the solution, especially if the two people might still love each other.  Dumping a relationship will never teach either one of them how to do it right or better.  At best, it will give them a list of what not to do should the same person or situation be encountered again.  Not very useful, and it just feeds more feelings of hopelessness about ever finding the true intimacy and lasting love they desire so much.

If you want to have the love of your life, to live daily with the physical and spiritual connection that goes beyond your wildest dreams, and have a relationship with a partner who is everything you hope for, you must do it differently than you have done it in the past.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?  Maya Angelou, bless her beautiful spirit,  said “when you know better, you’ll do better.”  In your relationships up to now, you likely did the best you could with what you had to work with.  But now it is time to get on with it.

You know you need to make some changes, right?  After all, your best thinking got you where you are right now.  And listen, if you’re thinking that it’s all good and you don’t need any changes, then congratulations and best wishes to you on your journey forward.  Or, if you’ve read self help books that didn’t really help, and you’re feeling cynical about following anyone else’s advice–I feel you.  It is a risk, considering another point of view about something so important, something so close to the heart, so to speak.

What I can tell you is this: if it isn’t working for you as it is, you have to do something.  Either that, or quit complaining since you don’t want to do anything about it.  If you do believe it’s time to do something about getting a happy and satisfying relationship at least once before your time is up, then read on.

Read what you find here, and in the other sources I will recommend, and see what happens to your thinking when you do.  Be willing to be honest with yourself instead of defending your old way of thinking and being.  Nothing of value ever comes when you stay safe within your comfort zone.  If you want to have a different outcome, you can.  So let us begin with some questions for thoughtful consideration.

Be willing to be honest with yourself instead of defending your old way of thinking and being.  Nothing of value ever comes when you stay safe within your comfort zone.

I encourage you to think carefully about your answers to the questions and scenarios you encounter here.  Try to be bone-deep honest with yourself.  You are the only one who will be held back by failing to look clearly at your own process.

For couples, are you happy and satisfied with your love partner?  Is your relationship everything you’ve ever hoped for?  Is it peaceful, satisfying, supportive and sensuous?  Is it mutual in all respects?

If you’re currently single, do you know what you want in a relationship?  What you don’t want?   Do you seem to find the same kind of relationship with different partners?  Or are your standards so exacting that nobody has seriously rung your bell in quite a while, and that fact has you more than a bit worried? Or are you afraid that there is something inside, some deep part of you, that makes you essentially unloveable?  You aren’t alone with that one.

For both couples and singles, ask yourself this question: out of all the relationships you’ve ever had as adults, including the one you may be in right now, have you ever settled for less than what you truly want?  Be honest.

People settle for a lot of different reasons.  Maybe you can relate to one or more of these.

  • You were tired of being alone.
  • Being with someone is better than being with no one.
  • You didn’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings by rejecting them.
  • Your parents really wanted you to get married.
  • You were pregnant.
  • You lost your apartment so you moved in together even though it was too soon.
  • You didn’t want to admit you made a mistake.
  • It wasn’t so bad as all that, not bad enough to break up.  Maybe.
  • You had kids and you needed some help and support you could only get from a partner.
  • You settled because you believed that was probably as good as it was going to get for you.
  • You felt you were lucky to get the one you did.
Have You Ever Settled for a Relationship That Was Less Than What You Really Wanted? Are You Doing So Now?

You can probably come up with more reasons.  I believe far too few of us were shown by the adults in our lives how to find real love, how to make the right choice for the person we were, for what our goals and values and needs were, nor were we shown how to recognize the real thing when we found it.  Instead, there were movies and television, teenage hormones and all those mistakes we called “falling in love.”

If you are Queer, Lesbian or Gay, you didn’t even have that.  You had what the rest of the “tribe” had–experimentation, doing what felt good and right at the time, and then just making the best of what you ended up with.  No parental role models for most of us, no accepted societal expectations, and until relatively recently, no same-sex marriage.  Talk about a stacked deck!

There were the times, too, when we found love, real love, but the real love ended up being one of friendship.  Not to besmirch friendships–where would many of us be without the friends who started out as lovers?  But a friendship is not a love partner, so how did we get from one to the other?  What happened to change it?

But here is the good news: You can have the love and intimacy you long for.  You can have a partner who knows you inside and out, good and bad, up and down, and still loves you anyway, completely and unreservedly, just as you love her in return.  You can have a steamy sex life and a peaceful home life.  You can have a relationship that lasts a lifetime, yet remains as interesting and as fun as it ever was.  You can have a partner that you choose, rather than the one you settled for because you got scared that it was all you were going to get.

I’m not saying that such a relationship is easy or without challenges.  Nothing of value is.  However, the fact is, there are only a very few things you need in order to have the relationship of your dreams.  To not settle.

You need to be fully committed to not settling no matter how lonely you get in the interim.  You need to partner with someone who wants this as badly as you do.  If you are already partnered, the requirement is that you both want to go on this journey.  You need to be willing to do the work and self-exploration that will make you into the same kind of person you’d like for a partner.  Finally, you need to be willing to own your own stuff.  To accept responsibility for the choices you make and the outcomes you create.

That’s four little things you need in order to have the relationship you long for.  Okay, so maybe they’re not so little.  But they are doable.  They are definitely doable.  Heart Compass is here to tell you how to set your feet on this journey.  I can promise you this: it is an exhilarating journey.