Are you settling for less in your relationship?
Sometimes after a long stretch of not being in a relationship, it could be tempting to start dating someone new just because you’re both available. Here's how to tell if you’re settling — so you can stop.
The question of settling is a complicated one. Is it “settling” if you fall for someone who isn’t your usual “type”? Someone who’s shorter, shyer, doesn't make as much money as you, or has different taste in music than you thought you'd end up with? Or is it “settling” when you decide to stay with someone you don’t really enjoy being with? We'd like to go for the second definition.
Here's how Dr Upasana Ghosh, a certified relationship expert from Kolkata, describes settling: "It means letting go of things that are important to who you are, what you believe in, how you would like to be treated and loved. We settle when we start compromising ourselves and our own needs." You may be lonely or afraid you’ll never find that special someone to spend your life with. No matter the reason, starting a relationship with someone out of fear is accepting less than you deserve. "Something inside of you tells you the person you’re with isn’t right for you, but you push those voices aside and continue on with the relationship. That's settling," Dr Ghosh explains.
Signs that you’re settling
What if you’re dating someone and want to know if you’re settling? Therapist and author, John Kim LMFT, shared some red flags in a piece for Psychology Today. According to him, if you are dating someone who does any of the following things, you are settling:
• Doesn’t make you feel safe (emotionally or physically).
• Continually tries to change/control you. Remember: This will only grow.
• Assassinates your character.
• Hides you. Doesn’t introduce you to his friends or his/her world.
• Doesn’t support you, your story, or your dreams.
So why do people settle?
"People who are unhappy often stay in their comfort zones and are content to settle for things. Whether it's staying stuck in a relationship that isn't making them happy or settling for a job when they have their eye on another one," says Dr Ghosh. Happy people, on the other hand, "work to get themselves out of these situations, and make the changes needed to start heading in the direction they want to be going," she adds. You’re probably settling when the relationship you have with you is changing for the worse, because of your relationship with your significant other. "But you have to be honest and own what is yours and what is theirs. If you own what is yours and still feel the same way, you’re probably settling," John Kim LMFT wrote for Psychology Today.
If you think you might be settling, here’s what to ask yourself:
Do I feel superior to my partner?
“You don’t want to choose a guy out of desperation and commit to a relationship where you have ‘settling’ worries more often than not,” writes Diana Kirschner, PhD for Psychology Today. The first question Kirschner suggests you ask yourself about settling is, “Do I feel superior to my partner?” If the answer is yes, she writes, think about why. If it’s something fairly superficial — for example, you roll your eyes at your partner's love of Harry Potter — then think critically about why you feel superior. If it’s a real concern, however — for example, your partner treats others unkindly — then that can shed light on the relationship, too.
How do I feel when I’m alone with my partner?
Do you feel content when you and your partner are spending one-on-one time together? Or do you get easily annoyed/upset with them? Feelings of contempt are one of the biggest red flags in a relationship, says Dr Ghosh. “If you were to describe contempt, it's a resentment that's gone so deep that you don't even respect the person anymore. There's no love left, and there's really just a sustained and deep bitterness," she says. "You'll hear it in the way you talk to each other. There's just hatred in your voice, and hatred in the way you look at each other."
Is there a lack of chemistry with my partner?
Dr Ghosh says that while intimacy can get better with time and practice, a fundamental incompatibility usually isn’t going to go away. “If you have a fundamental lack of attraction to the person, for instance, you don’t like the way the person smells, that can be a problem,” she says.
What am I compromising on in this relationship?
Mumbai-based clinical psychologist, Dr Shilpa Aggarwal, says every relationship requires some amount of compromise, but if you’re changing your values or your life goals in a major way, you might be settling — for example, if you want children and your partner doesn’t. It is settling, “When instead of making compromises with your partner to reach common ground, staying in the relationship requires you to compromise on your values/standards/deal-breakers,” explains Dr Aggarwal.
What do I like about this relationship?
Another thing is to take an honest look at your relationship. Ask yourself: What do you like about your relationship? If your answers would work for any partner — having someone to date, being able to speak to someone at night — rather than your particular partner as an individual, then you might be settling, says Dr Aggarwal.
Am I scared of being single?
Let’s be real: there’s a lot of pressure for people to be in relationships. "It can be hard to be single. But if the only thing that keeps you and your partner together is a fear of being single, the relationship isn’t built on a strong foundation," says Dr Aggarwal.
If you think you might be settling, ask yourself these questions, and think about your answers. Talk about your concerns with a therapist or a trusted friend. Then, decide whether you want to stay in the relationship — and if not, begin to think about how you’ll handle a split.