Lately, I have been thinking about exactly what it means to settle for someone in a relationship.
Does it mean that you are happy but a part of you is yearning for something else? Does it mean that you need to do more self-discovery to figure out exactly what you want?
Or does it mean that you know deep in your bones that you are meant to be with someone else and that you could do better?
Currently, I am in the first relationship of my life where I do not feel like I am settling. My partner and I are aligned in our drive, what we want in life, and in the bedroom department. It truly feels like I have the whole package.
Before him, I felt like something was missing in my previous relationships or I had to give something up to “make things work.” It wasn’t, particularly that I could find someone “better” it was simply that my exes and I didn’t quite line up.
Based on my experiences, here is what I think it means if you are “settling” for your partner.
You aren’t completely present when you are with them
One of the worst feelings I have ever experienced is when you are with someone but you actually want to be elsewhere.
When I was sixteen I had my first real boyfriend. He was very nice to me, planned cute dates, and I really wanted to like him. There was a part of me that did like him but when I look back I believe that I just wanted to have a “boyfriend” and he fit the bill.
When we hung out I yearned to be hanging out with my group of friends. No matter what we were doing, a part of me wasn’t really there.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last time I wasn’t present in a relationship. Due to my struggles with codependency, there were times when I simply didn’t want to be alone so I settled for someone even though my heart was somewhere else.
You are sacrificing something you truly need
Right after college, I was in a relationship with someone that I loved with my whole heart. Although we were amazing friends and we had an absolute blast together, there was one glaring problem in our relationship.
My boyfriend wasn’t interested in being intimate. It was a huge issue for me, as I am a very sexual person.
I became extremely insecure due to our lack of physical closeness. Constantly I obsessed over the reasons why my boyfriend didn’t want to be intimate with me and it made me feel unattractive and undesirable.
All of this considered, there was a time when I was willing to give up what I needed because I was so in love. The reality is that we had polar opposite sex drives and it was unfair to both of us to be in a relationship together.
What you want for the future doesn’t align
Until recently, I wasn’t sure if I ever wanted kids. During childhood, I didn’t have the best role models, and my adult life never felt stable enough to consider supporting another human being.
Now, I have a house, an amazing partner, and a great job. Children no longer seem like something that is out of reach.
However, ten years ago it was a completely different story. At the time, I was in a relationship with someone who already knew that he wanted to be a father. He was adamant that I would be a fantastic mother and he wanted us to get married.
Ultimately our relationship ended because what we wanted at that point in our life didn’t align. He was ready for something years before I was, and he found that with someone else. If we had stayed together and had kids I would have resented him and our relationship would have fallen apart.
To me, settling doesn’t mean that one person is too good for their partner. It means that things simply aren’t aligned for the relationship and that one person would have to give up their goals.
When you are with someone that you want to be fully present with, who has the same future goals as you, and who doesn't cause you to sacrifice a part of yourself, then you will never feel like you are settling.