Should You Settle or Stay Single?
I came across this article on Buzzfeed the other day about women who chose to ‘settle’ for a good-enough partner rather than continue to wait on their ideal soulmate. The article was inspired by a viral thread started on Reddit’s ‘Ask Women’ page, where hundreds of women chimed in their experiences of settling for a partner who was just good enough.
I found many of the replies quite illuminating. Here were some that really stood out to me:
- “It's sad and boring, but safe. I do miss the one sometimes, but we're just friends and we could never be more than that. It's either this or total solitude so at least I have companion, sex and someone truly loves me. Or course I would give my right arm to have my true love, but here we are.”
- “It went well for 10+ years. We are now apart but co-parenting. Life isn’t perfect, but that’s ok.”
- “I love him, but I’m not in love with him. But that’s enough for me, as he is one of three men I have ever been interested in. I don’t (and have never) get crushes. I think I’m a bit asexual.”
- “It went well for a while. Now in the process of getting separated.”
- “It ended years ago. Like some others have said, when you feel that someone isn’t “the one” it’s usually your mind trying to indicate to you that something is off. After some years I realized my emotional needs just weren’t being met no matter how hard he tried. Also, while I was attracted to him, he was not my physical type so when the going got rough, I didn’t want to sleep with him. Now, I prioritize emotional compatibility and physical attraction more than I had in the past.”
While some of these comments are quite sad, I find there is also a lot of wisdom buried in them that is important to illuminate and share. And much of what these women are saying is aligned with what I have heard from many clients and friends who ‘settled’ and then later found themselves deeply unfulfilled and faced with either divorce or a relationship without passion.
I know many of us feel the pressure to marry and have children once we hit a certain age, especially if we are women. While men tend to have more freedom to enjoy their bachelor years, as women age, we get a lot of pressure to settle down and have kids before it’s ‘too late.’ And sometimes our own desires can put pressure on us too! The ticking of your biological clock is not just a metaphor—we know that fertility decreases as we age, and when everyone around us is having kids or getting married, you can definitely feel the pressure to simply find the best possible partner and get started on your happily ever after.
This can even happen to us as we age and get past those peak fertility years. Maybe you are a widower who lost your true love and now your adult children or friends want you to just settle down and have someone to take care of you. Maybe you’ve been divorced for a long time and you are just weary of dating, so when you meet someone who ticks most of your boxes, you think “Okay, this is good enough.”
As you can see, most of these feelings are rooted in fear. The fear that we are running out of time. The fear that we aren’t deserving of mind-blowing passion. The fear that life is passing us by and we aren’t going to get a chance to have our heart’s desires. Yet when we make choices out of fear, we generally live to regret it.
As shown in the Reddit thread about this topic, most of the time settling actually is not the safer choice. Many of the people who settled confess they were either separating or getting a divorce in the long run, which can be very painful and costly.
So settling is far from a risk-free choice. In fact, it’s probably the riskiest choice of all: Because you are sacrificing a lifetime of passion, joy, and meaning for a pale semblance of the real thing. It’s like diet ice cream. It might be a little healthier in the long run, but it doesn’t satiate you, and eventually, your cravings for the real thing are going to get the better of you.
Now, let’s be clear: Finding ‘the one’ isn’t always going to feel like a Hollywood rom-com. Everyone has disagreements and occasional anxiety about their relationship. But if you’re knowingly choosing a partner who doesn’t thrill you, challenge you, and engage you on your deepest levels, you’re heading towards potential disaster. It’s okay if a person doesn’t check ALL of your boxes, especially if some of your boxes are based on false ideas about what will really make you happy (i.e. Maybe it’s okay if he isn’t 6 feet tall or she isn’t a great cook).
But never settle when something truly important is missing: When passion and chemistry and that soul-connection isn’t there, it usually doesn’t grow over time. So don’t opt for ‘security’ over the risk of holding out for the one. Because a life of loneliness and dissatisfaction with a person you don’t truly love hardly sounds like safety. Hold space for the possibility that the one for you is out there and keep growing and cultivating yourself to be ready for that fateful meeting.
Because no one wants to spend their life eating diet ice cream. Not when the real thing is so delicious and thrilling – and not when you are so, so deserving of the real thing.
Got any questions for me about this or any other sex, love, or relationship challenges? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave me a voice message here. I might answer it on my podcast The Language of Love.