A so-so job. An okay relationship. An all-right life. That’s hardly the stuff our wildest dreams or deepest desires are made of. And yet, when reality tugs, how often do we end up settling for less? How often do we lose sight of what we truly want in exchange for a tolerable reality?
It has been said that if you settle for less than you deserve, chances are you’ll get even less than what you settled for. So what are the signs you are settling for less in a relationship? And how do you stop settling for less? Before diving into that, let’s first see what settling for less looks like.
What Does Settling For Less Mean?
So what does settling for less mean? It means letting go of the very things that define you, the beliefs that reflect who you are, and the values that are at your core. It’s about stifling your own voice. It’s about accepting something less than what you want or deserve, even if it makes you unhappy. And that’s different from compromise. Here’s how.
Related Reading: 9 Signs Of Unhealthy Compromise In A Relationship
Settling vs compromise
All romantic relationships involve some form of adjustment and give and take. And it may not always be equal. Some days, you may be called upon to give more than you get. On others, you may meet halfway to do what needs to be done. At times, it may even mean agreeing to disagree and still finding a way to move forward as a team.
That’s compromise. It comes from honest intentions, healthy communication, mutual concession, and managing your expectations in a relationship. It doesn’t encroach on your values. Nor does it require you to ditch your beliefs and take on your partner’s.
Compromise is about two people respecting each other’s life goals and passions. It’s about building a relationship that makes both partners feel fulfilled and reach their full potential. And it’s about realizing that love is a choice rather than a feeling.
While it takes two to compromise, settling for less usually involves a party of one. Settling is one-sided. It involves chronically forgoing our own wants and needs, surviving on the bare minimum in a relationship, and constantly ceding our values and beliefs to keep our partner happy, even if it is to our own detriment.
Why do I keep settling for less?
Why do I keep settling for less in relationships? If that is the question you are asking, we have some answers. Here are some of the most common reasons why people settle for less in romantic relationships:
- They’ve invested too much time into the relationship and feel obligated to remain in it
- They are feeling the pressure to settle down or getting tired of waiting for the right person, or even, the one who can make their heart sing
- They are worried about what others might think if they shed the relationship status
- Perhaps it’s low self-esteem, which is making them think they don’t deserve more
- Or, they’ve taken a long hard look at their shrinking dating pool and don’t think they can find someone better than their current partner
- Another major reason why people settle for less in a relationship: fear of being single, according to Stephanie S. Spielmann, the lead author of a study on the subject.
Fear of being single makes people prioritize relationship status and lower relationship standards, the study finds. That’s not quite the recipe for long-term happiness, sound mental health, or even a healthy life. Settling for less will hardly make you a successful person, leave alone a contented one.
So how to stop settling for less? Well, the first step is recognizing and admitting that you are.
Related Reading: 9 Signs Of Low Self-Esteem In A Relationship
11 Warning Signs That You’re Settling For Less In Your Relationships
The line between healthy compromise and settling for less in a relationship isn’t always clear and tends to blur as the decisions get bigger. So when is give and take unhealthy? When does it spell an unwholesome relationship dynamic where we lose sight of ourselves and end up sacrificing who we are? Here are some warning signs you are settling for less in a relationship:
1. You are ignoring your deal breakers
Am I settling for less? If that question is niggling you, turn your attention to your top deal breakers. What are the things you could just never tolerate in a partner? Lying? Disrespect? Manipulation? Infidelity? Maybe you’ve only thought about them. Maybe you’ve ended relationships in the past over them.
Are you now finding yourself slowly overlooking dating red flags or putting up with behaviors you are deeply uncomfortable with? Then there’s a high chance you’re settling for less with your current partner.
2. You find yourself rationalizing their behavior
What happens when we fear being single and feel any relationship is better than no relationship at all? We may end up picking a partner we know isn’t very good for us or cling to an unhappy relationship, according to Spielmann’s study. And what comes next?
We bargain with ourselves. We look for reasons to justify why we are in a relationship at all or why we are putting up with a partner who is doing the bare minimum in a relationship. And we make up excuses for any poor behaviors we encounter. Rationalizing only sets us up for hurt feelings and unmet expectations. It is also one of the classic signs of settling for less in a relationship.
3. You are letting them treat you poorly
“I know what happens when you settle. My maternal grandma did and both her marriages were miserable, full of fighting, verbal abuse, drug abuse, and violence,” Quora user Isabelle Grey recalls.
Allowing someone to treat you badly is a big, fat, blazing sign of settling for less in a relationship. It’s also not great for your self-esteem. As motivational speaker Steve Maraboli says, if you put up with it, you’re going to end up with it. So, set the standards you want and never settle for less than what you deserve. Especially, do not settle for poor treatment or abuse.
Related Reading: 11 Things To Do When Someone Treats You Badly In A Relationship
4. Your needs are going unmet
What are the things you look for in a relationship? Is your current relationship meeting most of your needs? And no, this does not mean looking at a relationship in a self-serving way. Not getting everything you need out of a relationship or at every single moment is normal enough, but tolerating a steady stream of disregarded or unmet needs isn’t. It’s also the route to resentmentville.
5. You can’t be yourself around them
A relationship is a contrast of two people coming together and allowing each other the freedom and security to be themselves. But if you find yourself faking interests or putting up a front, hiding entire parts of yourself or your life, or feeling the need to screen what you say, it’s time to get brutally honest with yourself and figure out why.
6. Talking to them isn’t your favorite part of the day
Maybe you started out with late-night conversations or endless phone calls. Maybe, at one point, nothing seemed too big or too small to talk about. But now, whether it’s talking about routine, everyday stuff, or major life decisions, you find yourself biting your tongue. Or, you’re becoming complacent with the lack of communication or not being consulted at all.
Whatever the case may be, if you can’t talk to your partner honestly and openly, it won’t do your relationship or you any good in the long run. It is one thing to be comfortable in your silences, quite another to be stifled by them.
7. You’re putting your life on hold
A healthy relationship allows both partners to flourish and explore their full potential. If you’re constantly putting your plans on the back burner or giving your dreams and life goals the boot for the sake of maintaining a relationship, then it’s a clear enough sign you are settling for less.
Related Reading: Reciprocity In Relationships: Meaning And Ways To Build It
8. Your relationship is no longer fulfilling
“I always felt in past relationships that I was ‘settling’ when the relationship had become very comfortable, but ultimately unfulfilling,” says Quora user Phe Tong. So how does your partner make you feel? Are there still sparks long after the initial fireworks have ended? Do you feel valued and appreciated? Do you feel fulfilled? Are you satisfied with the way things are? Is there joy in your relationship? Is there any passion? Do you enjoy your current partner’s company?
If not, then it’s time to take stock. A good relationship will fill you up, not leave you starved. And it most definitely won’t leave you frustrated and feeling unappreciated.
9. You are bending your boundaries and convictions
Are you saying ‘yes’ to all your partner’s wants and whims? Even if you don’t really want to? Are you letting them play fast and loose with your boundaries while desperately waiting for them to change? Are you bending over backward to make the relationship work, accommodate their needs, or meet their standards, even if it means undermining your convictions or values? Then you are on the rocky road to settling for less.
10. Your self-esteem is shot
If you keep undermining yourself and your needs in a relationship to settle for less, your self-esteem is going to take more knocks than boosts. It will also shake your confidence and make you question your self-worth. This will make it harder and harder to set healthy boundaries or stand up to poor behavior. It will also keep you stuck in a bad relationship and a world of hurt.
If that’s where you are, then actress Amy Poehler has some advice: “Anybody who doesn’t make you feel good, kick them to the curb. And the earlier you start in your life, the better.”
11. You feel cut off and alone
All the one-sided heavy lifting involved in settling for less to keep a relationship going can leave you feeling isolated and lonely. And this can get compounded if the significant other is emotionally distant, manipulative, or abusive. Ironically, when we settle for less out of fear of loneliness, we often wind up with people who make us feel lonely.
Long-term loneliness comes with a cost. It can cost us our interests, passions, and hobbies. It can cost us our mental health. And it can even cause us to feel isolated and disconnected from other people. So if your relationship GPS is constantly pointing to lonely and lost, then it’s time to recalibrate and find a way out. Do what you can so you don’t settle for less in a relationship.
Related Reading: 7 Signs Of Loneliness In A Relationship And How To Cope
How To Stop Settling For Less
Am I settling for less? If your answer to that question is in the affirmative, you have a chance to get brutally honest, run a diagnostic test, and get back in touch with what you truly value and believe in. It is also an opportunity to re-examine why you are in an unhappy relationship. What’s next? To stop settling.
What does not settling for less mean? “It means choosing someone who has the qualities you consider most important, who makes you happy more than they make you sad, who supports you, who improves your life simply by being around,” says Quora user Claire J. Vannette.
Another Quora user, Grey, provides a compelling reason why she won’t settle for less in a relationship: “When I think about settling, I remind myself of what I’ll miss out on if I do.” So how to make sure you don’t settle for less in a relationship and turn it into a long winter of discontent? Here are some ways to make sure you never settle for less than what you deserve:
- Focus on yourself. Think about all the things that you desire from a relationship. What are your needs? Irrespective of whether they are big, small, or medium-large, make a habit of saying them out loud and clear
- Once you know what you want, stay true to it every single moment. Do not agree to anything that makes you uncomfortable, even if it leads to uncomfortable conversations
- Stop making excuses for people. Stop accommodating disrespect. Make room for accountability and shut the door on people who dismiss or invalidate your feelings and concerns
- Try and recognize that being alone isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Often, till we don’t figure out how to live with ourselves, we keep rushing headlong into relationships for all the wrong reasons. Remember, it’s okay to be single and happy rather than partnered up and disgruntled
- Settling for less means accepting something less than what you want or deserve, even if it makes you unhappy
- It means undermining your own beliefs and values for the sake of holding onto a relationship
- We often settle for less when we are afraid of being single, feel pressured to settle down, or don’t think we deserve more or can do better
- Eventually, it leaves us lonelier than when we started and robs us of making authentic and meaningful connections
Settling for crumbs can leave us with scraps. Giving a partner discounts in a relationship can leave us shortchanged. It can also keep us from making a real connection or finding true happiness. That’s why it’s important to stop settling for anything less than you deserve. As the writer and director of Dream for an Insomniac, Tiffanie DeBartolo puts it: “There are too many mediocre things in life to deal with and love shouldn’t be one of them.”