Why You Shouldn’t Settle in Relationships


Young sad woman and man sitting on marble steps in park, selective focus

According to a recent study conducted by the University of Toronto, some people are willing to settle for less in a love relationship just so they can be part of a couple. The report states some people will allow relationships they aren’t happy in to perpetuate, and more importantly they will often date people who aren’t suitable for them and begin a long term relationship just so they can say they have a significant other.

Unfortunately, this attitude of having a long term relationship at any cost, even at the cost of their own personal happiness just sucks the romance and passion out of the whole idea of being in love! A very funny scene from the movie When Harry Met Sally illustrates this point:

Marie: Don’t wait too long. Do you remember David Warsaw? His wife left him and everyone said, give him some time, don’t move in too fast, and six months later, he was dead.

Sally: What are you saying? I should marry someone in case he’s about to die?

Alice: At least you could say you were married.

Being single for longer than you expected can result in worries that transcend the obvious question, “Will I be single forever?” Additional concerns begin to rear their unwanted heads as each year passes, such as worrying you will become so set in your ways that you will be inflexible in a relationship. Worries about that ticking biological clock creep in and whether or not the right marriage partner present himself before the alarm goes off. These worries lead many people to jump into a relationship that won’t make them happy, that will result in settling for less.

But the real predicament here is knowing how to find someone special without settling for less or being too picky. Isn’t the key piece of advice single people receive just that? If you are picky and hold out for that perfect person, it will pay off in the end? “Stick to your guns and wait for the man of your dreams!” I must have heard that a thousand times from friends and relatives when I was single. But you can drive yourself crazy if you allow these worries to take over your perspective on dating. There is a balanced approach to discerning whether or not you are settling or being too picky.

First, let’s talk about the difference between settling and understanding how true love operates. When you have true love for someone, she may not be a supermodel or he may not be a GQ hunk, but you’re still wildly attracted to that person and you have no doubt this is someone you look forward to growing old with. When you’re settling, it doesn’t matter what they look like, you don’t feel connected to that person; they’re more of an accessory than a soul mate. When you are truly in love, you feel good about yourself when you are with that person; he brings out the best in you. When you settle, your self-esteem suffers, which adds to the feeling of discontentment.

True love is never based upon physical appearance but instead, thrives in knowing the person you’re with has all the interior qualities and characteristics you’ve been looking for. So here are some suggestions for gaining the balance you need between settling and being too picky:

1.      Have a list of non-negotiables that isn’t more than half a page.

You should be certain of the qualities and characteristics you won’t negotiate on, but if the list goes on and on, then you’re probably being too picky and you may be missing opportunities for a great relationship. When I was dating, my list of non-negotiables included:

- He is a happy, practicing Catholic
- He is comfortable around my family and they are comfortable around him
- He is adventurous and romantic
- He loves children

Everything else was negotiable. I decided whether or not I was willing to accept these variables on a case-by-case (or date-by-date) basis. What does your list look like?

2.      Don’t try to disqualify someone by looking only at what’s wrong with a person.

I fell into this trap of looking for what was wrong for a while and I encourage you to beware of this slippery slope. It’s too easy to begin eliminating potential dates because you are deliberately looking for imperfections that will discredit them in your eyes. Of course, I’m not proposing you should ignore glaring problems like promiscuity, addictions or abusive behavior, but I am saying that if all you focus on is finding all that person’s defects, no one will be good enough. Instead, be considerate of the good points and the things you enjoy about that person.

Don’t forget that being in a relationship with someone who makes you happy should be fun and fulfilling. Maybe that person looks nothing like you imagined they would, or comes from a background you never imagined you would connect with, but when you find someone with all your non-negotiables those other details work themselves out.

Feel free to send your questions and comments to asklisa@catholicmatch.com.






27 Comments

  1. Marc-21531 February 17, 2014

    Interesting article. I can say that I have encountered people who are both willing to settle on their so-called “non-negotiables” as well as others who are at the other extreme and have unreasonable expectations. That being said, I agree with the idea of a list of values that a person will not compromise on, such as the faith for example. The message seems to be don’t settle and don’t be picky but discern what is the will of God.

    Needless to say, the Holy Spirit is needed in this whole discernment process of a suitable marriage partner and I would venture to say that some people may not be “happy” in their marriages because they didn’t consult God regularly in their discernment. In the end, I think if all persons who are truly called to the vocation of marriage pursue their potential partner with the Holy Spirit He will arrange that providential meeting of two souls. May God bless us all.

    • Lorena-991491 February 18, 2014

      I like your point of view Marc, God must anyways part of the discernment!!

    • MarIcruz T. February 20, 2014

      Absolutely agree. I can’t wait to meet the man God has already arranged for me. God bless :)

  2. Ajeer-592775 February 17, 2014

    Good article. Thanks

  3. Tara-916139 February 17, 2014

    Thanks so much for this post, Lisa. I have often wondered how I’d know if I was ‘settling’ or ‘surrendering.’ Where do we draw the line with what may or may not be considered a non-negotiable (example, for me, being that I really hope to live simply somewhere on a small, organic farm), and where do we surrender it completely to God, in His Infinite Wisdom, knowing who’s best for us, regardless of the qualities or lifestyle they may offer?

    • Vincent-799840 February 17, 2014

      Hi Tara,

      I suggest you move to or near an organic farm.
      Each day we are living eternally.
      Put your self where you are called, if it be the will of God, that Providential meeting will be.

      Pray all day

      • Tara-916139 February 17, 2014

        Thanks for your kind words, Vincent. I am actually doing just that, working toward immersing myself in some organic farms (either through WWOOF or the New Catholic Land Movement). The challenge lie in finding non-TLM Catholic farms, but I am both asking for the Blessed Mother’s intercession, as well as trusting in the Holy Spirit to lead me where God’s wills me :)

  4. Daniel-860051 February 17, 2014

    I have felt the sting of being dismissed by women who, after dating for some time, determine that I failed to meet their list of “non-negotiables”. And it stung tremendously. Something came up for her, which she found made her “uncomfortable”, instead of talking things out she just decided to move on. Leaving me wondering … what did I do wrong. I tried to live the example of St. Joseph, and instead of abandoning a situation in which I found myself uncomfortable I determined to face the challenge and perceiver. I examined things in my own conscience, and more often than not I discovered I was being not a little bit selfish. I came to the conclusion that I’d rather talk it out through open and honest communication than decide things unilaterally and seek out someone I thought might better meet my needs.

    I have reservations about carrying around a list of non-negotiables. Part of my concerns arise from something I’ve heard from several women that when one’s in a relationship, as one lady put it, “It’s okay to meet your own needs too.” I worry that this sentiment can easily devolve into, “What have you done for me lately?”, and that, to me, is not what being in relationship is about.

    Some folks say opposites attract, while others seem to be looking for their reflection in a potential spouse. I’m more inclined to go with the opposites attract, and in order for any relationship to work the couple needs to be open and honest in their communication. They should never be afraid to say what is on their mind out of fear for how the other will react (maybe that’s one my “non-negotiables” … hmmm …). If I go through life looking for my reflection in a woman, than I have to ask myself, ‘Am I looking for a woman with whom I can share my life and who would like to share her’s with me? Someone who is uniquely special and uniquely flawed as am I? Or am I looking for someone to simply fill my needs as I require?’ If it is the latter than I believe I still have a lot of growing to do in the relationship front. Being in a relationship, to me, is about stepping outside one’s comfort zone. I worry that some things one might put on a list of non-negotiables are nothing more than fences designed to ensure comfort zones are not breached.

    All of this has to be discerned as one walks with God. As Marc noted above, one needs to be willing to work with the Holy Spirit so as to avoid the extreme and unreasonable expectations of what it means to be in a relationship.

    Enough of my rambling…

    • Ann-69118 February 17, 2014

      If we’ve reached a certain age and are single we’ve all been hurt at some point. It’s important to remember though that it take 2 people to make a relationship and maybe even if you feel the person is the perfect person for you or they match what you think you’re looking for it’s possible God has other plans or is saving you from a big mistake. I’ve had that happen to me. If you really love someone and it doesn’t work out there must be a reason. If it’s meant to be it will be if not thank GOD that he saved you from a possible fatal mistake. As to settling I don’t think it’s a good idea as long as you have realistic and healthy things your looking for. The older guy with a beer gut and no money shouldn’t be holding out for a supermodel same the the not so young lady shouldn’t be holding out for a stud or meal ticket. We should all be looking for someone who can help us out on our journey to GOD. Healthy things to look for are a solid christian faith, honestly, a good heart and a person who has values and goals. Someone who is also able to commit and not afraid to put theirselves out there and try new things or just meet people. These are things no one should rate at negotiables.

      • Joan-529855 February 17, 2014

        What do you mean by, “…thank God he saved you from a possible fatal mistake”? Are you suggesting that divorce is the same as death? Sometimes I think that people are so afraid of the stigma of divorce (and equate it to death) that they avoid serious relationships that could lead to marriage. This is especially true of those who have been divorced; they are so afraid of the stigma of a “second divorce” that they would sooner remain “alone” and lonely than seek out a companionship that might lead to marriage.

        • Tony-705734 February 17, 2014

          No, some of us are not scared that divorce is equated to death. Some of us were raised that we should marry, and then live our lives with that person, “till death do us depart.” Don’t go on the defensive until you have seen all the factors involved.

          • Joan-529855 February 17, 2014

            In a “no fault” state, “till death do us depart” means nothing. If your spouse files for divorce there is nothing you can do legally to stop the divorce process. If your spouse files for an annulment (declaring that the marriage never was a sacrament) there is nothing you can do to stop the process. And because more than 95% of annulments are granted in the U.S. there is a very good likelihood that yours will be granted and you are left “unmarried” in the eyes of the church. And there is nothing you can do about it, except PRAY. I have seen the factors that are involved and I have met many “divorced/annulled” (technically never married) Catholics who believe in “till death do us depart” HOWEVER through experience they know that what they believe to be honorable and right is not always the way life happens…..because Satan, the destroyer of families and marriages, is alive and well.

          • Ann-69118 February 18, 2014

            Joan,

            I wasn’t refering to divorce or even thinking of it when I was responding to Daniels post. I was merely refering to the mistake of a bad relationship.

      • Joan-529855 February 19, 2014

        Ann,
        Definition of “fatal”: 1. causing or capable of causing death; mortal; deadly: a fatal accident; a fatal dose of poison.

  5. Joan-529855 February 17, 2014

    When I married my husband at the age of 24, the only non-negotiables were that he be a practicing Catholic and want kids, The “pluses” were that he was of sound mind/body, educated, employable and was very much “in love” with me. Now my non-negotiables no longer includes “wants kids”, instead “is comfortable around kids”, however the other remains the same. There is one area that I have a hard time with; change. He changed so much over the years, especially emotionally and spiritually, that I didn’t recognize him in those areas when we divorced. He talked about believing that he was an alien from out space, ect. Obviously he was no longer the “practicing Catholic” he was when we married. I prayed and prayed that the man I once knew would return, but instead he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and later borderline personality disorder. Since he refused treatment, there was really nothing more that could be done: Satan had his soul. The point is, no matter what our non-negotiables are, the other person can change and we have to accept that, so non-negotiables are really a waste of time/energy.

    • Tony-705734 February 17, 2014

      How do you know the soul of your former husband is in the possession of Satan? Many times mental problems come about from the environment they are in. It may not be the family environment, but it could be something else that triggered their fall from good mental health, like their jobs, their personal time, their recreation time, or something else. But, to say that it was Satan that was responsible isn’t helping.

      • Joan-529855 February 18, 2014

        Essentially bipolar disorder is genetic whereas borderline personality disorder is due to childhood neglect/abuse and/or chemical imbalance. Since he was diagnosed with both during “midlife”, the experts told him that he likely has a midlife disorder due to a chemical/hormonal imbalance and needs to take meds for the rest of his life to remain mentally/emotionally stable. He refuses to take the meds, and HE told me he feels like he is possessed. I am certainly no expert on possession but his actions/words are definitely those of a mentally unstable, possibly possessed individual and I have no reason not to believe him.

        • Ann-69118 February 18, 2014

          Joan,

          I think it’s more of mental condition where victims of it have dillusions. Like skizofrenia. I have a cousin with skizofrenia who got it as a teen and paces around talking to himself. It very sad to see and he’s on meds but even those don’t really help him much just keep him calm.

  6. Todd-735285 February 18, 2014

    Happiness does not come from another it comes from within.
    Settling… really….. if you are that insecure and don’t no what you want you should never get married.
    Marriage is sacred ……not a means to find happiness…….You should already possess it before you get married.
    Dating is how we find out if we are compatible and if the person you are seeing is not someone you can see yourself marring you are wasting their time and yours …..move on!!!!!

  7. Lupe-757654 February 18, 2014

    This is the first time I have read your Posts..I have been dating a man for a few months and every time I think,”I can deal with that,” here comes another Hum Dinger !! Not anything Criminal but eye opening none the less. I have to stop and think.. Gee I have already read this Book and Saw the Movie.. I was married for 40 Years and yes, I did settle!! It was not all Bad but a whole lot of Heart Ache for the whole Family.. I thought if I prayed harder things would change. Well you guessed it they did not.. So here I am,” LORD.” Maybe I will be Blessed with a Happy Marrige before I DIE..

  8. Lydia-486506 February 19, 2014

    I don’t know what is the problem with me because I have been register so many years and until now I haven’t find nobody.
    Thank you for your help, Lydia

  9. Luz-1055440 February 19, 2014

    Hahaha. I don’t think I am horribly picky but the first time I was chatting with a good buddy he was asking what I wanted, so that he could introduce him to one of his friends. Then I said the first requirement was a PRACTICING catholic, and then he said I had asked for something hard. I guess he had his own hard time finding Catholics, he actually married a lady from another denomination, I think they were very happy, she would go with him to Mass, and he told us he would always go with her to her church on Sundays. Glad for them.
    Still, I don’t think it is horribly picky to ask for a practicing Catholic… But it takes soooo long….

  10. Dominic-981542 February 19, 2014

    I respect your articles Lisa as I always do .
    If i could share with you i do not have much faith in those studies and when we say or comment on people are settling for less , we are agreeing that people are less then others .
    I think those studies like most are all wrong and based there thinking on worldly ideas.

    No offense to any one but i don’t have much confidence in female views on Romance & there understanding of whats important for women to be looking for or to value from male . They mostly ask for all the wrong unimportant things of no value that requires shallowness & judgement . . . . . . . . . . . The only thing of value that a Lady should not settle less for is Respect coming from a male.
    Jesus said . .Let your yes be a clear straight out yes and your No be the same , any thing else is from the evil one and so to in finding your soul mate its fair he or she should be simply compatible without asking for to much then respect , because with respect comes all the right things of value , so there is no need to ask for a joker or some one with a good sense of humor or works hard and loves out doors or he must love to travel and laugh , all this is from the evil one . . . So don’t be looking for a Happy catholic , If his not happy so what , if your worthy your self , then he will be happy .

  11. Irene-1044290 February 20, 2014

    You all make a good point which suggests to me that it is not easy to find that special person who feels as you do. I saw one man post that if the lady has a cat that jumps on the dining table, do not bother to contact him. Not only does he not know the nature of cats but he eliminated some pretty fine individuals based on the nature of cats. Put the kitty off the table and tell him no or put him/her in another room and close the door when you sit down to eat at the table. I’m praying about a new relationship and hoping that I haven’t been alone for so long that I may not be a good partner for anyone. I’m afraid to move too fast or that I’m moving too slow. The doubts I have are more about me than anyone else. I don’t know how to move on right now so I guess I’ll take the slow road and pray that I understand myself so that I can be a good partner for a good man.

  12. Lisa-801067 February 21, 2014

    I didn’t like this article at first glance and i live in the city of Toronto where that university but it is because I felt it had the connotation of the” make me feel happy” cultural feel to it. Definitely we should not marry someone for the wrong reasons like just to marry and we have to love them. Pay attention to how your thinking or how your feeling with them or talking there are clues there. Just a notice here she said the relationship with the person for us should be fun and fulfilling, is the word fun in scripture?? How about joyful and holy instead, it should be a holy one.

  13. John-992356 March 30, 2014

    Since when is Love defined by romance and passion. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

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