Love has challenges for everyone, but one of the saddest things I’ve seen is folks who settle for somebody they don’t want to be with.
I’ve been tempted to do this myself in the past, so I understand many of the motivations.
But I also understand the feeling of emptiness and sadness that comes from settling.
If you’re settling, you might barely even realize it, especially since it’s a very painful thing to admit to oneself and leaves you back at square one.
Here’s how to tell if you are.
1) You don’t find them interesting to talk to
None of us are looking to be in a relationship with a debate partner or academic study buddy.
But it is crucial to be with somebody you actually like being around and chatting with.
It can be as much about energy and the style of conversation as the conversation itself, in my opinion.
When the words and interaction just are not flowing it’s so frustrating and depressing.
Don’t settle for somebody you find boring to be around and talk to. Just don’t.
As Justin Brown points out here, finding someone you’d actually want to still talk to in ten years is a key part of finding a partner to commit to.
2) You are on the fence about your relationship future
When you think of your relationship future, what do you feel?
When you’re settling, you usually feel a whole lot of nothing. You may also feel a kind of nausea, low-key (or intense) anxiety and a sort of depressive haze.
The future doesn’t stand out as something you can’t wait for, it’s something you don’t particularly like to think about in terms of your relationship.
In fact, you have trouble even picturing you and your partner together in five or ten years. You just see a kind of blank.
3) You only do nice things for them out of obligation
We all have limited time and energy.
But if you find that you don’t genuinely want to help your partner out or do kind things for them, it’s definitely a warning sign.
Could you just be a bit self-centered?
It’s certainly possible, but the truth is that when you’re in love and committed to someone even self-centered people tend to find that extra bit of energy to do nice things.
They don’t want to lose their love.
But you don’t really care, and you just do nice things because you feel obligated and it’s easier than arguing about why you shouldn’t have to do them.
4) You feel awkward when you introduce them as your partner
Another sign that you’re with somebody you don’t really want to be with is that you don’t really like introducing them as your significant other.
When you’re out with friends or having a dinner with family, you stumble over your words or get a knot in your stomach.
It just feels wrong to say this is your boyfriend, or your wife.
It feels like you want to hit the “undo” key on the keyboard of your life. But life doesn’t work that way, so you try to swallow your sick feeling and not stress about it.
But you know something feels off.
5) You find that your core values are on very different pages
You don’t need to agree on everything to have a rewarding relationship and find a life partner you can love deeply.
But if you find that you’re just not speaking the same language as your partner when it comes to your core values?
That’s a very big problem, and there’s no point in downplaying it.
What makes you motivated and happy, angry and sad? What rouses you to political action or spiritual inspiration?
These aren’t small questions, and if your partner just can’t relate to these aspects of your life, then ultimately you’re left wondering how you can relate to them.
6) The physical, emotional or intellectual connection is missing
Love has three main components:
There’s physical attraction, the intellectual mental connection and the emotional heart connection.
Some of these will always be stronger than others and may evolve and wax or wane throughout a relationship.
But if one aspect is completely missing, this isn’t the right person for you.
7) You’re mainly with them due to circumstances or suggestion
It’s sad to see, but I know many people who are with their significant other mainly due to circumstances.
They met them at a vulnerable time in their life…
Their parents or culture pressured them to get together…
They were aging and really wanted to find someone and finally met a person who seemed “good enough…”
These are horrible things to think about, but we’re not going to get anywhere if we sugarcoat it.
If you’re with someone basically because of circumstances or other people suggesting you’d make a good couple, it’s usually a sign that you settled.
8) You experience a desire to get away from them after having sex
There are few truer moments than right after having sex with somebody.
How do you feel? The answer may be sleepy, satisfied, happy or even just kind of generally relaxed.
But if the answer is that you feel empty, anxious or like getting away as soon as possible, your heart is sending you a clear message:
This person is not somebody you truly feel drawn to.
Even if you are physically attracted to them, right after your desire is sated you no longer feel an interest. What clearer sign could there be that you don’t have deeper feelings for this person that go beyond the physical?
You owe it to this person (and yourself) to be honest and forego physical pleasure for the sake of not settling and finding someone you truly want to be with in a relationship.
9) You notice many other people you’d rather be with
It’s sad to say, but when you look around and see many people you’d rather be with it’s about a clear a sign as you can get that you’re not with the right person.
This goes beyond surface-level temptation or lust.
I’m talking about looking around and seeing other individuals who you find more charming, interesting, attractive, enticing.
I’m talking about wanting to be loyal to your partner but having to mechanically force your attention back onto them because your heart just truly and simply isn’t in it.
You have to be true to yourself at some point: this relationship is not working out for you (and maybe it never was to begin with).
‘The day everything collapsed’
When you’re with somebody you don’t want to be with, it can be a truly decentering and disturbing experience.
You may find yourself out with your partner and suddenly realize that the life you’re living isn’t real, at least not to you.
“The day everything collapsed was when I was 18, I went to a museum with the girl I was dating, everyone was looking at us as the beautiful in love teenagers, and for a weird second I looked at her face and felt nothing, no emotion, pure indifference, a gaze that reflected nothing.”
If this is you, then I understand the confusion and trauma of such a realization.
But it’s crucial to be true to yourself and begin taking steps to communicate with your partner and end the relationship.
Nobody should have to settle, and what’s more is that nobody wants to be the one who was settled for!
My dream is to be married to a woman I love and have a family; my nightmare is to be married to a woman I don’t love and have a family.
Life will never be perfect, but we should still all choose wisely when it comes to relationships!