Some of us worry we are still single because we are too picky. It’s generally a female burden to feel that we are asking for “too much,” being “high maintenance,” or “difficult.” But when are these things actually true, and when are we just making excuses to settle?
Michelle Afont, relationship expert, divorce lawyer, and multi-published author whose most recent work is The Dang Factor, is our go-to when it comes to the big relationship q’s. She knows the notion of settling is very real and can have repercussions on our happiness and the longevity of a relationship. It’s really about determining whether we are settling down with someone, or simply settling.
For a lot of us, Afont points out that it boils down to the clock. “In an ideal world, we all dream of finding true love; however, the harsh reality for many couples is to settle for a less-than-ideal relationship. Simply put, we settle in a relationship based on the timing. Rarely, if ever, do we settle for someone during high school or our early 20s. Why? Because we do not have a sense of urgency about finding love, getting married, and starting a family.
“If we invest substantial time in a partner during our mid to late 20s and 30s, the chance of settling for a partner increases significantly. This is due to the ‘I don’t want to start over’ philosophy that so easily controls our relationship decisions. Knowing the dating process can take years to find our next partner, we often settle during these years based on the sheer amount of energy and effort it takes to start over in our quest for love.
“As women, we are well aware of our biological clock. Unfortunately, the ticking clock often favors settling over true love. Other reasons for settling include low self-confidence, peer pressure, society pressure, and family pressure. The pressure society places on our ‘marrying age,’ coupled with our child-bearing time clocks, serves to create a surefire recipe for settling.” Let that sink in.
Editor’s note: Although this article uses male pronouns, the advice applies to all sexual orientations and gender identities.
Of course, if we have a seriously dogmatic game plan when it comes to family and marriage, the clock matters. But for so many of us, truly rewarding partnerships can be found at all ages. And we want to be aware of the signs. Afont warns, “If our friends and family have to talk us into being with someone, we are settling. If we spend endless hours rationalizing the qualities we can ‘live with,’ without actually loving him, we are settling. If we think, ‘He’s better than being single,’ we are settling.” Don’t fall into reasoning with yourself.
Afont’s examples of settling:
I’m not sexually attracted to him, but he is a really hard worker.
I love him, but I am not in love with him.
I am not drawn to his looks, but he is so sweet.
I dread being with him, but he comes from such a good family.
I’m 34 years old and I want kids. At least he will be a good father.
Afont gives us this test to determine if we’re settling. “I like to ask: ‘If he were to propose to you tomorrow, what would your answer be?’ If you are in LOVE, the answer needs to be an unequivocal ‘YES!’ If your answer is wishy-washy and full of rationales as to WHY you should marry him, you are settling.” These questions can help us avoid problems that arise in the future, as a settled marriage rarely equals a lifetime of wedded bliss. And that’s the tea.
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