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How to Tell If You're Settling & Is It All That Bad?

  • Grant Langston
  • 2005 10 Aug
How to Tell If You're Settling & Is It All That Bad?

A list of buzzwords for the new millennium would surely contain the term "settling." Settling (set'ling), v., 1. to decide that the person you're dating is the best available person for you, even when they aren't exactly what you want.


Settling has the connotation of "giving up," but is that a fair analysis? After all, holding out for Mr. or Ms. Perfect seems childish and unrealistic. So when is settling smart and when is settling a mistake?


One side of the coin consists of people who don't think that anyone they date meets their standards. What they see as "settling" may just be reality saying, "Hello! Julia Roberts and George Clooney would not be interested in you." For these people, their extensive lists of "Must Have" and "Can't Stand" traits eliminate virtually everyone they meet.


The other side is filled with people who can't let go of relationships out of fear that they will never find anyone better. In his book "How to Know If Someone is Worth Pursuing in Two Dates or Less," Dr. Neil Clark Warren recounts the story of a woman named Jan. Jan had dated lots of men but none of the relationships had worked out. She also knew each relationship was incompatible "from the beginning." Dr. Warren asks why she stayed in each relationship for many months.


"Because I didn't know if I'd have another chance," she replied. "I thought this might be my one opportunity. I didn't want to give up what I did have and go searching for someone I feared didn't even exist."  For someone like Jan, settling means staying with an incompatible partner out of fear.


The best way to tell if you are being too picky or too lenient is to get a firm, short list of 10 traits you "Must Have" and 10 traits you "Can't Stand" in a relationship partner.


Now consider the lists. If each trait is an absolute non-negotiable, especially the positive Must Haves, then you are ready to apply your standards to the individuals you date. A relationship with a person that does not perfectly fit this list would lead to misery and despair. 


It is pretty obvious that no one would meet your specifications if your list contained 50 Must Have traits. But the act of trimming the list to 10 traits forces you to consider what is really important to you. It is vital that you wait until you meet someone with all 10 Must Have traits. I repeat, if a potential partner does not possess every single Must Have on your list, you are being too lenient and doing the wrong kind of settling.


With this short list of 10 good and 10 bad traits, even the pickiest person is forced to loosen up and acknowledge that a great relationship can be had with a person that is slightly different from their "dream date."  In fact, the term "settling" doesn't even apply anymore. Most people see this as realistically adjusting their expectations; a reasonable and prudent move that will create a richer life.


In the end, if settling or readjusting your expectations moves you in the direction of a happy, loving and real relationship with a person that meets your reasonable standards, go for it. Great relationships are created by people who have realistic expectations and will accept nothing less.

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