Tag Archives: Healthy Relationships

10 Ways to Determine if You’re Settling or Just Being Realistic

When it comes to romance, we overthink everything.

10 Ways to Determine if You’re Settling

It’s a legit question. When the honeymoon phase ends, and realism sets in, it can be tempting to wonder: Wait, am I settling?

After all, with the seemingly endless supply of options nowadays (cue: swipe, swipe), it can be tough to discern if the person you’re with is a realistic, amazing fit—or just a sign you’ve given up the dating game and decided to settle for second best.  As my clients are terrified of making a mistake, they come to me questioning if the person they’re dating is actually the person they want to marry.

And it’s a good question.

That said: I am going to be honest with you. Marriage doesn’t come with a 100% guarantee, and the idea of soulmates is just plain unhelpful. But there are ten key areas I discuss with them that can give them more confidence that they are making a good choice—or setting themselves up for a tough road ahead.

So if you’re wondering if you are indeed settling—or just moving forward with eyes wide open, look at these ten areas and take a moment to honestly question where you stand.

01. Your Acceptance of Each Other

Settling: You’re in this relationship for his potential. You have notions that he’ll be different once you’re settled, or you think he just needs a little more time to be the man you want him to be.

Healthy: You accept him as he is. Although you can ask for behavior modifications, you admire and respect many of his qualities without thinking he needs an overhaul.

02. Your Mutual Respect for Each Other

Settling: You’re consistently disrespected. He sometimes belittles what’s important to you, has humiliated you on a number of occasions, or makes you feel crazy. When you want his attention he responds harshly or ignores you. Whatever his disrespectful behaviors are, you rationalize them in your mind by thinking, “He doesn’t really mean it.”

Healthy: You can say with confidence that he respects you. Even if you disagree or have different perspectives, he honors your opinions and feelings. He listens and makes you feel validated. He makes you feel like an equal.

03. Your Ability to Compromise

Settling: He doesn’t consider you in his actions. When you tell him something is important to you or you bring up how he can meet your needs, he brushes your concerns aside or completely ignores them. Sometimes he might initially say ‘yes’ to what you need but then infrequently follows through.

Healthy: He responds positively to what you need. He is genuinely curious about what’s important to you—and why—and takes on a “team” effort. He is flexible and willing to compromise. Although he might not follow through right away according to your timeline, he shows consistently that he takes action in the areas that are important to you.

04. Your Gut Instinct

Settling: You frequently feel anxious. You feel insecure in the relationship—where you stand, how he feels, etc. If you’re the type that wants a lot of closeness in a relationship, you might feel the need to lower your expectations. Something is off, and you simply, don’t feel fully loved.

Healthy: You feel a sense of peace. Feelings of infatuation don’t last forever, and instead, you now feel comfort and security. Sometimes people mistake this as there being something wrong or missing with the relationship, but this means you moved toward the attachment phase of your relationship.

05. Your Overall Interactions

Settling: You have intermittent great times. You frequently dream about wonderful moments in the past, where you saw how good it was between you, and you wish that is how it could be again.

Healthy: You consistently have good times together. You have built a deep friendship, and there’s an atmosphere of positivity. The positives of your relationship far outweigh the negative. (Consider maintaining at least a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions.)

06.  Your Social Circle

Settling: You frequently complain about him to family and friends—or they have verbally shared their concerns about your relationship.

Healthy: Your family and friends like him. They know that no one is perfect and that no relationship is without conflict—but most (if not all) of them support your relationship and actually like your guy.

07. Your Reason

Settling: Be honest here. Do you think you ‘should’ get married to this person, or is it just the next step? Maybe you’ve been dating him for 5 years and you think it’s about time. Maybe you fear having wasted all of this time so you’re staying in the relationship. Or maybe the thought of getting back into the dating pool makes you want to vomit. Perhaps you think you’ve reached a certain age, or your friends are all married, and you think it’s just time.

Healthy: You want him for him. Not only do you deeply love this man, but you can rattle off all of his amazing traits. You’re specific about the things that you admire and respect about him. Even if you mention the behaviors that drive you crazy, you know you can both work through it.

08. Your Relationship Goals

Settling: He hints at marriage someday, but doesn’t seem to be actively working towards the idea. If he doesn’t have talks with you trying to figure out if you could build a life together, he might just be stringing you along.

Healthy: He wants marriage too. You have the same relationship goal and he’s engaged in conversations about what your life would look like if you two got married.

09. Your Toxic Behaviors

Settling: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling—are the ‘4 Horseman’ of relationship doom, and according to the research of Dr. Gottman, lead to divorce. I joke with my clients, “You might as well sign the divorce papers along with the marriage license,” if these four traits proliferate already. Couples must take these toxic behaviors seriously—and find ways to work on them before they become engaged.

Healthy: The 4 Horsemen might show their faces at times, but not often. You may be critical or get defensive, but you move on—as it’s infrequent enough. You’ve learned to effectively repair any damage your behaviors have done.

10. Your Deal Breakers

Settling: You’re overlooking deal breakers and red flags. You believe he’ll change his mind or think, “Oh, we’ll figure it out later.” It might be scary, but not addressing issues these issues can make you waste even more of your time.

Healthy: You’ve talked through any possible deal breakers and red flags—and realize that some issues, are just personality quirks that will be perpetual—and it doesn’t spell out doom, just realism.

Letting go of someone you love—even if they’re a terrible fit—can still be terrifying. You don’t know if you’ll find anyone else, and you may fear that you’ll be single forever. On the flip side, if you’ve been dating your guy a while, you should know your partner isn’t perfect. Remember, you can view your unmarried state as one of power—the power to figure out if you’re with a good man, and the potential power to give yourself permission to find someone who is a better fit, for both of you.

*As seen in Verily

Want a Perfect Relationship? Try Actually Accepting Some Imperfections

When it comes to love, perfect is very much the enemy of the great.

Healthy Relationships Aren't Perfect

Do you have a friend who is always late, but you put up with it because she’s always there for you no matter what? Or what about that friend who constantly complains about her life and takes no action to improve it, but you accept that about her because you know she’s in a tough spot?

If you mentally scroll through your friend list, none of them are perfect. You take the good with the bad with your friends because you think they’re awesome, they add richness to your life, and they support you. Chances are when you see them, you have no plans on fixing them.

Do you do the same with your partner?

Well, if you’re like most of my clients: probably not. Perhaps you wish your partner was more organized. Or maybe better with money. Or more romantically expressive.

In my years as a relationship counselor, I’ve discovered that what makes happy couples successful is that they recognize the uniqueness of their partner, have no plans on changing each other, and learn to live with the inevitable differences that come with any relationship.

That’s right. Inevitable differences. Let me explain.

Not all “issues” can be solved—and that’s OK.

Research shows that 69 percent of relationship problems are perpetual. That means even in absolutely terrific relationships, couples deal with the same problems over and over again, triggered by differences in personality, lifestyle, values, dreams, needs, childhood, and life experiences.

Couples can easily get stuck because they criticize each other, make the other feel wrong, and overall convey a lack of acceptance of one another when dealing with these unsolvable issues. But the thing is: This only exasperates the problem. Even if they were to change partners, they would simply swap a different set of problems.

The good news is that having perpetual issues is entirely normal. These kinds of problems don’t have a solution; rather, they need to be managed and not solved. It’s how you handle them that makes all the difference in whether your relationship will be happy.

Honoring your partner and compromising is key. Here are six ways to handle perpetual issues:

01. Recognize that you’re dealing with a perpetual issue.

Consider the kinds of flaws or quirks you and your partner have always had. Perhaps he has the tendency to micromanage during stressful situations. Perhaps you’re not very good at cleaning up after yourself. Then ask: Did you or your partner have these inclinations while you were dating? Are these issues you’ve dealt with outside of your relationship? If the answer is yes, you’re most likely dealing with a perpetual issue.

02. Look at the specific differences that are creating conflict.

If your partner is chronically late but you’ve accepted that and don’t pick a fight when he is late, it’s not really a problematic perpetual issue. However, if you are annoyed and a fight ensues every other week because your partner has made you late again, then it’s the kind of issue that will need to be addressed and is worth a conversation.

03. Convey acceptance.

During this conversation, use affection, humor, and an overall positive attitude when talking about these issues causing conflict. The way you talk to your partner about these issues can either lead to ongoing, positive dialogue or cause a chronic feeling of rejection and hurt. You want to show your partner that you accept him—preferences, values, and quirks—just the way he is. Not only is this step more loving, but by going this route your partner will actually be more likely to take initiative and make behavior modifications—simply because they feel liked and appreciated as they are.

04. Identify the underlying reasons for each other’s tendencies or stances.

Your partner has valid reasons for why he acts, thinks, and feels the way he does. So sit down and talk about where these beliefs come from. This will make it much, much easier to empathize and understand. You’ll soon discover these tendencies will be wrapped in your partner’s values, hopes, aspirations, dreams, and even experiences from his childhood or adulthood. Ultimately, they’ve become attributes tied to his identity and perhaps even what gives him a purpose to his life.

Keep in mind that what you think is not necessarily better than what your partner thinks: It’s just different. The goal here is to understand, not necessarily to agree.

05. Name your non-negotiables.

Talk to your partner about what you’re both unwilling to budge on. What do you really need to see from your partner? Does the toilet seat really need to be down? Or is there something more important? You’ll want to keep your non-negotiables to a minimum.  What can’t you live without? Or what behavior drives you so crazy that you want it to stop? Things can become rather touchy during this part of the conversation, so take breaks when you need them—and refer to #4 frequently, so you both understand where you’re coming from.

06. Recognize areas where you can be flexible.

If you want a loving relationship, you’re not going to get things your way all the time, so in what ways can you be flexible? Specifically, think about the when, where, and how. When doesn’t it matter if he’s exactly on time? Where is it OK for you to be a little messy? How will you handle things when you both disappoint each other when you’re too busy?

Compromise won’t always feel perfect, but it’s necessary for you both to be honored and for your relationship to always “win.”

You can’t get everything that you want in a significant other, just like you can’t get everything from your friends. Before you start swapping problems, jumping from one relationship to the next, accept there will be inevitable differences even with your most compatible match—and that you’ll just need to manage those differences with respect, humor, and affection.

*As seen on Verily