Why Do We Settle for Less in Love and Life?

| 07/04/2009 | Comments (0)

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Question:  What is it about us as human beings that causes us to settle for less than what we want, less than our worth? Is it something that is ingrained into our psyche that tells us that we simply cannot have what we truly want? Did our parents pass this bad decision-making process down to us? We tend to settle for less in every aspect of our lives – marriage, job, goals, friends, home, relationship, etc. What exactly causes us to settle for something less than what we want?  


In one word, FEAR.

Fear causes us to settle. Fear pushes us towards comfort, complacency, and familiarity. Fear is Anti-Faith. It works against the belief that you will succeed or have what you will desire and it kills even the belief in the possibility of you achieving your dreams, if you allow it.

Another aspect of settling is lacking the desire in becoming prepared for what one is seeking.

For instance, in the realm of relationships, you have both men and women desiring to be in long-term, committed relationships, or marriages, AND YET neither one is preparing for what they desire. What I see is people living a very individualistic, single lifestyle all the way up to the "getting serious" talk, or to the altar.

There is no other venture in life like committed relationships, where people practice the complete opposite of what they profess they want to eventually become, and expect a most beautiful result when opportunity arrives. I am convinced people think some kind of instantaneous magic occurs when a declaration of commitment or wedding vows are exchanged. This idea is about as laughable as it is absurd.

If one is tired of "settling" it would seem to me that the simplest answer would be NOT TO SETTLE. When the going gets tough, keep going, and don’t fold to the pressure. Its easy to fold and hard to press on, that’s why many do the former and few do the latter.

Finally, is it settling in some cases, or is it one coming to understand that the standards and ideas that they hold are probably too extreme for reality, or even their very own selves?

There’s a difference between a person DESIRING what they want and a person DESERVING what they want. We can DESIRE all day what we want without any effort, but to DESERVE what we want requires the best effort. Sure, some people get a fortunate break, and get what they DESIRE, yet did not DESERVE, but many often lose it because they don’t have the character to keep it or sustain what they have.

So the final idea is to stop settling, if it is so frustrating, and prepare and be what you seek. 

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Interesting that this particular issue would be submitted for our review this week, because I’d been thinking about the women I’ve come across struggling to sustain a relationship with men that are totally incompatible. The relationships may be boring, bad sex, lack commitment, and be totally disappointing but one or both members of the couple cling to each other like life rafts.  Embarassingly, this person is usually female. 

The reason?  There are many reasons. Most can be traced to the socialization of women from a very early age.  Here’s a short list of things young women are told by both men and women which contribute to their fearful insecurity and subsequent questionable choices… the "I can’t lose him or I’ll be alone" or the "I’m desperate to find a husband before I’m 40" mentality: 

  • "Real men will never meet your fairy tale fantasy standards. You’re too picky!"
  • "It’s better to have someone than to be single and lonely and grow old by yourself!"
  • "He seems like a good man, why don’t you just marry him? He’ll take good care of you."
  • "You’re 35 now, right? When are you gonna get married? Pretty soon you’ll be too old to have children!"
  • "You still don’t have a husband? Why can’t you keep a man?"
  • "You’re not getting any younger you know!"
  • "Women need a man… so what he’s not Mr. Right? Hold onto your boat until your yacht comes in!"
  • "Well, he’s the best one you’ve dated so far… isn’t that good enough?"
  • "Marriage for women is really about finding the man that gets on your nerves the least!"

But where’s the obviously thin line between a thoughtful compromise and desperate settling? Is the line fluid, meaning it changes as we age? If so, when does one give up the search for "100% perfect" and accept that a partner might instead be perfect in the ways that count? I think such growth does occur. 

Young people are looking for that romantic burning passion, and often pay little attention to character, values, morals, and his or her ability to work together as partners.  The boring, definitely not hot guy that was rejected at 28 (because you would have been settling) is a lot more interesting at 35 when you realize that he is intelligent, responsible, and family oriented. Maybe you roll your eyes at his interest in old clocks and wish he didn’t have that pencil body with the pot belly, but he’s honorable, sincere and willing to commit and move forward with you.  So you pick him.

Perhaps the quiet woman with the less than stellar body was not what you wanted at 30, but when a guy hits 40 and is still single and alone, he comes to realize that what makes a woman a great wife and mother is not measured by her breast size or sexiness.  You may roll your eyes at her interest in pottery, and think her being a vegetarian and PETA member is weird, but she’s honest, loving, and supportive.  So you pick her.  

Is such a choice a sensible compromise by a wiser more mature person, or desperate settling by a single on the downstroke to 40 whose biological clock is about to blow up?  I can’t answer that question for you, but you see where I’m going with this.

It’s important that singles avoid running from partner to partner or that they stay with some abusive, uncommitted knucklehead or selfish bitch just to avoid being alone.  It’s important to take the time to look within, discern our true emotional needs, and know with certainty what we need to be happy. 

When one does such inner soul work, we discover that many of the things we felt we just HAD to have are superficial and silly, or are more important to our family than they are to us. In such a case "settling" is not fear based at all – it’s a logical decision made by a mature, wise person with a true understanding of what a long-term partnership is all about.

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Veteran social researcher, relationship advice columnist, author and radio host. Author of hundreds of articles on American and black culture, gender issues, singles, dating and relationships. Author of "Sucka Free Love!" , "The 24 Types of Suckas to Avoid," "The Black Church - Where Women Pray and Men Pray," and "Why Vegan is the New Black" all available on Amazon.Com. Her unique voice and insightful commentary have delighted fans and riled haters for 20 years. Read her stuff on SurvivingDating.Com and AskHeartBeat.Com.

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Category: Date Smarter, Not Harder

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