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Are You “Settling” or Being Sensible?

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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD - Blogs
By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhDPsychologistMay 06, 2015
From the WebMD Archives

“Is there someone better for me out there?” If you’re asking yourself this question it’s really important that you understand the difference between settling and making a wise choice. Only in the movies can someone consistently meet a partner’s every need and fulfill their every desire. Here in the real world, people have strengths and weaknesses. They might be a fabulous fit for you in some ways while falling short in others. But it’s important to understand that love is a feeling people create by spinning an imperfect connection into a golden relationship.

So, instead of wondering if you’ve found the perfect partner, the question you need to be asking yourself is, “Is my partner someone that I could create a fulfilling and loving life with?” To answer this, consider the following basic elements that are needed for a healthy, long-term relationship:

Good fit: It’s essential that you and your partner enjoy each other’s company – whether through activities you do together or even just through enjoyable conversations.

Attraction: Physical attraction is definitely important, but you don’t need to think your partner is the most attractive person you’ve ever met. They might not even be your usual type.

Emotionally available: Healthy, committed relationships require two partners who are able to both share and listen to each other’s thoughts, feelings, needs, and desires. Your partner should be a safe haven, listening to you and comforting you when you are upset, and they should also provide you with a secure base, supporting and encouraging you to follow your interests. So, if you choose a partner who is not open to being emotionally close, you will definitely be settling.

Shared values/goals: To be a team in life, it’s extremely helpful to have shared values and goals for life. This might mean a shared commitment to a cause, raising a family, or living a faith-centered life.

Ready for a relationship: No matter how many of the areas above describe you and your partner, you must both also be ready for a commitment. If you choose to continue in a relationship, or get married, when one of you is not ready for it, you will both be settling. Relationships must be co-created, so both people have to be committed to doing it.

If you and your partner are a great match according to all you’ve read here, but you are still wondering about whether you are settling, then maybe the problem is in you. Ask yourself, “Is the real issue that I’m afraid of commitment?” If you are, think more specifically about what it is that you fear. Talk with your partner about it – making it an ongoing conversation that you can work through together. You might also talk with other trusted friends and family. This can help diminish your fears. If not, then consider therapy to help you resolve the issue.

Again, no partner is perfect – that’s a given. However, that doesn’t tell you whether your partner can work with you to create a life filled with love and meaning. To learn this, consider the above basic elements of healthy, long-term relationships. Then decide for yourself: Is staying with your partner settling or making a wise choice for a life of love?

Entries for the Relationships blog are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for individual professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need help for an emotional or behavioral problem, please seek the assistance of a psychologist or other qualified mental health professional.

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About the Author
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

Dr. Becker-Phelps is a licensed psychologist in NJ and NY, and is on staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset. She is dedicated to helping people understand themselves and what they need to do to become emotionally and psychologically healthy. She accomplishes this through her work as a psychotherapist, speaker and writer. She is the author of Bouncing Back from Rejection and Insecure in Love.

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