8 Signs You Are Settling in an Unhappy Relationship
When I worked in retail one summer, I got to know an older employee who had worked at the company for nearly twenty years. She was sweet and kind.
One day she told me how she graduated at the top of her class and started working at the department store to save up for college. Even though she didn’t really like it, she settled for the job and never left. Twenty years and lots of frustration later, she wondered what happened to her life.
This story is true, but it’s also a metaphor for many relationships. I’ve talked to hundreds of people who got into a relationship with someone who wasn’t right for them. They knew, deep down, that they didn’t feel a great spark, but they continued on through engagement, marriage, children, and an expensive house.
They couldn’t see signs they were settling in an unhappy relationship and it cost them dearly in pain, heartbreak, financial loss, and, most importantly, years of lost happiness.
It’s not difficult to tell if you’re settling with someone who isn’t really worth your commitment. But, sometimes when you’re in the relationship, you can put on blinders. This article will give you 8 signs that you are settling in an unhappy relationship. If you notice these signs in yourself, you’ll have to honestly face the facts.
You’re Never Single
I know many people who’ve never been single since they were old enough to take an interest in romance. Or, maybe they were single for a week or two here and there. This often leads to settling because how can you truly evaluate that a person is right for you when you jump into commitment so quickly?
If your life is a series of long term relationships with very little time being single, then it’s a good sign you not only settle, but you are a serial settler. Just because someone shows you attention and is willing to commit doesn’t make that person Mr. or Ms. Right.
You Met By Default
If your partner came about by “default” rather than an active effort on your part, then you’re probably settling. Some examples of relationships by default are: falling for someone in your social circle, school, or place of work, going with the first and only option you’re presented (e.g. committing to the first guy who asks you out), and dating the person your mom told you to.
While it’s certainly possible to find true love this way (my parents met in high school and are very happy), it’s equally possible that you committed out of convenience or ease rather than passion and genuine compatibility. For example, out of all the people in the world, is your life partner really the one who asked you out when you were 15?
Maybe. But, it’s important to ask the question because in a large, diverse world with countless people who could make you very happy, the answer isn’t always yes. In fact, high school sweethearts are far more likely to divorce…and quickly.
You Make Excuses
“I don’t feel a lot of passion for him, but I like that he is stable and reliable.”
“I’m not very happy, but at least my family likes him.”
“I wish we’d have sex more, but she’s sweet so I’d hate to break up.”
If you’re making excuses for your partner or for why you’re in the relationship, whether it’s to yourself or others, it’s one of the clearest signs you are settling in an unhappy relationship. Deep down, you know whether you truly feel love and passion for your partner.
If you have to convince yourself, then, I hate to break it to you, but you’re settling! Actually, I don’t hate to break it to you because this will make you happier in the long run.
You Do It For Other People
I know a woman who didn’t date the guy she really loved because her parents didn’t approve. This was years ago and she is still with the guy. Her parents are happy, but is she?
If you’re in a relationship because your mom likes him, you think your church approves, your couples selfies get a lot of likes on social media, or any reason that involves the approval of others, then you’re settling.
While it’s good to have others approve of and support your relationship, that only works if you really want to be in the relationship. If you aren’t truly in love or don’t feel the spark, then no amount of external approval will make it work in the long run.
You Expect Big Events To Make It Better
“The relationship will get better when we’re married.”
“I’m sure we’ll fight less when we have kids.”
“Moving in together will bring back the passion.”
I hate to break it to you, but if you expect engagements, marriages, buying a house, or, God forbid, having kids, to save your relationship, then that relationship is already doomed.
Big events aren’t going to fundamentally change your partner. If there’s no spark, no connection, and no real love, an external event, even a big one, isn’t going to change that. If anything, it only deepens your legal commitment to someone you don’t even truly love!
You Long For Someone Else
Think of someone else during sex with your partner? Secretly stalk a former crush religiously? Constantly read romance novels or look at internet pornography?
While some of these are normal to an extent, they are also a sign that you’ve settled in your current relationship. If you’re with someone you know isn’t right for you or you’re longing for someone else, whether someone you know or random people on a screen or characters in a book, you’re probably settling.
One study showed (warning: pdf) that 48 percent of people agreed that they married because they had found their life partner. That’s a very low number and implies that half of all married people out there could easily see themselves with another person.
You Have Negative Feelings For Your Partner
Are you embarrassed to be seen with your partner at work events? Do you get disgusted when your partner wants to kiss you? Do you feel annoyed and angry when you see a text from him or her?
This is a major sign that you’ve settled. While no one feels strongly positive for his or her partner all of the time, if you consistently feel strong, negative feelings, you’re not with someone who does a whole lot for you.
You’re Not Happy
The most important sign you’re settling in an unhappy relationship? You’re just not happy with your partner. You try to be happy. You convince yourself that you’re happy. You post happy photos on social media…but you aren’t.
All of the externals might be nice: the vacations, the house, the social events, and more. But, in the end and in your heart, you know that your partner just doesn’t do it for you. The spark isn’t there and maybe never was.
And, you have to face the awful truth: you’re settling and it’s making you miserable.
While admitting you’re settling can be painful, it’s better to recognize it quickly and act, rather than to live in denial and wake up one day realizing that you threw away years because you settled with the wrong person.
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