A woman leans her head towards her male partner while sitting at a busy table

Should you ever settle?

by Eharmony Editorial Team - November 24, 2011

We all carry a picture in our minds of our perfect partner and may have held out for years waiting for him/her to come along. If time is moving on and we meet someone who doesn’t quite tick all the boxes should we let go of the dream and settle for them instead?

It can feel disheartening to keep meeting matches and turning them down because they don’t fit into the picture of your ideal mate. Sometimes they can look alright on paper and yet when you meet them there is just something missing. It can’t be that every single person is unsuitable; maybe a fulfilling, happy relationship could develop but should you ever settle rather than hold on?

History repeating itself

According to psychologists our ideas and expectations of a perfect partner begin forming when we are very young watching the relationships of the significant adults around us – usually our parents. We develop a picture of an ideal man or woman. If our parents were happy together when we are adults we may unconsciously begin a search for someone very like our parent of the opposite sex. If our parents were unhappy as children we probably developed ideas about what the other partner could, and should, be like in order to make mummy or daddy happy and later, in our adult relationships, we look for someone like that.

Unfortunately, if we are from an abusive or dysfunctional background we may be drawn to partners exhibiting the same behaviours in an unconscious desire to heal the past.
The trouble with these childhood visions of Mr or Mrs Right is they have often become outdated and we are being driven by unconscious processes. The key is to make your thinking conscious, write down what you are looking for in a partner and question yourself on every item on the list – how important is it? Look at successful relationships and friendships you have had in the past, what made them so good?

Don’t expect perfection

From a young age we are fed romantic images through stories, films, love songs and society and the media. Perfect boy meets perfect girl, they fall in love and live happily ever after. Real life isn’t like that. In real life people are perfectly imperfect. Everyone has faults. Life has problems. Relationships are sometimes difficult as the stresses and strains of ordinary life – work – money – children – constantly challenge us to grow and learn together.

When we meet a match it may start off feeling and looking like a perfect romance but then, as we get to know them, we see their human frailties, begin to feel disillusioned and our interest wanes. It is actually at this point that real love has the chance to develop. In the early stages – the honeymoon period as it is often called – everything is exciting and new and our romantic fantasies are colouring our perception of our new mate. It is when reality comes into focus and you make that inner commitment to stick with someone knowing that they are not perfect that you really begin to love them and reap the rewards of that commitment. This isn’t settling, it is accepting that we are all human and worthy of love.

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Changing your mind

If you believe you have ‘settled’ in a relationship this can brings about all sorts of other unhelpful assumptions which can stop the relationship from developing fully e.g. this person isn’t good enough for me – I deserve better – I’m only with them until something better comes along – I’m only with them because I would rather be with them than be on my own. Imagine if it were the other way round and you found out your partner had ‘settled’ for you, how would you feel?

How it works

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The key to happy and lasting relationships is to give to your partner exactly what it is that you want to receive, relationships are often reflections. If you want someone to be loving, kind and generous, be those things yourself. If you want someone to be supportive and understanding ask them how their day was rather than judging them inwardly for not fulfilling your needs.

The greatest gift we are given is the ability to give and receive love and there isn’t anyone who is unworthy of that love. If you make the commitment to love someone it’s always better to do it fully than half heartedly because the wonderful feelings that love brings are as much in the giving as in the receiving – half a heart = half the rewards.