The notion of settling means something different to us all but for the most part the term alludes to adopt one thing (usually viewed as more secure or steady) above another thing (the more uncertain or risky thing - what you 'truly' want).
The following Ask Redditors share whether or not they believe they settled, and how either decision worked out for them.
Interested in more responses? You can find the original thread at the end of the article.
I guess you could say I "settled" for my current partner. He doesn't have job or a license, so I pay the bills and drive him wherever he needs to go. I'm young, bright, and moderately attractive, and plenty of people have said, implicitly or explicitly that I could find someone with a job and a car, and they're absolutely right. On paper I could absolutely do "better."
But what they don't realize is what he does do for me. He cleans the apartment when I'm at work and runs errands for me whenever he can get a ride from a friend. But more importantly, he not only puts up with, but understands and loves me.
I've fought depression and anxiety since I was 12, and last year I was diagnosed as possibly a bit bipolar. I've struggled with cutting and eating disorders since I was a young teen. I've had tons of friends and partners who supported me and my mental illnesses, but my boyfriend is the first person I've met who intrinsically understands what I go through. I've spent years trying to downplay and suppress my mental problems in relationships, and for the first time in my life I don't have to. I've been trying to find someone like this for 13 years. And that's worth way more than money to me.
I was in my late teens, still ruffled from a long term relationship (that wasn't actually long term) breakup a few years prior and I met someone else. I wanted to be in another long term relationship, and I decided that this girl would do for now. I'd been single for a while, and had designed the perfect girlfriend into a picture in my head and now I was just waiting for her to arrive. This girl was not that picture but whatever.
So we started dating and all was going relatively well, but then she got sick. Crap. I needed to be there for her - not only physically, but mentally too. So I told myself to grow up a bit - 'make more of an investment!, 'It's over with that other girl (I told myself)!' I needed to make a commitment or move on - I couldn't keep stringing her along. So there I was in the hospital, visiting my girlfriend, mentally prepping myself to be 'there' for her, and then it just sort of hit me. My girlfriend needs a real friend, not someone playing pretend. It's super cliche, I know, but it really was a spark that turned into a flame, then a fire, and eventually that forest of old feelings was eventually burned to ash.
This was not a quick process, but over the next few years by really focusing on growing up, I went from dating one girl and wishing I was with someone else, to dating this amazing girl and being glad I'm wasn't with anyone else - it was all just a change in perception.
And she was amazing. I, on the other hand, was a complete immature jerk for not caring. We stayed together when she was released (in great health) from the hospital, and started really working on our relationship. And then it just grew, and grew, and grew...
We're older now, and married, and have talked in the past about how our relationship started. The worst part is that she knew all along. She knew shortly after we started dating that my mind was somewhere else, but for whatever reason we both decided that we would stick it out for lack of something better - at least, that's what we thought at the time. I feel extremely lucky to be with the woman I'm with - it's hard remembering how it all started, but it certainly worked out for the best.
So yes, I settled. Actually, we both felt like we settled at the time. But we were lucky enough to be with each other when we started to mature into better people, and we've grown only closer because of it. She definitely was not the 'woman of my dreams' at the time (my dreams were stupid anyways), but she really is now, and I don't really care how cheesy that sounds.
Being happy with yourself is a very important part of being happy in a relationship. If you require another person to be happy you're placing an undue burden on your partner. It's much easier and more satisfying to make someone happy when they're not counting on you to do it day after day.
I figured out that I was much happier when I stopped making marriage a goal and learned to be happy with myself. When I dated someone new I wasn't always trying to evaluate them to decide if they were 'the one.' I just entered into relationships naturally and let them run their course naturally.
When I was with my now-wife it was our relationship that indicated marriage. We were (and are) a very good pair and getting married just made a bunch of sense.
I was just enjoying being with her and realized I was probably never going to want to stop. That was the only item on my marriage check list so I proposed.
I got married early. I love her immensely. I have a feeling that many people in that situation would agree that they wonder if they settled and didn't realize it. However, then I think, you're happy so don't sweat it. You can drive yourself mad worrying about things like that.
Just this very morning, I woke up next to the same woman I've woken up to for nearly 22 years. And as she rested her head on my chest, nestled in the crook of my arm we chatted a bit. My youngest is officially signed up for his first choice college, the eldest almost done school. My wife got a degree late in life and I have none. We chatted about plans. And we talked about when we dated. Foolish, awkward, silly. And I asked her...
'If you had to do it over? Knowing all we went through, would you?'
And she said with zero doubt at all, "To do other wise would be unthinkable."
We were bad for each other back then. Parts of us are still bad for each other now. And it's kind of honest to say we stayed married even though we kept expecting the other person to find someone better. But really, there is no one better.
And I wouldn't change a thing.
My wife is as hot as the noonday sun, has multiple college degrees (she's a teacher), and she's a good deal (7 years) younger than me. On my best day (pre-cancer) I was a solid 6 and she's easily a 9 in a sweatshirt. I asked her out in the beginning knowing I was breaching the sacred "never go higher than 2" rule but I'll be damned if she didn't say yes. When dating got serious I told her I was falling in love and she asked if that meant we were going to get married.
It's been almost 20 years now. We have great kids and the best day to day life I could ever imagine. A couple years back I got cancer and it brutalized my face and neck. I went from a 6 to a (look at him, he looks funny!) 4. I got all scarred up, lost all my lean muscle mass to wasting, and lost all my teeth. The crazy woman still hugs me every day, kisses me right on the mouth no matter who is around, and keeps me warm at night. She just brought me a fresh coffee as I was typing this...It's like some crazy long dream I never want to end.
Do me a favor and DON'T ask her. I don't want to know that answer. Let me die thinking that this is all because she really does love me as much as life itself. That her day revolves around our time together. That growing old together is something to look forward to and not something to fear.
Because that's how I feel.
I don't think I settled, but I did read snippets of an interesting book on this subject. The gist of the book suggested that there are too many women holding out too long for 'Mr. Perfect.' They might be 40 and still waiting. This book discusses the idea that women who "settle" for 'Mr. Good Enough' earlier in their life will have more long-term happiness.
The book was called, "Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough" by Lori Gottlieb.
A friend of mine had been with her partner (and at that point, fianc) for a good seven years. They were a fantastic couple - they brought the best out in each other, and supported each other to continue to discover who they were in the world.
A few months before their wedding, she went into the bathroom, and yet again he had left his wet towels on the floor. She closed the door, and suddenly these wet towels represented to her all the unmet needs in their relationship. In her mind, she had asked repeatedly that he do this one small task to make their home life a little easier.
And the fact that he continued to leave them lying around was interpreted as a massive disrespect to her and their relationship.
She catastrophised and saw these towels as a sign that they could not have a future together. If he couldn't do this tiny thing, then how could they parent together? How could they grow old together with mutual love and respect? If he couldn't do this little thing for her, then how could he really love her?
So she sat on the floor and cried. She decided to walk downstairs and break up the relationship. She thought through where she'd move to, how they would divide their assets, and how she would break it to their families and friends. She made peace with the fact that they were just not meant to be.
Then she stood up. She was about to go downstairs and start the process of separating their lives. Until she looked down again and thought, "What do I want more? His wet towels on the bathroom floor and a life with him? Or a tidy bathroom and no Paul?" And in that moment all her thoughts were reversed and she went downstairs and kissed him and told him how much she loved him.
Ten years on, she now looks at his wet towels with love. She was ready to throw everything away because of one thing he wasn't doing for her. Yet, there were a million other things he did reliably, faithfully, and lovingly to make her feel cared for and valued. If we're not careful we can require our own version of perfection, and ignore a different type of perfection right in front of our eyes.
I ignored all the things that I didn't like. His lack of motivation in life, his video game addiction, his constant complaining when we didn't have alcohol in the house, his lack of involvement as a parent. Now we are getting divorced and I'm realizing settling was the biggest mistake of my life. Lesson learned. Settling on appearance is one thing, but don't settle when it comes to life goals and drive to move forward in life.
And even after realizing this, I was still willing to try to make it work. He walked away. In the end, choosing to get a divorce really was the best option, I've lost weight, got a great job, and reapplied for my registered nurse program. All things I never would have done if we had kept trying.
No use fighting for something the other person gave up on. Plus, with a kid in the picture I've gotta get my butt up and move forward quickly because kids are expensive.
I think all of us settle in the end.
I have been happily married for over a decade now.
My wife isn't the prettiest girl I ever dated, she isn't the smartest girl, she isn't the nicest girl, she isn't the most thoughtful and she isn't the funniest.
She is the one that had the best combination of those qualities though.
I am not her dream guy either (I think Chris Pratt is right now) but I am pretty sure she isn't looking to trade up.
I settled and at times I'm happy and at times I heavily regret it. At the time, he made me feel like I'd never do any better. He cheated on me, it hurt like heck and he turned it around blaming me for him cheating. He said that I didn't communicate enough, that I wasn't loving enough etc. So I tried harder to be a better person, I pushed a lot of my friends away when they tried to make me see it was not my fault but out of desperation I stayed with him. We went to couples therapy for a few years, we got to a much better place and he no longer cheats, but that pain is still there, the feeling of not being good enough is still there so I regret staying. I have low enough self confidence that I don't need that extra emotional roller coaster in my life.
In all honesty, no one is perfect. No man is going to pull up in his Mercedes, walk into my job and carry me off into a perfect life. What's most important is respect. Does your partner respect you and reasonably supports your decisions to better yourself? If yes, then that's a keeper.
The biggest problem I've seen around some women my age is that they do one of two things. Either they spend their nights looking for 'Mr.Right' at parties, clubs and bars then sleep with the first guy who shows interest in them and complain that he doesn't want to be serious or won't grow up. Or they become recluses and complain they're waiting for the right guy.
It takes a balance of getting out there to meet someone, getting to know them better and building lasting bonds.
I'm no expert and I've made my fair share of mistakes. The biggest thing I had to do was accept who I was and find someone who was compatible with me and complimented my personality.
3 years later and I'm the happiest I've been in a long time. My boyfriend is kind and loving but will call me on my b.s when I'm being unreasonable. We both met each other at a point in our lives where we were ready to slow down, stop going out so much and just hang out with someone who liked what we liked. Sometimes we just sit around watching cartoons, sometimes we go hiking, and sometimes we just sit and talk in the dark.
Our son is our priority yet we still make time for each other because we aren't just parents, we're partners as well. We discuss everything and we try to be as honest with each other as we can. We avoid demeaning each other even though we still fight from time to time.
He isn't the perfect guy, but he's the perfect guy for me. And that is what matters most, the puppy love may be gone, but it grew into a deeper, more satisfying love.
My first marriage was based on the idealized image of the perfect woman for me. She was attractive, wild, and wanted to have fun above all else. Unsurprisingly, she decided to leave me a note that said goodbye. For ten years after the divorce, I chased after similar women who fit that idealized view of "my type"...it was miserable.
I met my current wife at a wedding, it was probably supposed to be another one night stand. For some reason, I called her the next day and we just kept talking...right down the isle five years later. I settled, in that I settled on compatibility rather than my idealized image of my type.
While my wife isn't the life of the party or wild in bed, she's still beautiful and my absolute best friend. Not a day goes by where I don't thank my lucky stars for having called the bridesmaid to see if she was hung over too.