I think one of the greatest relationship myths perpetuated by-single-people-for-single-people, is that if you are patient and look hard enough, you will eventually find your ‘perfect’ mate. Operating under this assumption, we spend much of our fantasy-time envisioning what this perfection entails, creating a laundry list of personality traits, physical features, abilities, and even experiences that this imminent lover of ours will have. “I’m seeing… a bilingual Ivy League grad, at least six feet tall, and naturally charismatic. He’ll get along with my mom, have a golden retriever named Buddy, and be as good in bed as he is at his executive level finance job,” we declare to our friends over our third round of happy hour vodka tonics.
Perhaps even less emotionally healthy than theorizing about our own imaginary partners, we also gossip about coupled-up acquaintances and evaluate the merit of their real-life romantic companions. “I don’t know what Tommy sees in him, he could do so much better!” someone might say, and then inevitably follow this up with a declarative: “I would never settle like that.”
So there we are, simultaneously holding on to our idea of a flawless romantic match while also asserting we won’t settle for anything less – it’s only too predictable that we’ll eventually be faced with 1) remaining single forever or 2) learning to compromise with reality and manage our irrational expectations. Assuming our desire for reciprocal love rules out Option 1, the question then becomes: where is the line between existing in a sub-par relationship, and being an understanding human being who realizes that nobody is perfect? How do you really know if you’re “settling?”
I believe the answer to this question lies in differentiating between the things you want, and the things you deserve. For lack of a better option, I’ll use myself as an example:
I want someone who is funny, someone who likes the same books and music that I like, someone who’s always down to get that ill-advised fourth drink at the bar when I am. I want someone who fits in with my friends, and who my family approves of. I want someone who is physically fit and will keep me from being a fat-ass, but won’t judge me too hard for eating Ben & Jerry’s in bed when “I just really fuckin’ need it, okay!” I want a creatively inclined dog-lover with nice teeth. These are all things I want in a partner, but not one of them is a thing I deserve.
What I deserve is someone loyal, someone who will be there for me when I really need the support. I deserve someone honest, a person who doesn’t say one thing and then do another. I deserve to feel that I am loved, even if it’s in the middle of an argument and I’m pretty sure they want to punch me in the face because I’m being a heinous asshole, I should sill know that beneath the exasperated expression is a person who loves me. I deserve someone who makes me happy more often than they make me sad. I deserve someone who respects me. You, darling reader, deserve all of these things as well. We all do.
I think a person with unreasonably high expectations is a person who demands to have everything they want, whereas a person who settles is sacrificing the things they deserve. You don’t have to love Everything About Someone in order to love that someone, just as they will love you without loving all of your quirky little defects, too. (Shocking, I know! I’m still grappling with the idea of my own imperfection; I’m considering a support group.) At the end of the day, as long as you don’t settle for anything less than you deserve, you aren’t really settling at all.