We live in a culture of settling.
Settle for jobs that don’t pay (literally) for the sake of experience… even if the contract has been going on for a year now and they never get around to making it permanent.
Settle for sucky friendships, because you’ve known each other for so long, it would suck to lose that!
Settle for mediocre love, because romance is dead and you can’t possibly expect monogamy, can you?
We are terrified of sunk costs, of seeming different, of being on our own. So we swallow shit and we deal with it on our own, because who wants to get messy, amirite?
No, I’m not right. I can probably write a book on what happens when you stop settling, and the worries you stop having, but for now, a list will have to do.
Because your partner(s) will know where you stand and what you will not accept, and that if they breach that boundary, they will no longer be your partner(s).
He’s not constantly checking your phone because he loves you; he’s checking your phone because he’s jealous and looking for justifications.
It’s not always most egregious kind, but when we settle for less, we are usually accepting some form of abuse. Abuses of trust, of resources, of our own wellbeing… and all the escalating horrors that come after.
4. Sunk costs
Sometimes relationships fall apart for reasons that are nobody’s fault; but none of those lovers or friends think of them in terms of a lost investment, and they certainly don’t use the fear of lost investment as incentive to stay in the relationship another 10 years.
The knives are all accounted for and you don’t have to look over your shoulder to make sure your friends are doing what they say they are doing.
6. Petty rivalry
We all like a little bit of competition here and there; constantly having to measure yourself up to other people though is exhausting.
7. Subtle undermining
Cattiness is fun on reality shows. Never in real life.
8. “Accidental” losses or damage of prized possessions
Assholes love to punish you by losing or damaging things you care for. When you cut them out of your life, you will breathe easier.
9. “Accidental” harm to beloved pets
He did not drop-kick your dog because he was distracted. She did not lock the cat out because she was negligent. People who care for you will take care around your pets even if they don’t like animals themselves.
Because your sex life, past or present, is not a verdict on your worth.
11. Sexual coercion
Because if you don’t want to have sex, they won’t be pressuring you into it.
12. White knighting
Because you can fight your own damn battles and they know it.
13. Accusations of being a “tease”
Male or female, you’re not responsible for other people’s feelings of attraction, and it’s not your job to respond to it just because it exists. Good lovers and friends respect that.
14. Accusations of “friend zoning” someone
Same as 13, but also: anybody who loves and cares for you would be honored to call themselves your friend. Assholes view it as a downgrade because assholes think they’re entitled to you.
Look, I like my friends’ pictures on social media and they like mine. But when someone who I turned down, or someone I had a row with likes and comments on everything I put online, I would feel more than a little bit wary of sharing my holiday plans. (All hail the block button!)
17. Being someone’s mommy/daddy
Unless, of course, this is part of some mutual kink. Other than that, parenting is what you do for children, not you friends or lovers.
18. Tiptoeing around calling someone out on their shit
“I love you, but you’re wrong here,” is something partners and friends say to each other without fear of the other person throwing a tantrum.
19. Being less than perfect
When you settle, you’re constantly checking yourself and your behaviour for things that can be used against you in an argument. When you have good relationships, being less than perfect is okay, because your people genuinely don’t give a toss about that.
20. How your less-than-perfect friends reflect on you
Bad relationships (and work situations) have a tendency to suck the joy even out of the good ones you have. You adopt the abusers’ view of the world – you shouldn’t date people who are not earning X amount per year, or you shouldn’t be friends with someone who knits, or similar nonsense. As with 19, your other relationships would not be used to beat you down with.
21. Double standards
Abusers will point out your flaws and the flaws of your loved ones, but they will demand that you overlook any bad behaviour or character ugliness on their part. How dare you? AM I NOT HUMAN, JUST LIKE YOU?
22. Constantly shifting goalposts
Where’s the fun in clear rules and mutually agreed-upon goals? Why, if they told you what they really wanted, you might just up and leave the relationship! (JK, they can’t tell you what they want because they usually don’t know what they want.)
People who care about you don’t worry about you seeing clearly. They don’t put their own self-image before the truth. Assholes use your own confusion to keep you in your place (i.e. serving them).
24. Someone’s raging entitlement
There’s a difference between reasonable expectations and raging entitlement. Reasonable expectations: We have a monogamous relationship so I expect that you won’t screw around. Raging entitlement: We never explicitly said we can’t screw other people, and anyway I told you I cheated so why are you hung up about it?
25. Your sexual health
It’s a lot easier when your partner(s) are ethical.
26. Your finances
They’re a lot easier to manage if someone isn’t stealing from them.
27. Your future
I’m not talking about vague existential dread, or even the very real dread that haunts politics today. But when you surround yourself with good people you find yourself a lot more confident about taking on challenges and curveballs as they come.
28. Your boundaries
When people are not mounting attacks on your boundaries, you get a lot less worried about them being respected. Funny that.
29. Your body/health
Health and beauty in every size is a lot easier to embrace when your asshole friends aren’t constantly undermining you.
30. Whether you are too demanding
Some things are just not possible because magic does not exist. Abusers, however, will make every little request sound like a huge burden for them to execute – to the point when you don’t even bother asking for things.
31. Whether they are too demanding
Is this normal affection or is this ‘love-bombing’? With good relationships, you have plenty of information to help make that distinction. With bad ones, you’re constantly feeling like the bad guy for wanting space.
32. Whether you come across as “marking your territory”
You’re not a dog. Asking a friend to spend time with you or asking your lover if you can keep a toothbrush at their place is not the same as a dog pissing on a lamppost. Reasonable people know the difference. Assholes use negs to keep you in your place.
33. Whether you are low balling yourself at work
Volunteering for a good cause is one thing. Working for free because the company is trying to save money is… still legal, but you should enter those arrangements with a clear understanding – not with the promise of a potential paid employment being dangled in front of you like a carrot.
34. Whether your employer is actually planning on keeping you
Employers worth your time will give you all the information up front so that you can make the best decision for yourself. Like friends and partners, they will not be afraid of you seeing the situation clearly.
35. Whether your circle will approve of your ambitions
You don’t need anybody’s validation to do what you do, but it’s nice when your people don’t ask you to present a thesis on Why You Want To Do A Thing every time you make a change to how you live your life.
36. Whether someone will have your back
You would help your friends and loved ones if they were sick or had troubles at work or needed support if they had to come forward to HR about something. And in good relationship, that support is reciprocated.
37. Whether their validation of you is genuine
Just like real friends don’t worry about calling each other out on shit, you can count on them on being honest about what makes you awesome.
38. Whether your talents are appreciated
Nobody asks you to work for free, if you offer, they will try to return the favour where possible.
39. Sleepless nights
Not being off-balance and anxious all the time does wonders for your ability to rest.
40. Whether you are looking after yourself enough
Your friends are looking after themselves instead of asking you to adult for them; moreover, they will encourage you to look after yourself. Suddenly you have time to meal prep and go on painting courses by yourself or taking a walk without your phone and you don’t feel selfish.
41. Whether you’re allowed to be mad
Everyone gets fed up, and even the best of friends fight. Healthy relationships can stand friction every now and again. Unhealthy relationships mean any burst of anger or frustration will be used as a trump card against you in future arguments.
42. Whether you’re allowed to express your opinion
Obvious caveat – in the workplace, there are some hierarchies that need to be respected regardless of your opinion of the individual person. Worry that your opinion might, by virtue of existing, destroy a friendship or a romance, is not cool.
43. Whether you’re “too weird”
Your friends love you for a reason.
44. Whether you’re “too affectionate”
People can tell you to cut back on the PDA and pet names (especially at work. Let’s face it – if you work with your partner, it’s for everyone’s benefit that you keep home and office separate.) People should not be shaming you for showing affection for someone.
45. Whether someone will keep their promises
When we settle, we settle for non-communication and entitlement. We wonder if they will really do what they say they will do. We accept people dropping plans without telling us. We feel bad for making back-up plans. We settle at the cost of our own energy and stamina.
46. Whether you are selfish for having a life
Having a life is typically encouraged, not frowned upon, when your friends and lovers are not assholes.
47. Whether you are selfish for spending time your own
Being alone is not the same as being lonely, or a bad person. Being happy in your own company is important because you’re not reliant on other people to constantly validate your existence.
48. Whether your tastes and good enough
Your love of Nordic Death Metal or reality TV about drag queens is not a measure of your worth. To some of your friends, those are the things that drew them to you.
49. Whether gifts come with strings attached
And conversely, whether your gifts measure up.
50. How much longer you can last in this
Unhealthy relationships make us think in terms of endurance races. Just get through this milestone, then the next, then the next. We try to last until things get better, or the other person just moves on. Healthy relationships may still come to an end, but they don’t leave us feeling dry and hollow.
There is no endurance for the sake of things getting better. Just confidence that they are, and that the people you surround yourself with are on the same page as you.