Dear members of the 100 Hour board currently (or have been in) a relationship,
Did you settle? Even by just an inkling? Do you think that everyone (or at least most people) have to come to the realization that they can't quite date who they really want to date?
-I hate dating
Dear haters gonna hate,
When you're in a relationship with someone, you begin to recognize them in their real humanity. No person is perfect, so even if they have amazing qualities in some things, they'll have other things that they will want to improve, and things that you won't be always a fan of. They'll also start to show things that you weren't aware of when you first started dating them. That doesn't mean you should be disappointed or feel like you settled, but perhaps that you should appreciate them for their imperfections and hope they can do the same for you. When you find "the one", I can guarantee they probably WON'T be everything you imagined, but that goes both ways - you probably won't be exactly what they had in mind either.
I'll illustrate: Aside from just normal expectations, I thought I wanted a man would be very outgoing and take my introverted butt out to events, be pretty masculine and hardworking, but also well-rounded.... like a modern renaissance man. Someone I would bring to family gatherings and he would just get along with everyone, be the life of the party, etc., and who would surprise me with random gifts. Basically a cheesy cliche movie character dreamboat. (Ridiculously unrealistic and unfair expectations, considering I'm nothing like that either.)
That's definitely nothing like my boyfriend. He's shy, softspoken, and has yet to attend anything with my family because the idea of it makes him anxious (I do have a huge family... so it's understandable). He loves to watch Pride and Prejudice, and he's really good to take shopping. He's incredibly indecisive and is frugal so he doesn't do surprises very often. He is very different than what I thought I wanted, but I still love him, for reasons different than my original expectations. Turns out I love how he plays the piano like a pro, that he doesn't really care for traditional gender stereotypes, and that he is really good at impressions. I don't feel like I settled at all. I just got something different than I had planned.
Part of the beauty of dating and relationships and love and all that is the humanity of it. The connection between imperfect people who care about each other despite shortcomings, and celebrate the things that make the other person unique and wonderful. You help each other improve and become better together while making new mistakes along the way.
I'm not suggesting you should be humble about it or anything, but definitely recognize that you're not going into the dating game trying to find 'the perfect person.' Dating can definitely be rough, and there will be people that definitely aren't meant for you. Don't settle on vital things, but keep an open mind, because the person who will make you happiest might not be exactly what you thought you wanted in the beginning. You don't have to love everything about every person, but try to see them as an individual with unique insight, feelings, and personality traits. There's something you can love about every person without being in love with them. I think learning to appreciate the worth of every person makes dating a little less painful.
Dear Dating Hater,
I have 3 quick thoughts. The first is that studies show that most people don't really know what they want when it comes to dating relationships. Many of the qualities people think are attractive really aren't important, or aren't the qualities they actually want. The last girl was quite different than what I thought I was looking for, but ended up having a bunch of amazing qualities that I really admired. So, if you can't find the person you "want to date", that's okay because you might not even know who that really is.
Thought number two: the first part of dating can suck. I really enjoy meeting new people and going on fun activities, but it can be exhausting. Once you're in a relationship you get to know people better and it's a lot more enjoyable. I think you don't really get to know someone on the first few dates. If you have a really high standard for what you're expecting after the first date or two you'll probably be disappointed and think that you're going to have to settle. However, after going on a few more dates you might find that you just didn't know the person and the dates were just awkward because most first dates are. Or you might find out that it definitely isn't going to work. That's also good though because then you'll know and not have to stress about settling and can just move one.
Thought number three: Anne has a really good answer about settling below and you should definitely read it. That is all
Honestly I think the concept of settling is the sign of a slightly immature view of relationships.
Of course overall a relationship should make both parties happy, but I think it's too easy to picture someone being perfect for you and making you insanely happy 100% of the time, and that's just not realistic. No matter how compatible you are, sometimes your significant other will make you feel sad or frustrated and there's no way to avoid that.
And like the other writers point out, what we imagine will make us happy and what will actually make us happy don't necessarily always align. The more you date, the more you'll understand what qualities are crucial to you, which ones are important, and which ones aren't really needed.
That being said, my only serious relationship was with Yossarian and no, I didn't settle (of course things didn't work out either, so take that with a grain of salt). He had many amazing qualities that I still admire and would want in a long-term partner, but he had other qualities that frustrated me and made me cry a lot. However, I was committed to him and eager to be with him, and I knew that if we shared that commitment we could overcome any differences between us or work on aspects of our relationship that weren't making us happy. One of the joys of a relationship is that things aren't static, and you can learn and grow together.
I think that's true of any relationship, that as long as you have some basic compatibility and you genuinely love each other, you can work on anything else that isn't satisfactory. The only way I can imagine someone settling is by being with someone who doesn't fundamentally make them happy, if they don't look forward to seeing and talking to the person they're with. And I don't understand why anyone would settle for that.
I think the idea of settling is underconsidered.
In casual parlance it usually means "took something they didn't really want because they realized they're not going to get what they want." This is not a good recipe for a relationship, in my opinion. Instead, we should think more along the lines of what Guesthouse described above (I went through something similar with Man, C not having certain qualities I had thought I wanted). Basically, we should learn to identify the difference between:
- Being in a relationship that's missing qualities we thought were important to us, but whose absence becomes unimportant to us because of the positives we have (including positives we may not have expected), and
- Being in a relationship that's missing qualities that are important to us, but staying because we're scared of being single again, or whatever.
The things that we originally think we want are not objectively "better" than the things we come to appreciate later. This, to me, is a key principle of understanding whether we are "settling" in an unhealthy way or whether we've just appropriately changed our minds and our expectations. I think almost everyone is going to realize that there are some things about their spouse that are different than what they thought they wanted. Some of those things you'll actually appreciate the way they differ, and some you might still kinda *wish* they had that thing but you don't really mind because other stuff matters more.
So, if that's settling, then probably pretty much everyone settles, both because a) the person we construct in our imagination doesn't exist and also because b) that's probably not really the person you want anyways. And as someone who, by that definition "settled," I'm pretty happy about it.