There often comes a point in relationships when things slow down a little. You may wake up one day and realize that the relationship no longer feels like the whirlwind of infatuation that it began as. But that’s not always a bad thing. The word “settled” is complicated, especially when it comes to relationships. We know that “settling down” is often considered a good thing — it can show that you’re comfortable, happy, and content. But settling for someone is worrying — implying that the relationship isn’t quite good enough or you're with them just for sake of being with someone. But sometimes they can look a lot alike. So how do you know the difference between settling down and settling?
It’s important distinction to make, because settling can big impact on your happiness — and your future. "Every relationship settles down and every person in every relationship settles in and settles a bit," Joshua Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Bustle. "It is basic behavioral science principles. The novelty of the other person and the situation fade, and the reinforcing properties of the relationship begin to die down a bit." And then, the difference between settling down and just settling can be more obvious. Here's what to keep in mind.
When You’re Settling, You Compromise On The Wrong Things
Although it's important to compromise in a relationship, one key sign of settling for someone is that you're compromising too much — or about the wrong thing. If you really feel the need to be in a relationship, because you're scared to be on your own or you just feel like it's the 'right' thing to do, you might end up in a relationship that isn't good enough or the right fit for you. A good indication of this is if you've let go of things that are important to you — your values, priorities, or goals. "Making a relationship permanent always involves compromise," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, tells Bustle. "However, you need to make sure you aren’t compromising on the issues that are most important to you. If you find that you are having to settle for someone who wants markedly different things than you do, then it’s a problem. You really need to have some basic agreement on issues such as having children, where to live, and what you want your basic lifestyle to look like."
If you're just accepting someone else's principles, lifestyle, beliefs, and needs — without considering your own — that sounds a lot like settling.
Not only is settling not healthy, it's also often not very sustainable. "Accepting that the relationship is more at a steady state is fine; compromising your deeply held desires or beliefs is not," Klapow says. "Because settling in a manner that compromises who you are as a human being will only lead to the destruction of the relationship."
Even If You're Settling Down, It Won't Always Be Perfect
On the other hand, you shouldn't let a bit of boredom or apathy make you panic and assume that you're settling. "Boredom is also normal and we shouldn’t try to eliminate it as we will never be able to and the process may wear the relationship out," Klapow says. If you find yourself feeling in love, compatible, happy but just a bit bored, that's not a sign you're settling. It's a sign that it's time to put a little more effort into the relationship. It also may be a sign that you — and/or your partner — need to focus on some personal growth.
"A relationship that settles down but has two people who recognize that growths, change, compromise, are always present is a relationship that will never become static," Klapow says.
Listen To Your Gut
If you're not sure whether or not you're just settling, your best bet is to listen to your gut. Many people have an inkling somewhere when they're settling or in the wrong relationship. Even if you can’t fully acknowledge it, you’ll know that you’re glossing over issues or making excuses. "If you ignore that pit in your stomach you may be keeping yourself in a relationship that you were never meant to be in," Miranda N. Dennis LCSW, DBTC, tells Bustle that something is really wrong.
If you find yourself settling — or just realizing that you're a little too settled down — it's important to remember that things can change. "Both settling and settling down do not need to be permanent states," Klapow says. "We may settle down and then spice things back up after the kids are more grown up. We may settle for how our partner is during a time of personal transition and then come to change our standards as they change their situation." Either way, if you recognize that something isn't right, think of it as an opportunity to take charge and put some energy into reinvigorating your love life.