When, If Ever, is Settling in a Relationship Okay?

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As children, men are taught to demand the best and be the best. They are taught to exceed expectations; from the time they’re placed on sports teams or actively play with their friends, they are in competition. When they tell their peers what to do, they’re called leaders and applauded. Women, on the other hand, are expected to remain lady-like and proper – even in this day and age. We are taught to play nice and be mindful. If a little girl was to tell her peers what to do, she’d be called bossy and bratty as opposed to being called a strong leader.

Women are taught, at a very young age, to step aside and let the big boys play. That mentality creates a dangerous breeding ground for settling, one of major foes of the feminist movement. From settling with an unworthy husband to settling for an unfit salary, women are constantly warring against the messages all around them telling them, “It doesn’t get better than this, so make do.” But is settling always the enemy? Is there ever a time where settling is a good idea?

Even at my young age, I’ve grappled with the idea of settling. I’ve sometimes found myself in the midst of getting comfortable with mediocre treatment before pulling myself out of it, only to think, “Would it have been that bad?” When it comes to relationships, it often feels like the ideal man will never come along. With the “boys will be boys” mentality floating around, it’s so tempting to settle for someone who’s less than ideal. But there is a stark difference in settling and compromising. I’ll give you a hint- one’s good for keeping your dignity and your standards, and the other…not so much.

There are certain expectations and ground rules that I have for the people I date. A few times, I’ve let those go for the sake of making room for a guy in my life. It should come as no surprise that those relationships never ended well. Because I didn’t hold true to my foundation of expectations on how a man should treat me, those relationships were chock-full of disrespect and outlandish behavior. That being said, I refuse to blame myself if a man does not know how to treat a woman with respect. But I do have to look to myself when I put up with less than appropriate behavior from anyone. Sticking to your guns and knowing your worth when it comes to relationships may be the most important step a woman takes towards avoiding settling for a less than worthy partner.

Compromising, on the other hand, is one of the keys to a healthy relationship. Compromising does not include allowing your boyfriend to call you out of your name or blow you off in front of his friends. Compromising means figuring out one another- your differences and your similarities- and finding ways to work with and around each other. A compromise does not involve constantly striking deals to get a basic level of respect. For instance, a man agreeing to respect you in front of his friends if you let him watch football in peace is not a compromise. Respecting you in front of others as well as behind closed-doors should be an unmovable, unshakeable ground rule. Giving each other space when you just want to relax with friends or read a book is a compromise and a sign of mutual respect. If an agreement is struck in a respectful and mutually beneficial way, it isn’t settling. It’s compromising for the sake of a healthy relationship.

So before we allow our relationships to shake and uproot our foundation of expectations, or before we become completely unwilling to make changes for another person, we have to be able to differentiate between compromising and settling. Women deserve to demand and expect better, just like the men around them already do. From little girls on the playground to grown women with careers and aspirations, we have to learn the art of compromise and only accepting what’s best for us.

[Lead image via NinaMalyna/Shutterstock]

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