It's a legit question. When the honeymoon phase ends, and realism sets in, it can be tempting to wonder: Wait, am I settling?
After all, with the seemingly endless supply of options nowadays (cue: swipe, swipe), it can be tough to discern if the person you're with is a realistic, amazing fit—or just a sign you've given up the dating game and decided to settle for second best. As my clients are terrified of making a mistake, they come to me questioning if the person they're dating is actually the person they want to marry.
And it's a good question.
That said: I am going to be honest with you. Marriage doesn't come with a 100% guarantee, and the idea of soulmates is just plain unhelpful. But there are ten key areas I discuss with them that can give them more confidence that they are making a good choice—or setting themselves up for a tough road ahead.
So if you're wondering if you are indeed settling—or just moving forward with eyes wide open, look at these ten areas and take a moment to honestly question where you stand.
01. Your Acceptance of Each Other
Settling: You’re in this relationship for his potential. You have notions that he’ll be different once you're settled, or you think he just needs a little more time to be the man you want him to be.
Healthy: You accept him as he is. Although you can ask for behavior modifications, you admire and respect many of his qualities without thinking he needs an overhaul.
02. Your Mutual Respect for Each Other
Settling: You’re consistently disrespected. He sometimes belittles what’s important to you, has humiliated you on a number of occasions, or makes you feel crazy. When you want his attention he responds harshly or ignores you. Whatever his disrespectful behaviors are, you rationalize them in your mind by thinking, “He doesn’t really mean it.”
Healthy: You can say with confidence that he respects you. Even if you disagree or have different perspectives, he honors your opinions and feelings. He listens and makes you feel validated. He makes you feel like an equal.
03. Your Ability to Compromise
Settling: He doesn’t consider you in his actions. When you tell him something is important to you or you bring up how he can meet your needs, he brushes your concerns aside or completely ignores them. Sometimes he might initially say 'yes' to what you need but then infrequently follows through.
Healthy: He responds positively to what you need. He is genuinely curious about what’s important to you—and why—and takes on a “team” effort. He is flexible and willing to compromise. Although he might not follow through right away according to your timeline, he shows consistently that he takes action in the areas that are important to you.
04. Your Gut Instinct
Settling: You frequently feel anxious. You feel insecure in the relationship—where you stand, how he feels, etc. If you’re the type that wants a lot of closeness in a relationship, you might feel the need to lower your expectations. Something is off, and you simply, don't feel fully loved.
Healthy: You feel a sense of peace. Feelings of infatuation don’t last forever, and instead, you now feel comfort and security. Sometimes people mistake this as there being something wrong or missing with the relationship, but this means you moved toward the attachment phase of your relationship.
05. Your Overall Interactions
Settling: You have intermittent great times. You frequently dream about wonderful moments in the past, where you saw how good it was between you, and you wish that is how it could be again.
Healthy: You consistently have good times together. You have built a deep friendship, and there's an atmosphere of positivity. The positives of your relationship far outweigh the negative. (Consider maintaining at least a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions.)
06. Your Social Circle
Settling: You frequently complain about him to family and friends—or they have verbally shared their concerns about your relationship.
Healthy: Your family and friends like him. They know that no one is perfect and that no relationship is without conflict—but most (if not all) of them support your relationship and actually like your guy.
07. Your Reason
Settling: Be honest here. Do you think you 'should' get married to this person, or is it just the next step? Maybe you’ve been dating him for 5 years and you think it’s about time. Maybe you fear having wasted all of this time so you’re staying in the relationship. Or maybe the thought of getting back into the dating pool makes you want to vomit. Perhaps you think you’ve reached a certain age, or your friends are all married, and you think it’s just time.
Healthy: You want him for him. Not only do you deeply love this man, but you can rattle off all of his amazing traits. You’re specific about the things that you admire and respect about him. Even if you mention the behaviors that drive you crazy, you know you can both work through it.
08. Your Relationship Goals
Settling: He hints at marriage someday, but doesn't seem to be actively working towards the idea. If he doesn’t have talks with you trying to figure out if you could build a life together, he might just be stringing you along.
Healthy: He wants marriage too. You have the same relationship goal and he’s engaged in conversations about what your life would look like if you two got married.
09. Your Toxic Behaviors
Settling: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling—are the '4 Horseman' of relationship doom, and according to the research of Dr. Gottman, lead to divorce. I joke with my clients, “You might as well sign the divorce papers along with the marriage license,” if these four traits proliferate already. Couples must take these toxic behaviors seriously—and find ways to work on them before they become engaged.
Healthy: The 4 Horsemen might show their faces at times, but not often. You may be critical or get defensive, but you move on—as it's infrequent enough. You've learned to effectively repair any damage your behaviors have done.
10. Your Deal Breakers
Settling: You’re overlooking deal breakers and red flags. You believe he’ll change his mind or think, “Oh, we’ll figure it out later.” It might be scary, but not addressing issues these issues can make you waste even more of your time.
Healthy: You’ve talked through any possible deal breakers and red flags—and realize that some issues, are just personality quirks that will be perpetual—and it doesn't spell out doom, just realism.
Letting go of someone you love—even if they're a terrible fit—can still be terrifying. You don’t know if you’ll find anyone else, and you may fear that you’ll be single forever. On the flip side, if you've been dating your guy a while, you should know your partner isn't perfect. Remember, you can view your unmarried state as one of power—the power to figure out if you’re with a good man, and the potential power to give yourself permission to find someone who is a better fit, for both of you.