Nothing is more exciting than cleaning out your basement, right? So many boxes full of things that make you say: “why the hell did I even buy this?” Clothes that are too small, Jackie Collins novels that once held your interest, and tattered stuffed animals worn smooth from childish affection.
It was during such a journey down memory lane that I dropped a shoebox, and from its interior, my entire love life spilled out.
Snapshots from years past stared up at me from the floor – smiling faces trapped in Kodak amber, frozen in time inside the antiquated art of actual pictures on photographic paper. As I picked them up one by one, I could feel the times and the places blooming in my head, the men and boys that seemed so important to me at one time, now merely reduced to tiny squares of still life history.
Looking at the remnants of the past made me realize that most of these guys were merely crushes and infatuations, not the paragons of romantic love that I thought they were. And looking at myself in these pictures, I realized that at certain times in my life I had compromised who I really was in order to hold on to someone I imagined to be important.
It made me realize that many times in life we barter with our feelings because we are afraid to be alone. We take what we think we can get, because the fear of not being able to find someone makes us do the one thing we should never do: settle for something less than we deserve.
But why would we compromise something as treasured as our heart? In our professional lives, we never stand for being passed over for a raise or letting someone else take the credit for our work, so why make concessions in our love life?
Sometimes people say that our expectations can be too high, so we should settle for Mr. Good-Enough instead of Mr. Right. But why? Don’t you deserve to be happy with someone who makes you feel dizzy and sexy and full of light and laughter? Someone who makes you pant and growl like a wolf when you slide sweaty and naked together?
It’s one thing to want someone who can help you run the household and take care of the kids and the dogs and make sure there’s coffee in the cupboard when you need it, but you’re not running a business. Don’t get me wrong – it’s fantastic to find someone who’s responsible and mature enough to know that there’s more to a relationship than knocking your socks off in the bedroom. But even if they can cook and remodel and contribute to the actual shared wealth of your partnership, what’s the point of staying with someone if you don’t really, really love them?
When we were younger, we fell into relationships because they were new and exciting. But when they ended, sometimes self-doubt began to grow, causing us to settle for someone new because we thought that we couldn’t trust our judgment. Before long, we were stuck in a Moebius strip of settling for less and less each time we met someone.
On the flip side, there are the people who settle for someone not because they are attracted to them necessarily, but by what that person can give them: Financial security, status, even whether or not they would be a good parent to their children. All of these things are great qualities in a person, but without heat, a relationship turns ice cold.
Loving someone thoroughly does take time – no matter what rom-coms will have you believe – but assuming that we can change someone into the person we truly want merely by loving them harder isn’t going to work. Neither does holding out for them to change on their own and become the person you want them to be. People are flawed, messy creatures who will never be perfect. Once you realize that, the defects you find in potential mates will take on the mannerisms of charming quirks as opposed to deal-breaking imperfections. Acceptance of someone, warts and all, is called compromise, which is a completely different facet than settling. Compromising between two people shows maturity and true affection and is one of the cornerstones of a real relationship.
Sometimes you think you’ve been dealing with mere compromise, but then you realize you’ve settled after a long stretch of time has passed. But to avoid confrontation and the painful aftermath of a breakup, you stay with someone that you truly don’t love at all, and the two of you grow resentful as silence grows monstrous between you. Sometimes you decide to break free and when you do, you realize that you’re back out in the world of dating – meeting people, finding out about what makes them tick, endless dinners and kisses goodnight – and it can be overwhelming. An easy solution? Reconcile with the person that you settled for because they’re safe and familiar and there’s no need to get to know them because everything you need to know is already filed in your brain. But is that love?
What it comes down to is that there are five components to what constitutes a healthy relationship. First is the sizzling physical chemistry, of course. Second, actual intimacy with the other person; where you feel “at home” when you are with them. Then, mutual respect, which should be prevalent in any relationship – romantic or otherwise, followed by safety, trust and security – not only for your heart, but also your mind. And last, but certainly not least, the fun you can have with the person you are with. If any of these five things are absent, than you are settling. Period. If your relationship starts to crumble in two or five or ten years, you can guarantee it will be because of one of these things is missing.
The questions you have to ask yourself before you settle for someone that you may not really want to be with are: Do you know who you are? Do you know what your self-worth is? Are you strong enough to be alone while you wait for someone who is really special? Are you willing to date different people as you uncover what you truly want from a mate? And honestly, deep down, is there anyone else you could see yourself with or that you truly want to be with? As a certain fictional writer once said, “some people are settling down, some people are settling, and some people refuse to settle for anything less than butterflies.”
Love is not supposed to be a dull glow of embers. Love is a roaring fire that consumes you and heats you up and makes you miss the person that you’re meant to be with at intermittent times of the day. Love means you look forward to seeing the person you are with because you want to see them, not just because they will have dinner ready, or they are taking you to an amazing party or they fixed the leaky faucet that’s been keeping you awake.
Will there be heat between you 24/7? Of course not. But if you step back and think, really think, for even a second, that you could have done better, the reality is, you probably could. That doesn’t mean the person you’re with is a bad person who doesn’t deserve love, it just means they are a good person who maybe deserves someone else’s love.
Don’t settle for less than your heart’s desire. Because the minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for.
Article republished with permission from The Gay Word.