You’re probably not going to like this very much, but I can say with certainty that if you choose to love someone, you will settle…and that’s not a bad thing.
Whether you’re willing to admit or refuse to accept the reality of personal imperfection, on some level, we will all settle. I realized this after a number of failed relationships and cringe-worthy breakups, finally arriving at a partner who I love deeply…and at the saddening, yet bizarrely comforting realization that no one is ever going to be my “perfect match.”
Let me explain.
Aloneness is our natural state. We come in alone, leave alone, and so it goes…you know the adage. However, relationships of any kind often serve to cloak this reality and quell our longing, bringing fulfillment, meaning, and purpose to our private alcoves of inner emptiness. We seek partners in an effort to feel seen, accepted, and most importantly, truly understood. We are convinced that the sign of a worthwhile partner is one who can read our minds and understand our inner world without aid.
That’s why I decided to stop listening to idealistic and good-intentioned, yet delusional advice. Because no one inherently knows what you like or don’t like, what your boundaries are, what behaviors make you uncomfortable and are intolerable, how you best feel loved, or what your values are.
Those things must be taught, which challenges you to approach love with vulnerability, honesty, patience, and the overwhelming humility it takes to surrender the entitlement you feel around what you “should” be receiving. To remain committed, we enter an agreement with the understanding that we will consistently be required to play the role of both teacher and pupil.
For years, I was convinced that potential partners weren’t good enough because they didn’t already know how to be amazing boyfriends, hadn’t already guessed my moods, or understood what I was trying to say with my actions rather than open conversations.
Over and over again, I would see articles riddled with a naive romanticism that encouraged me “never to settle” and to only date someone when or if they demonstrated X, Y, or Z behaviors on this dangerous and imaginary, “list.” I preemptively placed conditions and restrictions on potential lovers before I’d met them. I walked away from promising opportunities for superficial reasons. You, like me, then begin the endless search for that person who will somehow make sense of the perpetually lonely and confusing human condition.
If that’s the formula you rely on to seek a partner, good luck. You will most likely end up unhappily committed or dissatisfied…because love and compatibility just don’t work that way.
The School of Life has an amazing video that helps demonstrate our ideals about love:
Love requires us to privately mourn our high ideals and expectations surrounding love. It forces us to grieve our bitter disappointments and begs us to forgive others for not being what we wish they were, or exactly what we need at any given moment. When you’re rigid in love and convinced that a person who doesn’t already know your mind is a dud, you’re in for a long, lonely road of regretful realizations.
This is not to say we are destined for a life of unending suffering and aloneness. Nor is it an encouragement to remain in an abusive, demoralizing, or completely loveless and miserable relationship. It is to stress that we have to reimagine the means by which we evaluate potential partners, their strengths and weaknesses, and our personal tolerance for those aspects of others that drives us crazy.
If we remain exceedingly unsettled by the possibility that we – the most special human we know – would ever arrive at a partner who is anything less than perfect, we view compromise as a shameful weakness. We refuse to entertain a more mature and truthful way of perceiving it – that to be with another person is to be consistently challenged to accept and forgive each other’s less desirable qualities, flaws, and failures, while celebrating the parts we do love, maintaining a definitive boundary between togetherness and separation.
It’s time to free ourselves from the cycle of demanding perfection, refusing to explain what we’re truly looking for, then bitterly wondering why we’re alone. Allow others to surprise you and recognize that sometimes it’s okay to be generous with second chances. No love story will ever endure if you’re kicking someone to the curb every time they make a mistake or display weakness.