Sometimes we settle for less than we deserve in relationships because of self-esteem issues or insecurities—and sometimes, we don’t even realize we’re settling. But if you seem to be in not-great relationship after not-great relationship, it could be a sign that you’d rather be with someone—anyone—rather than be on your own (not good!).
In healthy relationships, you’ll never feel like you’re compromising your values or worth. Sure, maybe all your hopes and expectations aren’t being met, but for the most part, your needs are met in other ways. If that’s not your experience when you’re dating, read on to find out how you can stop settling for less than the best and start getting what you really want to be happy in love.
Expect More to Get More
“Unfortunately, we get what we accept from others. If we change what we want, we will get what we desire,” explains Dr. Saudia L. Twine, a marriage & family therapist. Tell yourself it’s OK to want more, because you deserve more!
Set Stricter Boundaries
If a partner is hurting your self-esteem, then you really need to be assertive about what is and isn’t okay. Don’t settle for this, ever, says professional matchmaker Michal Naisteter. “From there, pay attention to the changes they are or aren’t making. At the end of the day, you should be accepted and appreciated.”
Stop Making Excuses
Pay attention to the rationalizations you are making. “If you always put your partner’s needs before your own and let all bad behaviors slide, you probably aren’t your best self with that person,” says Naisteter. Don’t settle for your partner’s bad behavior. Everyone needs to be held accountable.
Stop Bending over Backwards
Relationships are about each person giving 100 percent. “If you recognize you are the only one doing the giving, then this is a sign that your investment is not being honored and may need to be given to someone who will value the effort to your commitment,” says Twine.
Require Quality Communication
Accepting vague text messages and no phone calls will not encourage intimacy and won’t do anything to improve your love life. “In person or phone contact is the only way to foster a caring connection. One needs in person cues and the tone of one’s voice to discern nuance with communication,” explains Sheri Heller, a psychotherapist.
Make Sure Their Words and Actions Align
You know you settled for less in your love life if you’ve accepted that your partner, doesn’t do what they say they’re going to do. “Integrity means being straightforward with no hidden agendas. For a foundation of trust to develop words must match behavior. Anything less will make you doubt intensions and enabling this behavior will erode your self worth,” explains Heller.
List Your Partner’s Qualities
“Take some time to divide them into categories – is it something that gets better or gets worse over time?” Suggest Naisteter. This can also be like a pro and con list, of staying with the person. If the cons outweigh the pros, don’t settle! Move on.
“If you aren’t able to love yourself deeply, it’s going to be hard to accept someone else’s love, which is one of the reasons we end up in unhealthy relationships in the first place,” says dating coach, Stacy Karyn. “Make sure you love yourself like crazy before jumping into the singles market.”
Listen to your friends
Friends have the tendency to be brutally honest when it comes to relationships, especially when love is in its beginning phases, notes Karyn. “Ask your friends for their honest opinion on your current choice of partner, and seriously reflect on it before continuing down that path.”
Note Your Non-Negotiables
Write them down if you have to. “These are your personal deal breakers in all relationships,” says relationship expert and author of Secrets of Happy Couples, Kim Olver. “When one is violated, end the relationship.”
Keep up with Hobbies and Interests
“Sometimes we end up settling for less for the simple reason of comfort and ease. However, if you train yourself to embrace physical activity, you will be more likely to actively navigate your love live as well,” says Karyn.
Expect to Meet Your S.O.’s Family and Friends
Accepting to be kept a secret is rejecting and creates uncertainty about relational intentions. “Being let into another’s orbit involves meeting the folks who are closest to them. It is a necessary rite of passage to be introduced to family and friends if the relationship is going to evolve,” says Heller.
Discuss What Hurts You
If you do not make attempts to correct hurtful behaviors, then the other person is unaware they are hurting you. “If you do make attempts to share your feelings and are unheard, then your feelings are not valued. You have to decide to leave or stay because this is what you can expect in the future,” says Twine.
Stop Trying to Change Them
If you find yourself telling yourself “If I love him/her enough, maybe they’ll change,” that’s a sign you’re settling for less AND wasting your time. Olver says, “Instead, ask yourself, “what if this relationship never changes . . . is this the relationship I want to have?””
Accept That Being Single is Normal and OK!
“As a matchmaker, I meet people everyday who stayed in relationships for far too long because they were afraid of singledom. Coupled people are only better off than their single counterparts if they are in a good relationship,” says Naisteter. Breaking up with someone is an act of courage but you can also live your most meaningful life on your own.