Are you settling?
What does it actually mean to settle in a relationship? Sure, feelings for a partner can change over time – and relationship experts say that’s normal. But there’s a big difference between feeling satisfied in a relationship versus just… settling. Marriage and family therapists told us it all comes down to one major factor.
If you find yourself constantly on edge about the relationship you are in, fantasising about fleeing but are too scared to actually make that leap, then you could be experiencing settling rather than simply enjoying your partner. We asked experts to share the specific warning signs you may experience if you’re settling in relationships so you can determine if it’s time to fight for what you have or end it.
You’re afraid to break up for fear of being alone
Experts told us that the main barometer that can help you determine whether you’re settling in your relationship has to do with how you behave with your partner.
For starters, Samantha Grimes is a licensed marriage and family therapist who points out that fear of being alone can easily become an excuse to stay with a person – even if you’ve thought about breaking up with them before.
One easy way to determine if this is happening in your relationship is by imagining a future with your partner. “If you imagine yourself in 10 years with this person and it doesn’t make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, and instead it makes you feel stale and anxious, you are definitely settling,” Fae explains. “If you are demonstrating avoidant behaviour such as purposely hanging out with friends on the weekend instead of your partner, you are settling.”
You don’t encourage personal growth in each other
Grimes points out that both partners should strive to grow and evolve together. Yet if no growth is happening, it’s often a telltale sign that you’re settling in relationships.
Science even backs this up. One 2021 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology actually found that shared experiences of self-expansion for partners also resulted in greater passion within a relationship. Meaning when couples are growing together, they were able to grow closer and strengthen their relationship.
Nevertheless, not all personal growth will happen together. Sometimes partners will experience growth separately. Fortunately, multiple studies show that intimacy in relationships can actually grow when partners are sharing personal information with one another. So being a supportive partner in sharing those growth experiences can also strengthen a relationship.
Needless to say, if a relationship isn’t inspiring growth – or a partner is not supportive of the other’s growth – then both partners in the relationship will likely not be able to grow and mature together.