Stop Settling For Less: 10 Steps To Choosing A Fulfilling Relationship14 min read

Share With Friends On:

Do you believe there are people out of your league, and that there are people who you are out of their league? Have you ever looked at a couple and wondered, “Why is he/she with them?” Or, have you found yourself feeling that maybe, just maybe, you’re settling for less than you truly want and deserve?

For example, there are a lot of ladies who I have passed on because they were too young, too religious, not beautiful enough, not busty enough, couldn’t speak good English, were dishonest/untrustworthy, have had something to do with someone I know, and so on. 

On the flip side, a few years ago, I asked out a lady who informed me we couldn’t date because I didn’t really have anything going on. It wasn’t just about money. To her, being with someone who hadn’t figured out their life yet was simply out of the question.

Truly, there are individuals who, if we get into, or remain in relationships with them, might genuinely make us feel undervalued and that we are settling for less than we deserve. 

However, there are also instances when our expectations and standards are so excessively high that we effectively make ourselves unhappy, regardless of whom we are with. This is not a healthy approach.

That’s why, in this piece, we’re delving deeper into the idea of settling for less. To begin, what does it truly mean?

What Does It Mean To Settle For Less In A Relationship?

Settling for less in a relationship means compromising your core values, needs, and non-negotiable standards to remain in that relationship. It’s accepting things you know deep down are deal-breakers and making consistent excuses for why you’re “okay” with something that actually diminishes your self-worth and happiness.

Settling happens when you continuously ignore your inner yearning for deeper intimacy, greater commitment, increased emotional investment, and more from the relationship. You’re settling if you remain with a partner who doesn’t treat you with the love, respect, and consideration you deserve. If certain aspects of their behaviour cross the lines you once firmly vowed never to accept – such as lying, cheating, or other toxic patterns – yet you persuade yourself to just tolerate it, that’s settling.

For example, if you had always told yourself you’d never be with someone who was unfaithful or raised their hands on you. But then your current partner cheats on and batters you REPEATEDLY, and instead of leaving as you said you would, you make justifications like, “Oh, they were just going through a hard time.”, “Everyone makes mistakes”, or “I took a vow to be with them for better or worse”. That’s settling. You’re settling because you’re condoning what is clearly below your said standards and deal-breakers.

“Don’t settle. Either they will wake up to the fact that you are worth more … or you will.”

– Charles J. Orlando

Signs You’re Settling

Like a vision-impaired person losing their glasses, sometimes we become unable to tell when we’re settling because of emotions, hormones, and prolly the stories we continually hear (about how it is okay to settle) blind us. However, here is your glasses – here are the signs that help you tell for sure if you’re settling:

  • You’re ignoring deal-breakers you once considered unacceptable. If you had said in the past you won’t get into a relationship with someone who is addicted to drugs, is a gangster/cultist, doesn’t want kids, or is not religious but is now dating one, then you are settling. Unless, of course, you have changed your values and now genuinely love those.
  • You’re not communicating effectively with them. Communication, they say, is key. If there are frequent communication breakdowns (misunderstandings and even fights) that leave you feeling unheard, disconnected, and bitter, chances are you are settling. 
  • Persistent negative thoughts and doubts about compatibility keep bubbling up. You keep wondering if you are making or have made a mistake to be with them. You constantly ask yourself, “Am I truly happy here?”, “Should I back down now?”, “Can I do this for the long haul?”
  • You’re constantly fighting off complacency. Deep down you know this relationship isn’t fulfilling your core needs (be it joy, freedom, affection, trust, respect etc.), yet you remain because you are getting some scraps/wants out of it. Perhaps you are afraid of what people would say or of being lonely and just want to enjoy the sex or money that comes off it.
  • There is no passion. Looking at your partner often triggers more feelings of roommate familiarity than romantic fire. You feel indifference and in some cases pity or disgust for them.
  • You hate being around them. You hate the way they smell, talk, walk, think, act, and even dress. In fact, you rather spend time with friends, family or just by yourself rather than being around your partner – Heck! Calling them your partner makes you feel embarrassed.

If several of these resonate, it’s a glaring signal that you’re settling. 

“The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for.”

— Maureen Dowd

Get our free eBook on how to live a happy and meaningful life when you input your email now.

Why We Settle In Relationships

It can increasingly become uncomfortable to be single as you age, especially in some African contexts where family, both immediate and extended, just won’t stop badgering you about when you’ll finally bring home a partner. This persistent pressure is doubly annoying for ladies who get constantly told that their beauty and fertility will fade away once they hit and cross their mid-30s. I mean, I actually saw this provocative ad that claimed “Your Ovaries Are Dying!” just to sell some dating course to women (as if losing a few thousand eggs instantly makes conceiving impossible, ignoring other options – like IVF, surrogacy, IUI, or even adoption). 

With society propagating ideas like these (especially about women’s worth being tethered to marriage or birthing children), it’s no surprise that so many people settle into relationships out of desperation rather than holding out for something fulfilling on their own authentic terms and time.

Generally speaking, people settle because:

  • They buy into societal timelines and expectations out of fear of being “behind” or “left behind” (e.g. the “I need to be married before 30” trap).
  • They put more emphasis on avoiding loneliness than being in a fulfilling partnership. This fear becomes the motivator.
  • They let toxic, low self-worth dictate decisions, making them think a bad or unfulfilling relationship is okay. They may even believe they don’t deserve better.
  • They crave stability and are afraid of what might happen if they decide to walk out of the relationship, even if that means remaining in an unsatisfying, toxic, or even abusive relationship.
  • They believe they have invested too much into the relationship to walk out now. This is especially true for people who have already gotten married or have had kids. This is known as the “Sunk Cost Fallacy”.
  • They think it’s a competition. They compare their relationship with that of others and try to get in or outlast the others. Even when things are going bad, they believe it is a sign that they should put in more effort or endure.

Many forces, both internal and external, combine and conspire to make settling feel like a reasonable choice. But settling will slowly kill you – just like an animal that refuses to gnaw off its own limb when caught in a trap will meet a worse fate when the hunter comes and chops off its head.

You want to ask yourself, do I want to bite the bullet and free myself from this relationship now, or would I allow the voices of others and my own insecurities to keep me ensnared?

“Ten years from now, make sure you can say that you chose your life, you didn’t settle for it.”  

― Mandy Hale

But, Why Do I Always Feel Like I’m Settling? 

It’s normal to occasionally feel that your partner falls short of your expectations. Even in great relationships, both parties let each other down or disappoint one another from time to time. However, a constant, pervasive sense of settling can point to a deeper issue – perhaps, a major deal-breaker signalling something is deeply amiss or wrong in the relationship. But beware, there are instances when the feeling of settling arises from projecting our own negative self-beliefs onto our partner. 

It’s a harsh truth, but if you often oscillate between thinking “I’m too good for them” and “I’m not good enough,” it likely stems from self-esteem/ego issues – carrying around an overly critical inner voice that causes you to either reject yourself or set unrealistic standards for others. And since perfection is unattainable, you may find yourself chronically single and unhappy.

There’s a difference between deciding against a partnership because of foundational incompatibilities (e.g., vastly different values, life goals, or dealbreaker issues) versus dismissing someone over minor imperfections (e.g., small quirks, habits, or personal preferences). The cruel irony is that by being hypercritical, we often push away loving partners who appreciate our beautifully flawed, ever-evolving selves – the version we struggle to fully accept.

Typically, when you find the right person, the question of “settling” will fade. You’d know deep down that they are a blessing to you. And, even though issues may still arise, you’ll find that you’d be more inclined to resolve the issues while still loving them, imperfections and all.

Therefore, we must intentionally work on self-acceptance, increasing self-awareness to quiet that overly critical inner voice. When we appreciate our own richly layered worthiness, it becomes easier to non-judgmentally appreciate the “pimples, wrinkles, and quirks” in others.

Choosing Fulfilment: How To Stop Settling For Less In Relationships

Many people settle all through life. For some others – especially those who are settling for someone who is abusive – it gets so painful that they simply have no choice but to leave or get booted out. And, though this seems painful, it might actually be what saves them – forces them to look for someone who will truly make them happy. A classic illustration of the Region-beta paradox.

But, not everyone is lucky to get the wake-up call – a situation where life forces them to decide or decides for them.  If you don’t want to wait for life to force your hand, follow these steps:

Stop Excusing Poor Treatment

Instead of rationalising behaviours like lack of support, infidelity or abuse, address directly what hurts you. If loved ones dismiss or invalidate your feelings, and you accept that, you’re settling for less than you deserve.

No longer sure where your boundaries lie? then…

Get Radically Honest With Yourself

Reflect deeply on the essential qualities and values you need in an ideal partner – deal-breakers included. Write them down on a piece of paper to solidify your non-negotiables.

Once you’re clear on what you want and what you don’t want, take the initiative to…

Practise Self-Love and Self-Care

Treat yourself how you want to be treated. Stop harsh self-judgement and depriving yourself of what you want. Rather, gift yourself, rest, wear clothes that make you feel good, exercise, and compliment yourself regularly. 

Little acts like this make you fall in love with yourself and …

Trust Your Intuition

The answers are already in your head. Journaling can help you do this by differentiating fears from facts – helping you see your inner world clearly. If doubts about your partner persist after self-reflection, it may signal something is misaligned.

In that case, you must…

Have the Courageous Dialogue

Lay out your concerns, needs and non-negotiables with your partner in a non-confrontational tone. Focus on letting them know what your needs and expectations are. Also, let them know what things you can no longer stand. 

If necessary, involve an impartial third party – say a religious leader, counsellor or respected family member.

During this dialogue, ensure you…

Don’t Passively Accept What You Hate

A core aspect of settling is being inauthentic – agreeing to things you don’t truly want. Pause, go inward and heed your true desires before saying yes.

But also be willing to…

Embrace Reasonable Compromise

There’s a difference between compromising core values/needs and mutual sacrifice. The latter is normal and healthy, while the other is not. Determine if some unmet expectations are truly non-negotiable.

Don’t be afraid of disagreements. Rather…

Realise You’re Inherently Capable

We often underestimate ourselves, while assuming others are smarter or more capable. This mindset enables self-sabotage, trapping you in an unfulfilling relationship. You can carry on without them. You are capable of thriving on your own.

Besides, the truth is that we can lose anyone at any time – be it through death or a break-up. So, don’t be afraid to…

Sunset a Bad or Unfulfilling Relationship

Summon the courage to end relationships or situations dimming your spark, no matter how daunting a “reset” feels.

And, if you find yourself unable to go through with these steps, you can always …

Seek Professional Support

If you continue settling due to self-confidence issues, consider therapy. A therapist can help identify the roots and provide solutions. They offer an unbiased perspective. Research therapists who specialise in anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression

Refusing to settle for less is an insistence on living authentically. It’s an admirable act of self-preservation that fuses self-awareness and self-love

“If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.”

– Steve Jobs

Conclusion: Make Your Life Lovely First, Then Embrace True Love.

I’ll be 28 this year. People I know within my age bracket are already at 30. While most of the males worry more about money, most females are more concerned about their relationship status. This is probably the scariest age I’ve been in because looking around it’s all people making huge decisions – from deciding to leave the country to becoming internet fraudsters, getting married to getting pregnant. When things are moving that fast, it can feel like you’re lost, stuck, or falling behind when you’re not making any big moves.

But, it is always worth remembering that life is not a competition. You don’t want to sell your soul for some superficial status. You don’t want to play stupid games and win stupid prizes. You don’t want to – out of a need to measure up – settle for situations that don’t sit right with your soul.

On that note, it is wise to go inward and know yourself intimately. Then live boldly true to your core desires.

Don’t just daydream about finding love. Vow to work relentlessly on your growth, your mindset, and your essence whether out or in a relationship. 

Make your life lovely. This will open your eyes to spot and appreciate truly lovely, healthy partners.

You don’t want to be the one whose impatience ultimately teaches the value of patience.

“Always behave like a duck – keep calm and unruffled on the surface, but paddle like the devil underneath.”

– Jacob Braude


Did you enjoy reading this or do you have some questions? Please let us know in the comments section.

Here are some other content you might find useful:

I enjoy writing long-form SEO content for self-help and personal development blogs. I can also do simple graphics design and copywriting. I’m an author, coach, logician, introvert, and storyteller. I love simplicity.

Get our free eBook on how to live a happy and meaningful life when you input your email now.

Leave a ReplyCancel reply