Dysfunctional Dating Pattern #5: Settling

Posted on June 21, 2010


Of all the dysfunctional dating patterns, this one is perhaps the hardest for women (and their well-meaning friends and families) to understand.

It’s one thing if a guy is a flame-out or a drama whore or deeply wounded. Most of us can clearly see how hurtful these men can be, even if it is, perhaps, only in hindsight. But settling is a completely different, and much more complex, problem.

Most women don’t settle for the passionate guy who sweeps them off their feet. They settle for the nice guy. The responsible guy. A guy who, on paper, is exactly what they said they were looking for. You’ve probably dated this guy. He’s smart, he’s cute, he has a good job. He opens the door for you and calls you when he says he will. But for some reason, there’s no chemistry. There is no spark. Try as hard as you may, it just feels, well, neutral between the two of you.

For a woman who is trying to clean up her dating act, there are few things as disheartening as meeting a really nice guy only to find out that there’s just no attraction. So what do some women do when this happens instead of being honest with themselves?

They lie and try to convince themselves they should be happy they’ve found someone who cares for them. They tell themselves that they’ve found a responsible guy, they tell themselves another nice guy may never come along. And they settle.

Treating relationships in the same fashion as one treats finding a last-minute outfit for a party (Oh I’m running out of time to find something I really like so I guess this will do) is NOT the way to a lifetime full of happiness.

“I think I’m doomed,” a client told me. “I finally meet a great guy who takes me out, calls me when he says he’s going to, is stable, wants kids. And there’s no chemistry. None. What’s wrong with me? Do I just get turned on by jerks?”

For women who’ve spent years dating not-so-great guys (yours truly included), getting clear and becoming more conscious about making better relationship choices is liberating. Dissolving all of the negative thinking patterns about dating and relationships feels like freedom. Realizing there are really great single men in the world who are looking for really great single women feels nothing short of miraculous. And then one is ready to go back out into the dating world with renewed hope and vigor.

But that does not mean that the first, or second, or even the third nice guy you go out with, is going to be the right guy for you. NOR am I saying that you can tell if you truly have chemistry with someone after only the first few dates.

Dating smart entails a number of things like pacing, intelligent questioning and self-awareness. However, to advise you not to hold out for the fairytale does NOT mean I am advocating that you settle for someone who is not right for you. I’ve seen some women convince themselves to settle and the consequences were disastrous.

Take one of my former bosses, for example. When she realized I had broken up with my alcoholic boyfriend, she started spouting off relationship advice. She told me that perhaps my problem was that I was being too picky and then told me how she decided that she should marry her husband.

“After all of the losers I dated, I finally realized that here was this nice guy I was dating who kept asking me to marry him. There wasn’t really any attraction but here was a guy who cared about me, who was financially stable and very smart. A guy who would make a great father and I thought-I’m not getting any younger. Why not?”

Even though I was not married at the time, the way this women described how she came to the conclusion to marry her husband just felt totally wrong. Less than three months after this conversation, on a morning I came into work unexpectedly early, I found this woman fooling around with our delivery boy in her office. I guess having no chemistry with her husband meant she had to get her fix somewhere else.

The worst part is her husband really was a gem. A sweet and kind man who deserved a wife who was attracted to him, who could appreciate his good qualities and be faithful.

We all deserve this. When you settle for someone out of fear (of your age, of being alone, of whatever), not only are you cheating yourself out of the possibility of a really great relationship, but you are cheating him out of a really great relationship as well.

How do you know if you are participating in this dysfunctional dating pattern? You’ve dated him for several weeks or months and are still more in your head about the relationship than in your heart. You spend time telling yourself and others about all of his great qualities in an effort to “convince” yourself that he’s who you should be with. (Well-meaning friends and family members may even advise you to settle for someone who is not right for you when they see you finally dating someone who is kind).You are not excited when he calls and you don’t really look forward to seeing him. You notice that you keep looking at your watch when you’re out with him; you don’t lose track of time when you’re with him. When you think about spending the next weekend without him, you find yourself feeling a bit more relieved than disappointed.

All of these are signs that he is not the right person for you.  To pretend that he is means you are settling. This does not mean that a really great guy is not in your future. It just means that this really great guy is meant for someone else.