Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: How does one live happily with a partner without feeling like he/she is settling? I’d love to feel content and stable, but I still find myself comparing my two-year girlfriend to other women I meet. I feel terrible, but it’s generally subconscious, and I don’t know what to do about it.
I’m sure this would only get worse the longer we’re together, and it’s been relatively consistent in past relationships, too. I don’t want it to be a strain on whatever ends up as my lifetime partnership. Any advice?
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I’m going to go all simplistic here and say you’re not ready for a lifetime partnership, and possibly not even for exclusive dating. Nothing wrong with that, though, as long as you don’t mislead yourself or others about your intent.
I also can’t tell you whether you’re not ready inside or whether you just haven’t met someone well-suited to you — not enough information — but I can say that it’s best just to date, honestly and as noncommittally as you feel comfortable doing, until you see a lifetime partnership as something natural and welcome, versus a reluctant closing-off of your options.
Re: Settling: You can’t compare someone you know well and deep to someone you barely know. Not fair.
Since when is dating fair?
I think looking can be incredibly useful. Sure, you don’t want to look at models and grouse that Sweetie isn’t as hot, but if you’re watching people interact, then you can learn a lot about what you like and what is possible in a relationship.
So if you’re in a relationship with someone you know “well and deep” who has traits that increasingly bother you … and if the friend of a friend you talked to the other day was refreshingly devoid of said traits, then @!$ fair. It’s information, however raw, and therefore beautiful in a pragmatic kind of way.
To: Settling: Are you a “grass is always greener … “ kind of person in other places? I had a friend who could never be happy at one party because he was always worried that the other one might have been even better. I pointed out that he would never know if the other party was better, but he was killing enjoyment of the better party if he WAS at it. And that either could actually become the better if he was enjoying himself. He told me later that it was a lightbulb moment for him.
Works for me, thanks. My only caution is to be careful in applying party-choosing strategy to life-partner choosing. Making a blah event better by rallying has one-night consequences while making a blah relationship better by rallying has potentially lifelong consequences. You don’t want a marriage that requires you to pull out the cupcakes and bubble machine just to make it work. It also has to be where you want to be when you’re tired, sick, or two weeks behind on laundry.
Re: Settling: You’ll know you’ve got the right one when you find yourself comparing and thinking, “I’m so lucky I’m with the one I’m with.”
“A good marriage is where both people feel like they’re getting the better end of the deal.” – Anne Lamott
Email Carolyn at email@example.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.