I had a boyfriend once who was very nice, but I just didn’t feel a spark. When we were a few months into our relationship, I looked back at our early days and tried to remember if I felt super drawn to him, but I couldn’t think of a time when I did. He was very kind to me — he often made me dinner, never wore cargo shorts to parties, and lived two blocks away, so being in a relationship with him felt like a no brainer. However, as our chemistry faltered, I had to ask myself, "am I happy with my relationship or am I settling?" I know others have had this question before, so I spoke with experts to get answers for you. Settling in a relationship doesn’t make you a bad person, but it’s good to have the information, so you can make a healthy decision for yourself.
There are a few clues that can tell you if you’ve settled in your relationship. For example, if you are trying to rush the relationship for any reason, you may have settled. "If you have a timeline that’s important to you, you might understand that if you gave it another five years of dating, you might find someone better," Relationship and etiquette expert April Masini tells Elite Daily. "Because your timeline is important to you, and you want to partner and/or marry sooner rather than later, you’re deciding that this is the best partner you will find, given your timeline." If you’re staying in a relationship because you want to adhere to a specific timeline rather than take the time to meet someone you’d be happier with, you might have settled in your relationship.
There are also ways to tell if you’re happy with your relationship. You can look at your life to understand if your relationship is sparking joy. "Your sleep is an indicator of happiness and mental health," Masini says. "When you are stressed, there’s a higher chance of interrupted sleep. So, if you’re sleeping through the night, not having nightmares, or waking with anxiety attacks — you’re in a good place with your relationship, and otherwise." Sleep is just one way to figure out if you’re happy (some of us, myself included, have poor sleep habits no matter what), but being happy in a relationship helps you be happier in your life.
So, how do you know if your relationship is bringing happiness to your life? "You feel content," Masini says. "If you walk around, day-to-day, and you’re smiling at people, complimenting them, and seeing the world as a good place." All of these are just indicators (not proof) that your relationship is making you happy — happiness is different for everyone, and only you know what brings you joy. But a good way to know if you’re happy in your relationship is to ask if you’re happy in your life.
If you feel like you’ve settled in a relationship, it doesn’t mean you can’t also be happy. In many ways, you’re settling for things all the time. If there are no apartments in your price range that allowed you to have your own bathroom, you might settle for a place you ultimately end up loving (plus, you have backup toothpaste when you run out). "When you realize that many of your life decisions, over time, have to do with some form of settling, you’ll have a broader perspective on decision making, settling and life," Masini says. "Whether the settling has to do with a job, a home, a college, or a relationship, chances are there is some form of settling involved. It’s a way of adapting to life, and adapting is a sign of mental health." No one ever has to stay in a relationship they don’t want to be in, but even if you’ve made compromises, your relationship can still work out. Of course, you should never settle for someone who treats you badly, but maybe you settle for someone you love even though their working hours make it harder to spend time together. You should ask yourself in what way you’ve settled, and figure out if you’re OK with those choices.
It can be tough to figure out why you’re in a relationship. People make choices for a variety of reasons, and it’s OK to have questions about your relationship. Thinking through if you’re truly happy or if you’ve settled can be a good way to make sure you’re making joy-inducing choices for yourself. So, go out there, and make Marie Kondo proud!
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