Why It’s OK to “Settle” for Love

By Ian and Alicia Denchasy
aka Freddy and Eddy

Burning Man 2015

In our interactions with friends, family, and co-workers, we’ve encountered a number of them who are still single (in our age range) and use the excuse that the reason for their lonely relationship status is that they refuse to “settle.” This classification (settling) applies to all sorts of things, such as looks, financial status, educational level, physical fitness… you name it. It seems that if one “settles,” or compromises on (insert standard here), then not only has that person somehow betrayed his or her pursuit of the correct mate, but also that the relationship is doomed to failure. If love isn’t porn star sex, butterflies in our stomachs, and instant chemistry does this mean we are “settling” for a partner who is boring, lousy sex, and unattractive?

Contrary to what we may believe, none of us are perfect, so chances are we won’t come across our perfect mate, perhaps not even close. But does this mean we can’t be happy with someone who doesn’t fit all our check boxes? Take a good look in the mirror before assigning supermodel looks as a deal breaker for your potential relationship partner. Not only do we usually over estimate our own level of physical attraction, but also put unnecessary restrictions on how our significant others should look. I know a friend who only dates blond women over 5′ 8″ tall, have a breast cup size of B or larger, and who weigh less than 120 pounds. And this is before he ranks them on a 1–10 scale in comparison to Kate Upton. A female friend requires all potential dates to be strict Christians and attend church a minimum number of times per week, while still another acquaintance will only date women with a credit score over 800. Aside from most of these criteria being either superficial or subject to change over time, they also shrink the pool of prospects to almost impossibly low levels. Credit scores over 800, for example, are found in less than 20% of the population, meaning if you split this number by gender only one out of every ten people will meet this lofty mark. With such slim odds of meeting anyone with an 800 or above FICO score, how likely is it that you’d not only find a date with a person of such high credit standing, but fall in love with him or her as well? Couldn’t you “settle” for someone with a lower score or, and here’s a radical idea, not worry about it at all?

In reality, we “settle” for almost everything we do in life as there is simply no job, person, or economic level that will make us happy. Happiness is found from within and we should strive to make whatever situation we create or find ourselves in as positive as possible. I remember travelling throughout southern Africa in the late 1990’s and encountering situations in war-torn areas that were so abysmal that it wouldn’t be surprising to find despair at every turn; however, the exact opposite was true. In spite of these horrid living conditions I encountered some of the happiest, most upbeat human beings I’d ever met. These people had literally nothing beyond basic subsistence level (and even less than that in many cases) yet would smile and greet me warmly, offering whatever little they had to show their giving spirit in spite of the obstacles surrounding them. In actuality, your happiness is not dependent on your car, house, possessions, or with whom you share your life; focus instead on making yourself happy and decide how integrating a partner into your joy will enhance day to day living for both of you.

When it comes to sex, don’t be so quick to judge a potential long-term partner incompatible with your sexual needs based on your initial interludes. Just because you’re not burning up the sheets the first few times in the sack does not mean you are settling for a long period of unfulfilling love making. Sure, there are times when sparks instantly fly and physical electricity is so strong that you can’t imagine ever sleeping with or experiencing such mind-blowing intimacy with anyone else. However, over time even the most intense sexual relationships cool, leaving you to actually interact in other ways that might not be so enjoyable. Sex, like most other things, can be improved over time with patience, communication, and trust. When I met my wife back in 1988, for example, sex was good, but definitely not the best I’d ever experienced (that designation went to a certifiably insane ex girlfriend who once professed a deep desire to push me in front of a moving BART train in San Francisco). Over time, though, Alicia and I have developed a wonderfully erotic, fulfilling, and ongoing sexual relationship that continually surprises as we grow older, doesn’t get stale, and most importantly continues to happen regularly. “Settling” for a lesser sex partner has never been so spectacular and sublimely sensual.

Over time, everyone changes in ways both subtle and major. Jobs come and go, economic situations change, and our own interests evolve as we journey from adolescence to adulthood and, finally, into our senior years. What I’ve found is that “settling” for my wife (and her for me) has led to over a quarter century of stability, love, support, trust, fulfilling intimacy, parenthood and — just as importantly — fun. Over time, Alicia has allowed me to be myself without judgment or expectation of major changes, instead letting me stumble awkwardly into my own metamorphosis from fiery college graduate to mature, post 50 mature husband. Along the way I’ve managed to maintain my enthusiasm for life and enjoy every aspect with a partner who trusts in our union regardless of the difficulties we’ve encountered. In retrospect, Alicia could have strived for someone less eccentric and more financially secure, but instead she “settled” for me and we embarked on a journey that has found both of us stronger together than apart, better individually as a result of our relationship together, and always looking forward to the next adventure no matter how big or small. In short, she has made me a better man and I hope Alicia has benefitted from our marriage in the same way.

So do you really want to chase fairy tale love forever and refuse to “settle” down? I have friends with the courage to say they just aren’t built for relationships and prefer to travel life solo, a position I respect as honest and I tip my hat to their decision. However, for those who continue to profess a desire for love and all the benefits that come from being in a healthy relationship, it might be time you settle for what’s really important and open yourselves to the vast pool of potential partners who would settle for you.