How to Stop Settling for Less and Maintain Healthy Relationships

Relationships

I know that most people have been in this situation; you meet a partner that seems perfect but has some red flags. Although you are aware of these issues, you continue to pursue the relationship. Eventually, we all need to stop settling for people who don't meet our standards because of certain traits they have. 2021 should be the year you start valuing yourself more and not taking anything less than what you desire.

My taste in men is...questionable. In every relationship, I've had to compromise something — my feminist ideals, self-worth, opinions, or privacy. However, I was happy to do it because my partners seemed to have redeemable qualities outside their persistent red flags.

Recently, I started dating someone new after two years of being single. When we first met, I was surprised at how quickly we connected. We joked around with each other and could talk about any topic without getting bored. He knew every song on my playlists, and I found that fascinating because I have a versatile music taste.

Additionally, because of my sketchy past with guys, I was amazed that someone could be a feminist — and a proud one at that. Most of my past partners either refused to admit they were a feminist or identified as centrists. But my current partner and I are on the same wavelength — we both despise capitalism, the patriarchy, and gender roles.

I used to settle constantly to avoid being alone, but I've learned now that it will only make you feel worse. Here are some tips on how to know your worth and find people that make you become the best person possible, as well as finding balance in relationships.

Be Confident

I am generally a confident person, but relationships usually make me more insecure. I get jealous easily and I start to doubt that I am good enough for my partner. However, when the right person comes along, they will reassure you that you are perfect the way you are. One red flag is your partner telling you ways you could improve. While none of us are perfect, your partner should not be picking and choosing the parts of you they love. Be confident in your looks and abilities. Remind yourself that you are your own person and you don't need anyone else to complete you.

One problem a lot of people have in relationships is developing and maintaining trust. A couple of girls were flirting with my partner and it bothered me a little. Instead of gaslighting me and telling me that it wasn't a big deal, my partner voluntarily blocked them and stopped talking to them. Small gestures like these are clear signs of a healthy relationship.

In past relationships, I've let go of issues without communicating, because I didn't think it was worth it, or I convinced myself that I was wrong. This is ultimately harmful and won't benefit anyone. Trust yourself and your thoughts. Stand your ground when you have an opinion and communicate with your partner about anything that bothers you.

Ignore Rules

Rules about relationships are arbitrary. Every person or situation is unique. When I first started dating my current partner, I found myself looking up things online like “Am I hanging out with my boyfriend too much?” or “When is the best time to say I love you?”

Stop worrying about what other people think about your relationship. Whether you're concerned about aspects of the relationship like sex, the time you spend together, or the big “L” word, you don't need anyone else's approval to make decisions. Do what works for you, and don't worry about what other people think.

That's not to say that you shouldn't consult different opinions — if you feel like something is wrong, you should talk to a friend or ask the internet. However, remember that every relationship is different and that there is no right answer.

Identify Your Values And Stick By Them

I have too often put red flags to the side because I enjoyed other aspects of the relationship, like how my partner made me feel, or the other traits he brought to the table. However, this is just a recipe for disaster. If you and your partner do not agree fundamentally on the same things, you are not compatible. While it might seem silly, I first ask any prospective partners what their political opinions are. I would never be in a relationship with a Republican or someone who didn't care or even believe in feminism. By vetting my future partners, I not only value myself and the things I believe in, but it also allows me to start relationships with people that hold the same values as myself.

Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean you have to spill all your trauma on the first date. But make sure to bring up your concerns and your "must-haves" in relationships. For example, if you care about the environment, and your date is an avid consumerist who doesn't believe in climate change, you probably shouldn't schedule a second date.

Communicate About Everything

In past relationships, I've kept quiet about things my partner did that bothered me because I was afraid he wouldn't validate my feelings. However, this will just erode any trust or communication in your relationship. Instead, talk about what is bothering you. I struggle to open up because of my past relationships, but now I feel comfortable saying anything, and my partner reassures me and listens to what I have to say.

Understand that arguments and conflict might be hard to deal with at the moment, but getting through them will allow your relationship to grow stronger.

In all, I am so lucky to have found such a thoughtful, caring partner. Through him, I've learned to never settle and always know my worth.

Jane Park
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Jane is an incoming freshman at Penn State. In her free time, she paints, produces music and skateboards.