While the woman was in decent shape and responded with a warm “hello,” her man – round-faced, with a dad bod, an outdated haircut and a giant frown – was barely able to muster a grunt. I was going to stop and check and see if he even had a pulse.
In the past, I would have lamented that she, a friendly and fit woman, was “settling” with an out-of-shape crank. And, I would have questioned if she wouldn’t have been better off dating someone like me instead!
Whether it’s in a career, relationships, or any other area in life, we love talking about people who “settle.” You know what I mean: a successful career woman who marries an unemployed loser, a valedictorian who works an average job, or a handsome and cool upper-manager who goes home at night to take orders from an ugly (inside and out) girlfriend.
We always say “I don’t know why he or she settled. It doesn’t make sense!”
I’m going to provide an alternative perspective on the whole concept of “settling,” and it is that people really don’t “settle” so much as make choices that reflect who they actually are.
Most of us give far too much credence to the idealistic versions we create of ourselves and others. We have an idea of who we (and others) are in our heads, and then base our perceptions off of this false reality.
The truth is that actions are a far more accurate evaluation of who someone really is than any idealized mental perception you have of yourself or someone else.
For example, instead of suggesting a fit, career woman is settling by dating an unemployed slob, a more realistic assessment is that such a choice must actually fit with who she is. She isn’t settling, so much as making a choice that in some capacity reflects her values. I touched on this when I wrote an article directed at guys that, yes, women can be losers.
Even if she married the guy because she felt like her biological clock was almost done ticking, and he was the only guy in her rural area her age who wasn’t being revived by Narcan at that moment, the reality is she is someone who would make that choice under those circumstances; she didn’t “settle.”
And what about the fit and cool manager who regularly gets humiliated and bossed around by his unattractive girlfriend? Something within him allows him to put up with that. He isn’t “settling”; your mental picture of him just excludes the possibility that he would ever put up with that, but he obviously does.
Once you realize you aren’t “settling,” you can actually use this knowledge to take charge and start to align your external actions with who you are in your head. If you’re really not the type of guy who would do x, y, and z, then start doing what you can so you don’t do x, y, and z!
You can also start to see people more realistically, as human beings with flaws, who make good choices, and sometimes not so good choices.
For example, you can finally realize that your saintly mom didn’t “settle” by being with your abusive stepdad for ten years. She chose to be with an abuser and put you in that situation; that’s not how saints act.
Your ex didn’t “settle” by moving on with a girl you hate; he may actually value what his new girlfriend offers over what you offer, and waiting for him to “stop settling” and come back to you isn’t likely.
“Settling” is just a way of saying someone acted in a manner that doesn’t line up with your preconceived expectations. In the end, actions speak louder than words…and louder than preconceived idealistic pictures we have of ourselves and others.
So, even if that girl at the track got tired of her husband, there’s no guarantee she would even want to date a guy who was in better shape and can communicate without grunts. Her actions in the world seem to indicate that she is just fine with her choices. She hasn’t “settled”; she has chosen. And, who knows, maybe his quiet ways are what she liked to begin with.
And, that’s how we all work.