“Grab life and find somebody who wants to grab it with you, the way you want to, and live it. Incredibly. Or in Rob Thomas’ words, Live out loud. I think that’s what’s missing for so many of us. We settle.”
King Midget made this comment recently on my blog and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. What does it mean to settle? Why do we do it? And is it such a bad thing anyway?
I’ve been guilty of saying that I settled in my marriage. In some important ways I did. It became clear early on that I wasn’t going to get the kind of deep emotional intimacy I craved in that relationship. And yet, we clicked intellectually. We both loved the outdoors, and traveling, and the Globe and Mail newspaper on Saturday morning. In the 17 years that my ex and I were married, we traveled widely, exploring Europe and Africa, parts of Canada and the U.S.; we hiked mountains, canoed lakes and rafted rivers. We backpacked in the wilderness and camped all across BC. We supported each other as we each pursued a master degree. We had three beautiful boys. There’s no question that there was loneliness, that there were important elements in our relationship that were missing. But there was richness too. There’s no question that he and I grabbed life together. Did I settle? I’m not so sure. I don’t regret our time together, but I also know now what I was missing.
Because I got the deep emotional and physical intimacy in my relationship with Griff. And it was amazing. For those years, I experienced a level of devotion and attentiveness that everyone should get at least once in their lives. I absolutely know that I want to feel that way again. But my relationship with Griff wasn’t perfect either. I lived with a near constant sense of anxiety, never quite sure how long he’d be around. And eventually he did leave. Did I settle? I don’t know. Do I regret the time I had with Griff? Not a minute of it.
And so I’m struggling with the concept of settling, because I’m pretty sure that we all settle at one level or another in relationships. We’re not going to get everything on the shopping list. And so I think I need to get really clear about what is non-negotiable for me, what I know I absolutely must have. It may be that I need both deep intimacy and an adventurous life. I want to live “out loud.” But I might not also get the guy with the sailboat, or the guy with the great wardrobe, or the guy who is equally comfortable hanging out with my family and with my various circles of friends.
When we were talking about settling, Babe Darla, from I Do Blather On weighed in, defining the word settle. To settle is to stop moving, to come to rest, to become quiet or orderly, to establish on a permanent basis. When I think about settling in those terms, I kind of like the idea.
Babe Darla says, “In all of this, there is only ONE definition I could find that means ‘accept despite lack of complete satisfaction’ so why is THAT the one we always think of? Maybe, just maybe we should think of the OTHER definitions when we ‘settle’!”
At the same time, I also think of the words another wise friend who says, “We’re not looking for lateral transfers here.” She’s right. I have a life that is rich and happy already. I’m looking for a relationship that will enrich my life, not narrow it. But do I need perfect? No. And do I like the idea of coming to rest, of establishing permanency? Absolutely.
What do you think? Weigh in with your wisdom, your experience, your two cents worth…