Less than you settled for.
It’s a weird one, isn’t it? You settle for less than you deserve, perhaps believing you are altruistic, or a good compromiser, or just an agreeable soul, or patient, or undemanding or just plain nice. But the fact is you do settle.
Holy crap, we are so good at making excuses for our inability to establish our own worth, aren’t we? We plug along interminably, knowing that we want more, perhaps need more, crave more and maybe it enters our mind that we deserve more. But do we stand up for ourselves and actually demand more?
Because we are afraid that if we do we will actually lose what little we have. Our fear freezes us into accepting “not enough” or “not good enough” because we’ve somehow decided that a little bit of enough is better than nothing.
And that is exactly when we start sliding down that oh-so slippery slope. Because at the very moment that we accept not-enough as okay, the person in charge of doling out “enoughs” realizes that they’ve gotten away with it. They realize that we are weak and malleable and quite willing to adjust our goal posts to accommodate whatever it is they want (or don’t). We may have thought we had some non-negotiables and at one time we may have even tried to fight for those non-negotiables, but it turns out in the face of possible defeat we back down and we alter everything we once held sacred to avoid complete annihilation.
We settle for less than we deserve.
And in doing so, we allow that very person who is giving us less than we deserve to not only win that point but change the goal posts again. Because hey, if we settled for less this time what’s to say we won’t settle for even less next time? And the time after that?
Case in point:
Many years ago I embarked on new relationship with a man with whom I was deeply in love. We both left our spouses, certain that our love would survive the fall-out and ultimately flourish.
There are many reasons why it didn’t happen but one of the biggest is that he was quite incapable of committing to our new life. He missed his house, his (grown) kids and his old life. He ended up leaving me and moving back home with his wife who at the time was enjoying a well-established relationship with my ex-husband. She loved this new attention (and the fact that he was away from me) but she had no intention of giving up her new amour. So she and her ex co-habited platonically while she and my ex got jiggy (at his house, yes, my former matrimonial home).
The thing is, once my lover was all cozy back home he realized that even though his wife was enjoying his presence, she was not rethinking her options. So he decided he missed me and loved me and then he decided that if my darling ex-hubby didn’t mind this new arrangement (which in my humble opinion was totally messed up!), why should I?
Well, I’m not going to comment on my ex-hubby’s judgment. Or my lover’s. Or his wife’s. How could I when, in the throes of all-consuming love and naive hopes for a better future, I too finally agreed. I agreed to have a relationship with a man who was still living with his wife while she was sleeping with my ex-husband.
And that is exactly the second time my goal posts moved.
Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you, they had moved once before. You see when he and I first acknowledged our illicit love, I absolutely did not want to have an affair. DID NOT. I was willing to leave my husband that very day, so sure was I of my feelings. But he could not. He begged for time. He pleaded for secrecy. He even devised a “one year plan”. And I acquiesced. Because I simply could not imagine my life without his love.
But leave we finally did and then, when after almost a full year of us living together he returned to the matrimonial homestead, and when a few weeks after that suggested this new arrangement, guess what? I agreed. I fucking agreed again. Because once again I simply could not imagine my life without his love.
Are you seeing that slippery slope now?
Let’s look at this in hindsight: At the onset of our romance, if we were truly in love and sure of our feelings and future, we should have fessed up and gotten on with it, right? Didn’t happen.
If we were going to abandon two marriages to begin life anew, I deserved not only his commitment but his action to that commitment, right? Didn’t get that either.
And if he was going to be in committed relationship with me and his wife was going to be in a committed relationship with my ex-husband, did I not deserve the peace of mind that would come with them not living together?
And yet I allowed that unnerving situation to go on for well over a year. And during that year they slept in the same sheets, used the same towels and she even did his laundry and hung his underpants next to her own on the wash-line. He couldn’t understand why any of these acts was unsettling to me. He didn’t understand the intimacy that comes with sheets, towels and underpants, even if he and his ex didn’t use the bed at the same time. He just didn’t get why I was upset.
He also didn’t get why it troubled me that there was no deadline to this travesty. “For as long as she wants,” he said.
He didn’t get why he got it and his ex-wife got it and my ex-husband got it and I was the only one who didn’t.
He didn’t understand my dismay because my dismay had never been an issue (to him). I had moved my goalposts so many times to accommodate him and his desires he could not comprehend my eventual and inevitable epiphany that this entire situation was all wrong FOR ME.
Thank God I finally woke up. I realized that I had settled for far less than I deserved and I realized that the more I did that, the less he offered.
And yes, when I stopped settling for less than I deserve, the relationship ended. It hurt like hell because I truly loved that boy. And I am sure there were moments when I might have reconsidered everything just to have him back.
I am SO GLAD that did not happen. Because the life lesson was gargantuan.
In subsequent relationships I found myself settling again and again, especially at the beginning when we are all so desperate to make things work. The good news is I caught myself doing it early and then rectified the situation immediately. For me. I stated my non-negotiables and the goalposts stayed put.
This fortitude on my part signaled the demise of a few relationships. But I was okay with that because I had come to learn that although I understand the necessity of compromise in every relationship, there are certain goalposts that will not and should not move. Period.
I have witnessed many poor lost souls settling for less than they deserve in relationships, friendships, workplaces and marriages. And yes I do now feel it is my duty to remind them that if you settle for less than you deserve you will end up with less than you settled for. Because your number one priority is to love yourself. Value yourself. Be true to yourself. This will set the tone for every other relationship in your life.
As my erudite friend Caroline says, “When you take that step backwards and accept a reduced expectation, you do so with the hope that things will improve in time. Sorry. Most often it’s the exact opposite. Once you have demonstrated a willingness to accept less you have made it easier for someone else to put his own interests ahead of yours. The expected joint effort is diminished and becomes unbalanced, weighted in favour of the “less committed” party. Now you have a situation whereby the one making most effort (you) has much more to lose. It’s like throwing good money after bad. You try even harder (by settling for even less) to get that initial investment to pay off. The thing is, it hardly ever does.”
Ain’t that the truth?
Just remember there is a huge difference between being a demanding diva and standing up for reasonable recompense. So I ask you to define your non-negotiables. Pound those fucking goalposts into the ground. And then hold your head high with dignity and strength.
Trust me, in the end you will settle only for exactly what you deserve.
And guess what? You will get it. And feel good about it.