The best metaphor I can think of is clothing. You find a shirt, you really like it, you try it on and it fits fine, it’s passable, you don’t hate it; in fact there are parts of it you could grow to truly love. But one store over there’s another shirt that has a better fit, for you. One that doesn’t involve many turns in the mirror to make a decision; one that is snug in all the right places, and loose in the rest. It doesn’t make the first shirt bad, it just means there’s an item of clothing out there that doesn’t see you settling on ‘okay’ or ‘good enough’ or ‘fine for now’. And maybe the first shirt is at the front of the store, not hidden away on a rack right at the back. It could be on sale, or maybe it’s even full price but you’re determined to buy that day. You might have a friend with you who convinces you how perfect it is. Or you might just really really want a shirt.
My point here is when it comes to the people in our lives, how much do we settle?
Now I don’t think that settling necessarily means for something lesser. I’m not implying that ‘settling’ makes that person unacceptable or an awful specimen of a human being. Perhaps it’s just agreeing to something that isn’t quite the right fit; agreeing to be okay with one thing when there’s something out there that may be more made for us. It’s too easy to compromise; on our values, our convictions, and our hearts true desire. All because we receive a fraction of something we want and we are willing to allow that to be enough to convince us that it can outweigh everything else.
There’s a reason people stay in unhealthy, often abusive relationships. And from the outside looking in it’s too easy to judge those people; people who have allowed the small amount of good to outweigh the incredible levels of bad. A friend said to me recently that we like to categorise everything, particularly when it comes to relationships, as black or white, but when you’re in it there’s only ever grey. There’s infatuation, desire, risk and heartbreak. There is also compromise and sacrifice, and oftentimes love, the real kind. There’s the fear of losing something you have long wanted, even if what you have isn’t truly what you longed for in the first place.
We’ll say that this is good enough, even if we know we’re not happy. We’ll hold on to those three amazing weeks right at the start, even if they’ve long since been overshadowed by time spent together that barely even manages to reache a notch close to good. We’ll adjust our communication style to be accepting of theirs, after all some people are just incredibly passionate, and passionate people yell a lot, right?
What astounds me is this capacity to alter ourselves to be okay with something that we actually don’t find to be ‘okay’. I’m not talking about accepting someone for all that they are, or finding ways to compromise, or working hard. Because I get what it takes to make a relationship work. I’m talking about all of the convincing that goes on in our minds; perhaps we’re not even entirely aware of it. All of the ‘wait and see’s’, the ‘if we can just get through this’. All of the promises we make each other and ourselves; the things that don’t sit right but that we push past.
I don’t know much about that elusive sensation called love. But I do know that it is constantly being cheapened. That we mask our desire for it behind poor substitutes. I know that we too often mistake infatuation for love; that sometimes we even realise it, but creating an illusion seems better than not having anything at all. Above all I know that it’s too easy to settle, to forget all that we sought in the first place, and to get lost in the hope of a feeling, instead of the feeling itself.
The thing about clothes that aren’t quite what we wanted, is that they don’t last very long on the rotation, or if they do, we end up feeling less than comfortable, less ourselves when we wear them.