At what age and stage do you finally give up on finding the ‘perfect’ partner?
One studyfound the average woman will kiss 15 men, have two-long term relationships and have her heart broken twice before she finds the person she’ll settle down with.
But what if you’re way past that, still counting and still not found the right person?
Is it sensible to settle for that perfectly-nice-but-not-perfect relationship you’re in? Or are you settling for second best?
Fifteen relationship books, umpteen columns and two decades of researching sex and relationships later, here’s what I think are the crucial questions to ask yourself.
1. Do you only ever date one ‘type’?
The more varied your dating habits and the more different types of people you know and go out with, the more chance you have of finding someone who will truly make you happy.
Look back at your last five relationships: have you just dated the same person, over and over and still not happy?
If this is you, don’t settle with the person you’re with. Deliberately date someone who is completely different than what you’re used to and see how that makes you feel.
2. What personality type are you?
How important is chemistry to you? The kneejerk reaction is ‘Very!’ and if you’re an intense person, hang out for someone you feel a strong, powerful connection with.
Feeling content with your partner should make you feel warm and fuzzy rather than anxious and nervous
But if the word ‘content’ makes you feel warm and fuzzy rather than ancient and anxious, it’s perfectly possible to click with someone and have a lovely time together without ever feeling the Hollywood version of ‘chemistry’ with that person.
Controlled ‘sensible’ relationships suit lots of people.
If you’re quite happy being with your partner and it’s your friends telling you it’s not passionate enough, ignore them and stick with your instincts.
3. Are you settling or compromising?
There’s an enormous difference.
In the first scenario, you’re actively acknowledging that you’re effectively settling for less than you think you deserve. The natural reaction to that is to feel resentful and cheated by life.
Finally learning to compromise is a totally different feeling.
It’s more like ‘OK, so they don’t have all the qualities on my wish list but they do have what I now realise are the important ones and I can live with what’s missing’.
That decision sits well with most people.
It’s more ‘Oh well, turns out you really can’t have it all!’ than feeling depressed and disappointed in the future.
4. Have you made peace with all your demons?
You have to be in the right place to meet the right person.
If you’re still battling all sorts of issues from your past, struggling to recover from a toxic ex and generally not sorted, you are not going to have a great relationship with anyone you meet, no matter how fabulous they are.
Do you view relationships as a place of safety, where you’ll feel supported and loved and have fun?
Or as a battleground, where you have to be on guard and protect yourself because you might get hurt?
If it’s the latter, how you feel has nothing to do with who you’re with, it’s to do with issues you need to fix. Get some therapy and then decide how you feel.
5. Don’t confuse drama with love
Some personalities are strongly attracted to each other but don’t bring out the best in each other. Trouble is, the intermittent reinforcement – the rollercoaster emotional effect – makes us think this must be love.
It’s not. These are the dramatic love scenarios we’re used to seeing in movies and reading in books. It’s fiction!
The average good relationship wouldn’t be entertaining enough because when you both respect and like each other, there aren’t massive ups and downs.
Don’t equate drama with love. If you’re worried you’re settling because there aren’t any arguments or tension and everything is easy, stop worrying.
That’s called high compatibility.
6. How’s the sex?
Most people don’t end up settling down with the person they have the most wicked sex with.
Why? Sometimes it’s because women don’t do the really out-there stuff with a man they think is future husband material (fears of being judged).
Other times it’s because what we look for in a long-term partner (reliability, commitment, stability), isn’t what we look for in someone we’re having a hot fling with (spontaneity, someone who’s forbidden and ‘bad’ for us).
This doesn’t mean you won’t have great sex with the right person, just a different kind of sex.
If you’re thinking you’re settling because the sex isn’t as good as it was with that wild ex, you’re being unrealistic.
Sex with anyone calms down over time: it doesn’t mean you’re settling if you’re not doing it seven times a week or having earth-shattering orgasms every time.