Stop Settling!

Red pill, blue pill © Alexander Knjazhetsky |
You know the drill

I get deeply frustrated at all the couples who are settling for a bad marriage; or a poor marriage, or even an okay marriage. Why would people do this? Why would they accept a shadow of what they could have?

My conclusion is people settle for one or both of two reasons: fear and ignorance.

Ignorance: I don’t mean stupidity, I mean just not knowing it can be better. When I was growing up my parents had a fair marriage – not great, but not bad. Most others I saw were worse off than my parents, some much worse. For some reason (I blame God), I felt there had to be something better. I had no example, but I believed it. When our marriage had problems, I did not accept them as inevitable or unsolvable; I was sure we could work through them and come out the other end with a better marriage. And you know what? It happened, over and over. I lived what I believed was possible.

The point here is you are unlikely to have a better marriage if you are not convinced you can have a better marriage. Take my word for it, or ask God to put it in your heart as He did with me, but find a way to believe it can be better – far, far better.

Fear: I think some people would rather succeed at poor than risk failing at great. I think others want deniability – if they try to make the marriage better and fail, they worry they will be blamed for a divorce. Even if they are sure doing nothing will end in divorce, they would rather wait for the divorce than try to make it better and risk blame. I don’t know how to help someone overcome such fears, other than maybe helping them see it’s possible, and thus changing the odds in their mind.

A friend of mine often quotes President Harry S Truman “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” Let me change that to “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care if you get the blame.”

Bottom line: PLEASE stop settling! I’m begging you, there is so much more. Marriage need not be a battle ground, or boring, or just barely better than being single. Marriage can be deeply enjoyable and satisfying, a source of comfort and joy. Even if things are ugly now, it can change, and a change in your attitude and belief will start that change.

Speaking of change, my bride and I are looking to go into marriage ministry full time. You can help us by becoming a micro-donor.

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13 Comments on “Stop Settling!

  1. I’m not sure folks are settling. Sometimes you simply cannot make it better. No matter how many prayers you pray, how many times you ask God to open your eyes, or open your spouses eyes, or open both your eyes, something absolutely nothing happens regardless the quality or quantity of effort, pray and faith.

    One spouse can be “sure” the problems are solvable, sure that God can do anything, yet nothing gets better, again, regardless the quality and quantity of his effort, faith, confidence or beliefs.

    So is it settling, or simply resignation to the fact that after years of doing the right things, the things that God, scripture, your pastor, Godly men, etc say to do, things still haven’t gotten better, or worse, they’ve gotten worse?

    Sometimes, what you call “settling” really is the only act of faith left to a husband who loves his wife and seeks to follow God.

    • Tony – Certainly what you say is valid, but I doubt it’s nearly as common as most would think. I suspect many who think they are there gave up before there was no choice. No doubt many would have ended up there, but some would not.

      Beyond that, while there is life, there is hope. It’s not the norm, but I’ve seen marriages turn around and bloom after a decade of being stuck.

  2. It just seems to me that the guys who are trying are failing, yet the guys who do nothing have wives who just fawn over them.

    It appears you just get taken for granted, or betrayed. It doesn’t matter how much you are trying to make the marriage better, how much you are trying to live with her in an understanding way.

    You’ll cut out any of your selfish behaviors, only to have the seeming vacuum filled with her selfish behaviors. You’ll cut whatever your personal preferences are to save money, only to have her spend even more. You’ll try to reach her emotionally only to have her withdraw even further.

    Eventually you just stop trying because as you keep trying to build a Godly marriage, you end up with just the opposite. You lead by example only to find no one is following you.

    I don’t think you begin to say it’s better than being single, I think you begin to ask why you did this rather than remain single. You look and see you have all the liabilities of marriage with few if any of the benefits.

    The only reason you remain is because you are a man of your word and desire to honor your vows. You’ve tried loving your wife, but that doesn’t appear to work. She just wants to walk all over you.

    When she does choose divorce, it’s almost a relief. At least she’s said with her words what she’s been doing in her actions. You are no longer trapped in a lie of a marriage. One you cannot make better by your own efforts, prayers and faith. But one you cannot leave because of your vows, values and beliefs.

    • Tony – Certainly what you say is true for some men. There are also men who are there after their wife gave up for the same reasons you talk about men giving up – IOW they didn’t even try until it was too late.

      Still others, and I think it’s a significant percentage, are settling. Some don’t know that is what they are doing, because they don’t see how good it can be. Some just grow weary or don’t feel the risk is worth the potential reward.

      I will admit that my nature is to die trying rather than settling. I’m not saying that is the best or only way to be, and I see places (outside my marriage) where it cost me. But those were more a matter of should have walked away, which is rarely the right option in marriage.

      • I think folks settle, or stop working, or what have you because they do not perceive or experience the benefits of their efforts.

        If their work is working, then they will likely continue. If one treats their wife well, lovingly and so forth and the marriage gets better, it’s far more likely they will continue.

        If they do these things and things DO NOT get better, or they get worse, then most will simply discontinue the efforts. There is no perceived reward for the effort.

        They will put their efforts into other things as others have suggested. They will focus on their career, or hobbies, or whatever seems to be working for them.

        We tend to invest, emotionally, physically, relationally, fiscally and in any other arena where you can invest where there are the greatest returns.

        When there are no returns, or worse, losses as a result of those investments, they will discontinue.

        Even God will not wait for ever for someone to turn to Him. So I don’t think it’s un-Christian to settle, when the alternative it to continue to invest in a losing proposition.

        • Tony – All true. Unfortunately it’s too common to give up too soon, or to give up after trying the wrong things. Both of these can be changed by giving good information.

          • I have heard that some people who have divorced later believe that they should have put more effort into their reconciliation. But even if you do get to divorce, there is still the example of Rachel Clark (How I got back my Ex on Psychology Today Online) who learned after divorce that with the right information she could be reconciled with her ex-husband to the extent that they both ditched their new ‘loves’ and reconciled then remarried.

  3. Great blog today. Couples do settle. They settle because they are too busy, too involved, too complacent and they given up trying to work at having a truuly wonderful relationship. We work hard at everything else. Our job. Our next promotion. Our hobby. We need to use that same work ethic and work on having a marriage that is nothing less than a “10”! Soul Mates. Totally in love. Totally committed. Experiencing the joy of an intimate connection with the most important person in your life. Now that’s worth working for.

  4. I like your post, and came to this realization myself some time back. Unfortunately I think there’s more to the reasons than just ignorance and fear. Sometimes the other person just cannot get over whatever is holding them back. I saw it in my ex, and I see it in several other couples I’m aware of now (and for some reason, it seems to generally be the women doing this, at least in my observation). Maybe on some level it is fear, in that the spouse who won’t engage – fear of being hurt again if they open back up or re-engage. But often it just seems to be anger/hurt or even selfishness – you hurt me in the past, so I’m not going to try to get over that hurt so we can have a better marriage. And I’m not talking about instances where the offending spouse (and aren’t we all offending spouses at some point) hasn’t repented or tried to reconcile. I’m talking about where one spouse has “seen the light”, is willing and has in fact changed who they are and their priorities, repented of their actions, and is honestly trying to stop settling and have the amazing marriage they know is there – if only the other spouse will make the same attempt. Unfortunately it takes two people to get there.

  5. I do understand your point however, I’m not sure that Ignorance or Fear are the only 2 criterias.

    I also think that at one point people need to settle. I don’t believe in soulmates or that there’s only one persone for each of us, I believe we could be happy with many different persons but at one point you have to make a conscious and logical decision.

    Of course, it’s always nice in the beginning but after a few years there might be a new “shiny person” that looks more interesting somewhere else and yes we could be happy with that person for a while but the pattern would come back after a few years…

    So I don’t think it’s only about settling, it’s about making a decision.

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