What Is The Difference Between A Comfortable Relationship And Settling?

When it comes to relationships, one of the big fears is that one day we'll wake up and realize we're settling. While no one wants to settle, so many people do because it's easy. On the other side of settling is being comfortable in your relationship — settling down — which can sometimes feel like you're settling because everything is so comfortable. The ups and downs, even the fiery passion that came in the beginning of the relationship, have dwindled, leading some to question if they've reached the attachment stage of the relationship, or something else — something like settling, per Dr. Helen Fisher.


"Every relationship settles down and every person in every relationship settles in and settles a bit," clinical psychologist Joshua Klapow, Ph.D. tells Bustle. "It is basic behavioral science principles. The novelty of the other person and the situation fade, and the reinforcing properties of the relationship begin to die down a bit."

But because the novelty has faded, for some, seeing the difference between settling and being comfortable, isn't always clear. After all, no one actually wants to settle when there's a world of people with whom we can settle down instead.

What comfortable looks like

Even if you don't realize it in the beginning stages of your relationship, everyone ultimately wants to reach the comfortable stage. With comfort comes the ability to be 100% yourself, the need to impress your partner goes away, and you find yourself in a place of fulfilling mutual respect, understanding, and a true partnership (via Marriage.com). You don't compromise who you are or your values because that fulfillment is there. Instead, any compromises you make are related to things like letting your partner choose the movie or agreeing to do the dishes if they make dinner.


"Being comfortable or settled in a relationship means that you are able to trust your partner and yourself, and this lays the foundation for vulnerability and intimacy," psychologist Kayla Steele tells Refinery29.

You accept that it won't always be easy, that your partner isn't perfect — neither are you! — and you relish in that fact, instead of seeing it as an annoyance or a burden. 

What settling looks like

Settling, on the other hand, is accepting things begrudgingly because it's easier to do so or because you simply don't want to be alone. For those who are settling, there's always a little voice whispering in their ear making them question if they are, indeed, settling.


"Settling in a relationship is accepting less than what you desire or deserve," clinical social worker and body-centered psychotherapist Blessing Uchendu tells Elite Daily. "It is when you have an inner knowing that something doesn't quite feel right, and yet you push that voice away to preserve the peace or defer to the other person."

Those who settle ignore that voice and their gut instinct, continuing to stay in a relationship that they know, deep down, they should leave (via BBC). They disregard the fact that their needs and wants aren't being met and just go with it while knowing that this isn't what happiness looks like. 

Although it should go without saying that life is too short to settle, in a culture so focused romantic relationships, it's hard to not succumb to settling because the alternative — being single — has been deemed as some sort of failure even though it's far from that. Failure is actually selling yourself short, denying yourself true happiness, and continuing to put up with things that negatively affect you emotionally. We all deserve to be happy. We all deserve to be comfortable in a relationship where both partners can flourish and be the people they're meant to be.