Don't Settle! It's Not Doing Either Of You Any Favors


She may be sad, but you're doing the right thing.

I am currently in a Settle-For Relationship. My problem is I always get into these and don’t have the courage to back out of them so I always get to the commitment part and continue on. I have been with my girlfriend for 5 months now and I am not happy and I want to end it with her, but I can't do it due to guilt. I feel as though she won’t be able to find anyone else or she'll be completely heart broken about it. I got up the courage once to break up with her but after seeing the way she reacted (extremely heartbroken and crying) I felt bad, apologized, and we are still together. What can I do to remove this thorn in my side? - James

You have two thorns in your side. The first is inappropriate guilt. You feel guilty because when you break up with someone, she feels sad. Since you are the one causing her to feel sad, you therefore get the idea that the way to fix it is to get back together with her, or to stay in a relationship that isn't right for you.

The reality is that feeling sad is a natural part of saying good-bye to a relationship that is not right for either party. It is not right for her because she deserves to be free to find someone who will be devoted to her rather than ambivalent. It is not right for you because you deserve to be free to find someone to whom you can be devoted. A healthy relationship involves an exchange of equal emotional energy between two balanced people, and Settle-For relationships do not have this balance.

What really hurts someone is staying in her life when your heart is not with her, thereby keeping her from her process of growth toward something much better. This is ultimately very selfish, as it takes care of your need to feel like a "good guy" and get some of your needs met, while setting her up for more heartache. This path always leads to a bigger, more painful breakup, or a divorce; if you do not break the pattern now, you may end up involving children and many other people in your lives. You are trading today's cupful of discomfort for a barrel full of pain later on.

The longer you put it off, the larger the cost down the road.

The second thorn is difficulty evaluating your own heart and emotions as you are beginning a new relationship. You continue going forward against your own better judgment. Perhaps you do not trust your own feelings. Perhaps you are reluctant to end a new relationship because it is better than having no one (fear of being alone). Maybe you have done this so many times that you wonder if there is something wrong with you, causing you to second-guess your feelings and keep going forward with a wrong partner.

Whichever it is, the healing for you lies in learning to trust yourself and being content with your own company. Make it your goal to build your own self-esteem and have a support network of good friends. Most important, learn to trust that both you and those you date will ultimately be empowered as a result of honest, open-hearted communication at each step along the way.

About the author: Nina Atwood, M.Ed., LPC, is a nationally known psychotherapist, author of five self-help books, and frequent expert media guest. Read Nina’s transformational books; for women: Temptations of the Single Girl: The Ten Dating Traps You Must Avoid, and for men: Date Like a CEO: Leadership in Life and Love for Men. To successfully date online, get Nina’s $0.99 cent eBook Internet Dating for the Savvy Single. Get loads of free advice at

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