A “just ok” relationship is rarely “just ok” in a vacuum. In order to get out of such a relationship, you must figure out what deeper issues are causing the relationship to feel so mediocre.
I’ve never been one to settle. If something isn’t working for me, I’m more apt to move on and wait it out for something better (a guy, a job, the perfect pair of flat maroon boots), than stick with what I have, hoping for the best. I have endured extended periods of loneliness, near-poverty, and that anxious feeling when you look into your closet and have nothing to wear, all in the name of holding out for what I know I truly deserve. For me, “just ok,” especially in reference to relationships, is never enough.
I know what you’re thinking: I’m picky. Well, you might be right. But as a twenty three year old, I find it hard to think of my attitude towards settling as a negative. I’m young—isn’t this the time to be bypassing mediocre relationships in favor of seeking out the one that fits just right? After all, if I settle into a “just ok” relationship now, I may be stuck in that “just ok” relationship forever. Even worse, I may get stuck in the habit of mediocrity.
Regardless of my personal philosophy on settling, there are plenty of people who view relationships in early adulthood the complete opposite way—the perfect time to date someone who is “just ok.” The stakes are low since fun, not family, is the priority, and if everything falls apart, you can bounce back from heartbreak with the knowledge that there’s still time to meet Prince Charming.
But let’s be honest—how often do we accept, let alone embrace, a dead-end relationship? We might stay in relationships we know are going nowhere, but most of us never stop wishing things will be different in the future. My friend Ramona spent nearly half of her seven-year relationship holding that thought in her mind, yet she stuck it out because, as she tells me, not everything was horrible.
“I stayed in the relationship about three years longer than I should have because my base needs were still being met. He was kind. He offered me companionship. I was in love with him, but I got older, my base needs changed, and being in love didn’t matter as much,” Ramona says, completely matter of fact.
After being with her boyfriend for five years, he was unexpectedly laid off and wound up staying unemployed for the last two years of their relationship. Since her “just ok” relationship had started a great one, Ramona went out of her way to try and revive it. She tried to realize her dream of change by offering to help her boyfriend get a job through a friend, but the plan fell through when her boyfriend loss interest. Even though his unemployment was the beginning of the end of the relationship, Ramona is quick to say that it wasn’t her boyfriend’s lack of a job that broke them up, but the problems that ensued because of the situation it created.
“The relationship became stalled due to things he wasn’t doing,” Ramona explains. “He had anxiety about job hunting, so he let his unemployment run out, which meant he couldn’t pay his student loans.” When her boyfriend went back on a promise to move in with her, Ramona began to wonder if it was time to let the relationship go. Three years later, she cut the cord.
“I had hung in for long enough to know that nothing was going to change, and even if it did, the damage had been done. The resentment I felt for him was never going to subside, even if he had gotten a job, even if he did finally move in,” she confides.
Ramona’s advice to people in relationships that feel “ok for now” is to realize that needs are bound to change over time and to accept those changed needs as a positive.
“When I was 23, it wasn’t a big deal that my boyfriend didn’t want to move in, but at 27, it wasn’t ok anymore. Standards should evolve, and if they aren’t evolving you should think about why they aren’t,” she says.
In a way, all relationships could be considered “just ok” because as we all know, nobody’s perfect. So, it’s important to remember it’s not people who make relationships imperfect, but the baggage those people bring along with them. A “just ok” relationship is rarely “just ok” in a vacuum. In order to get out of such a relationship, you must figure out what deeper issues are causing the relationship to feel so mediocre. Don’t settle for settling—know exactly what it is you’re settling for. That way, you’ll know exactly what you don’t want, so when the person you do want comes along, you’ll be able to spot them immediately. Hello, happily ever after!