Time after time, day after day, generation after generation, the relationship refrain of “don’t settle” is rehearsed in splendor over and over. It’s at the point where story after story enters the eardrums with hope of a fresh lesson, and engenders a sigh like a sitcom rerun that loses its comedic value.

There are generally two main mindsets when it comes to the world of intimate relationships. One group finds contentment with being single and self-sufficient. On one end of the spectrum of this group, a relationship is anathema to their personal space. Get ’em outta here. I’m enjoying myself in this moment.

On the other end, being single is cool and a bonus. If someone special enters, bet. All good. Let’s roll with it.

The second group is those who pine for a relationship. They are by all intents and purposes miserable and a nuisance to be around. Their life is full of lamentations and lachrymose tales. That’s on one extreme end. On the other end lies those who are reflective of their past failures and confront the task of finding a new companion (or letting a companion find them).

In all cases, a new relationship is what they feel like is needed to fill a vacuum.

A third group (minority) are those who just want to fulfill their carnal desires. Nothing more, nothing less. One might say this is the most tenuous group because it’s illusory: People who start out with sex on the brain tend to end up in one of the two above groups.

For purposes of this piece, we’re going to disregard the first and third group. Why? Because in a culture of relationships and marriages and general attempts at monogamy, everybody at one point or another roams to the second group.

Consciously or unconsciously, having one person to be the one to talk you to sleep, put you to sleep, wake you up, cook your breakfast, hear your bad and good and random news, spend the holidays with, read with, build with, smoke with, drink wine with and cry with becomes a real desire.

Is this desire a result of social conditioning or an innate need? Nobody really knows. “No man is an island” and “We are all One” ring loudly in the collective chorus, but there are certainly things to be said about private time. Periods to withdraw for “island” time and being along with your own thoughts.

I’ve seen couples who spend all of their time together. I’ve seen couples who spend nary a moment together. Misery can exist in both. Beyond the lack of balance present in each example, there is a factor that tends to get glossed over in the pursuit of relationship happiness.

The Plan B factor. Simply put, many people aren’t with their first — or preferred — choice. It bugs. It stings. And it’s something you will absolutely never admit to your mate. It isn’t necessarily his fault; he just got caught in the crossfire of indecision and expedience.

Settling can be an overt decision, which in some minds is interchangeable with “maturing.” A man who has played the field and avoided monogamous relationships for years decides to “settle down.” Is he maturing or settling? Depends on the relationship, right? But say he “settles” with a woman who doesn’t look as good or exhibit the personality strengths of any of the women he played to the left.

Is he “settling down” or settling?

Excusing the subjective nature of the question — after all, who is to say who is beautiful and what personality is desirable — it’s imperative to consider how settling is loaded with different explosives in certain temperatures. If a hazardous or ineffective lifestyle was eliminated through a conscious decision to mature with a singular woman, what does it matter if the woman in question is “pretty enough” or has the spirit of Mother Theresa?

That’s because in many cases, settling takes on a negative connotation. For a long time in the most powerful countries, the ability of citizens to choose their own husbands and wives was a wonder. Even today in many countries, relationships are arranged. There’s no such talk of Plan B. Plan A is whoever daddy choose.

A culture supports that paradigm. That’s what it is. But today, being that the United States is the land of the free, protector of individual rights and all, built on the premise that individuals can make their own decisions, choices are abundant. From purchasing Reese’s to choosing a copulation partner, we are bombarded with “market place” decisions .

With choices comes the cost of opportunity: what you lose when you choose. When the thought of loss comes into play, it’s easy to second guess. Heartache and regret are natural risks of letting somebody in your life, yet we do this everyday. Knowing (or maybe not knowing) the stakes, we gamble on the hope that this next one will be what we want. A supplement. Complement. Lover-friend. Whatever.

Three relationships later, what we thought we wanted was turned on its head and put in a blender. Months past until the next one comes along, when the choice of whether to indulge is presented again.

Naw. I’ll wait, you say. But you’re attractive and single. A viable option has to come along right? And sure enough he does. This option becomes a convenient date night partner, a willing warm body (or smile) and an excellent conversant. Time speeds on. Ben has proven dependable. Responsible. Arousing. Even fun. You are fed up with horror stories and disappointment. You just want stability. Ben is here.

You grow to love Ben, and vice versa. Eventually, y’all talk engagement.

Yet, your heart is titillated when the name of longtime “friend” Ron is brought up. And when you happen to see him? Let’s just say those thoughts would make Samantha Jones blush. Ben calls, but you silence it to take Ron’s number. You had it before, but you deleted it after that last embarrassment. He said he had a woman and you took it to heart.  Screw it. I’m moving on, you thought.

But you didn’t. You just let time move. Then it hits you: Ben isn’t the first choice. A good man, great even. As the weeks move forward, you start answering Ron’s texts with astounding quickness and frequency. Slowly Ben’s faults start to become stark, and he fades in favor.

The dangerous part about settling is it can happen without conscious realization. Of course you didn’t mean to hurt Ben. But in the crossfire of indecision and expediency, another life is snared. All too often.

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  • Anthony

    I think that for most mature couples, folks ten or more years out of college, there is an element of settling in the relationship. Almost everyone has had that special love that didn’t work out or maybe just came accept that the one you always wanted just is not an option, and by definition, those people settle since they end up with less exciting partners.

    Women, realize that the nice guy you are settling for is likely settling for you too.
    From a man’s perspective settling for a nice partner is probably better than eventually getting your dream girl. I have seen a number of cases where a man finally gets the woman of his dreams only to resent her deep down because he knows he was option two or three. Men in this situation can inflict mental abuse on their partner once the woman dependent upon the man.

    I think that mature people who develop a friendship with romantic interest have the best chance of success. I suspect that traditional societies that arrange marriages probably have it right because couples are picked for social backgrounds and learn to love each other. I say this good because I think all couples eventually have to learn to love each other once they get past romance and hot sex, and develop a deeper relationship.

    • SAMURAI36

      @Anthony:

      I believe this issue goes beyond the issue of maturity & compatibility.

      Many of us men have stood by & watched Black women consciously make a trail of bad decisions when it comes to men.

      Even some of the women on here have basically admitted as much.

    • Anthony

      From what I can see, many bad decisions stem from some women holding on to the romantic ideal too long, however, some women are the victims of men who are just dishonest or misleading.

    • SAMURAI36

      Either I am too cynical, or you are too altruistic.

      I don’t believe that men are being “misleading”. Especially when there are too many men that let their intentions with these women be known from the very start.

      Who is misleading them, when they are quick to jump in the Lex or Escalade with that “hot thug”?

      I know too many scenarios like that, & I’m sure you do too, if you care to admit as much.

      Portraying women as these wayward sheep that are so easily led astray, only does them a disservice, by alleviating them of the responsibility to use common sense, intuition, & plain old good judge of character when dealing with men.

      More over, you are not taking these women’s own accounts into factor; the very author is basically trying to find a PC way of saying that too many Sistas have spent too much time “chasing that good dick”, when when they were younger, instead of looking for the complete package.

      In the meantime, the bigger issue is the after effects. A decade & 2 or 3 kids later, when the “hot thugs” don’t want these women anymore, these women turn to the very same men that they never wanted in the first place.

      So at that point, it’s not a question of whether she is settling for Mr. Nice Guy, but rather that Mr. Nice Guy is having to settle for her.

      More & more, the “Good Man” is coming to realize his worth, where he was made to feel he had none (except to come in & play clean up for women’s poor choices years later), much to the chagrin of women, who refer to these men as “entitled”, simply because the self-assessment of their worth doesn’t fall in line with women’s agenda.

    • Stanley

      @SAMURAI36
      Man, you got it right!

  • Anthony

    Samurai36, we are not talking about exactly the same thing. First of all, I already said that it is probably a bad idea for a man to marry a woman when he knows he is the second or third option for her because he will resent her eventually, and there will be poison in that relationship that will make both unhappy.

    I think both the guy who feels he has been ignored and the woman who chased the good times and good sex, need fresh starts. As a man, I say that if you are constantly desiring women who don’t want you, you need to recalibrate just like the woman who wants a thug needs to recalibrate.

    If settling just means “I’ll suck it up and take the dull but reliable guy,” or “She has finally run out of players, and now I can get her,” no one will be happy. Settling has mean maturing and looking for something beyond the things that got your attention and got you bad results in the past.

    • SAMURAI36

      @Anthony:

      I actually think alwe are addressing the same thing, just approaching it from slightly different angles.

      You seem to be approaching this from the POV of crisis management, while mine seems to be loss prevention.

      Also, your language in regards to this seems to continue to be aimed at dating issues, while mine is aimed at addressing the dilemma(s) of our community & people.

      You see, in regards to “recalibrating” as you mentioned, we as Black people lack the time, space & resources to do so effectively.

      Meaning, white people in Americ number roughly 300 million. They create a diverse array of relationship scenarios for themselves, any number and/or combination of which could easily work for them. The young white girl can spend yet youth chasing the “bad boy” or she could cultivate something with the good guy early on. We see it all the time, both first hand, as well as in the media.

      For us, we only number a mere 30 million in this country, which already limits our choices. If the media is to be believed, then women are losing some of those choices for men, to drugs, crime, disease, jail, homosexuality, etc.

      Young Black girls are being sold on the image of the bad boy (aka “thug”) early on, via media (in our case, urban music, which has defined so much of our culture in tue past few decades), with no other images to countermand it.

      It’s not as if these girls always have worthwhile father figures to pattern their ideal mates after.

      The problem only becomes worse, when we as a people are trying to raise children in this whole mess, one generation after another, each getting it more wrong than the last.

      Meanwhile, all of us what the white folks fairy tale, with the white woman’s wedding dress, & the white man’s horse & buggy, & the white folks “happy ever after”. But all roads are leading to disaster for us.

      We can’t keep going down this path of self-destruction. Something has got to give, otherwise we will find ourselves as a complete & irreparably dysfunctional people.