If you stay attached to these 8 things, you’ll never be able to settle down in a relationship

For so many of my dating life years, the relationships I formed seemed to have a shelf life. I could never make it past the two to three years mark.

Feelings would fade, discontentment would set it, and the less-than-glamorous realities of the relationship became all too much.

I must admit, I started to wonder if I was cut out for long-term commitment.

The change didn’t come in one instant light-bulb moment, it was a slow and gradual realization.

These days, I am settled, and even getting married. The reason for this turnaround?

For starters, I think I’ve learned to let go of a lot of the things that had been standing in my way.

Because here’s the thing:

If you stay attached to the following 8 things, you’ll never be able to settle down in a relationship.

1) Chasing the fairy tale

The greatest disservice to love is the over-romanticization of it.

Don’t get me wrong. That doesn’t mean I’m not all for the lovey-dove stuff.

Holding hands, romantic gestures, and making an effort — these sorts of things play an important role in keeping romantic love alive for many of us.

But the obvious problem with chasing the fairy tale is that perfection doesn’t exist.

We set the bar way too high when we set out to find our happily ever after.

Real love, much like we are, is flawed.

It’s always going to be a mix of good and bad times.

This isn’t about settling, it’s about having realistic expectations. Because without them, we will never be satisfied.

We will forever feel short-changed that our relationship isn’t a non-stop rollercoaster ride of thrills.

2) Thinking the grass is always greener on the other side

We’ve just established that everyday relationship life cannot be like a stroll through Disneyland.

Hopefully, there are countless good times. But there are also likely to be a few bad, and quite a lot of simply ok-ish times mixed in there too. 

In many ways, we are trading deep security and comfort for the excitement that naturally comes from newness of any kind.

You can’t have it both ways.

But during those okay times, when it all starts to feel a bit flat, you can quickly find yourself craving what you don’t have.

Single life starts to seem very sexy after a couple of years of domestic bliss.

But missing what you no longer have is a selective memory.

You’re remembering the highlights reel, not the honest picture. You’re forgetting the times you felt lonely, heartbroken, or downright demoralized.

The antidote to this is gratitude, which has been proven to strengthen relationships.

You have to actively remind yourself of what you have right now and show that appreciation to your partner.

That way you keep your focus on the prize in front of you, rather than staring off at imaginary realities.

3) Prioritizing attraction over connection

Aka, going for hot people rather than nice people.

Mother nature doesn’t make it easy for us. All those hormones flying around make lust a powerful thing.

We often mistake that cocktail of feel-good chemicals for love. But it’s not the same, which is why it becomes a bad basis for an entire relationship.

That’s not to say attraction is shallow in itself. But that attraction has to run deeper if we want it to last.

Attachment grows over time. We stand a better chance of getting attached to someone good for us if we’re basing who we choose to date on more meaningful things.

  • Fundamentally similar values
  • Qualities you admire
  • A similar outlook on life
  • A shared vision for the future

I’m aware of how tricky this part is. So I’m not going to gloss over it and pretend it’s easy.

One of the biggest obstacles I had to overcome was learning to love what was good for me.

That meant recognizing some unhelpful patterns and self-destructive tendencies.

4) Negative patterns that repeat themselves

art of critical thinking If you stay attached to these 8 things, you’ll never be able to settle down in a relationship

“You can’t help who you fall in love with.”

Total nonsense.

You can, but you need self-awareness in spades.

If you’re always falling for jerks, you have to dig deeper into your past experiences and your silent beliefs.

If you constantly get strung along, you need to ask questions about your self-esteem.

Negative cycles repeat themselves unless we can figure out why we do the things we do.

For example, emotionally unavailable people can feel so alluring because they reject us.

I know it sounds weird, but it makes them more attractive that we cannot have them, it reaffirms our self-view that we’re not good enough, or it’s the type of love we’ve become used to because a parent acted this way.

The fact they are no good for us makes us want them all the more. So we break our own hearts by chasing them.

The romance world is full of toxic behaviors and negative patterns like this.

Once you notice yours, you have a choice.

That doesn’t mean you won’t still hold a torch for the “bad” boys or gals. You have to apply self-discipline to create better habits.

But you can consciously override urges that tempt you down destructive paths, and opt for healthy partnerships instead.

5) Having a checklist of what you’re looking for

Love shows up in ways and forms that we would never have expected.

You’d think that we know what’s good for us, but as we’ve just seen, not always.

Besides, people aren’t shopping lists.

Having a strict idea of what you’re in the market for can set you up for failure and disappointment.

It blinds you to someone who could be perfect for you…if only they had a better job or a bigger bank balance.

It can draw you to focus on factors that are ultimately shallow and inconsequential, rather than the big picture things.

Does your happiness truly rest on whether someone is over 6ft?!

Tearing up the checklist allows you to see the person behind the criteria.

6) The Peter Pan lifestyle

Don’t mistake selfishness for freedom and independence.

Grown-up relationships require a long list of emotionally mature skills:

  • Compromise
  • Understanding
  • Empathy
  • Communication

… none of which are easy.

If you’re not ready to grow up, you probably aren’t ready to put childish ways aside.

Sure, it can be fun to party, sleep around, skip about from place to place, and generally dodge responsibility.

Sometimes we’re not ready to settle down yet, and I think that’s okay. But feeling ready is a big part of whether something will work out, and the research proves it.

Childish ways can feel like freedom. But it’s often about getting to put yourself first and foremost 24-7.

When you want to share your life with someone, you need to think as a team. And that demands prioritizing someone else’s needs and wants and not just your own.

7) Projecting what you want someone to be rather than accepting who they really are

warning signs your relationship is on shakier ground than you think If you stay attached to these 8 things, you’ll never be able to settle down in a relationship

Projection is such an easy trap to fall into, especially in the early days of a romance.

We get an idea in our head of who we would like the other person to be, and we cling to that.

The problem arises when they come along and shatter our illusion by daring to be someone entirely different.

I’ve been guilty of this way more times than I care to admit.

It usually works like this:

You create romantic fantasies of what you want in a partner.

Then, almost like they are a blank canvas, you get to work creating a fictional picture of them.

People show us who they are through their words and actions, but we don’t always want to see it when it’s not what we were hoping for.

So instead, you go on projecting or you hope they’ll somehow change to become the person you want them to be.

Needless to say, this always ends in tears.

8) Expecting your partner to make you happy

I think the biggest reason we’re all hung up on finding “the one” is because life can feel so unfulfilling.

Most people I meet are searching for more. Even though they’re not entirely sure what that is.

It’s like we have an itch that we just can’t scratch.

Love and romance offer a tantalizing promise that it’s the missing piece of the puzzle we’ve been searching for all along.

But it’s not, and expecting it to be can be the very thing that keeps us from it.

Love is one of the things that gives life meaning, but it’s far from being the only thing.

Finding a partner isn’t a shortcut to finding purpose.

Thinking that life will be hunky dory once you’re coupled up is setting yourself up for bitter disillusionment.

Most of us unwittingly give far too much of our power over to our partner, and with it a whole host of unfair responsibilities.

Like some sort of court jester, we expect them to keep us entertained, laughing, and happy all the time.

But our life satisfaction was never in their job description. That role always was and always will be down to us.

A relationship is a choice that you have to keep on making

Meeting someone you’re compatible with is just the beginning. But I think we can take for granted that the rest will fall into place “if it’s meant to be”.

But the reality is that rather than being suddenly struck by Cupid’s arrow, being in a settled relationship is a decision — one that we must keep on committing to as we go.

Louise Jackson

Louise Jackson

My passion in life is communication in all its many forms. I enjoy nothing more than deep chats about life, love and the Universe. With a masters degree in Journalism, I’m a former BBC news reporter and newsreader. But around 8 years ago I swapped the studio for a life on the open road. Lisbon, Portugal is currently where I call home. My personal development articles have featured in Huffington Post, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, Thrive Global and more.

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