Resisting Settling

9 min readJan 5, 2021


I am in a happy relationship. This was not always the case. Five years ago, I had to figure out that in order to be in a happy relationship I had some work to do. On myself. Part of that work involved being in good standing with myself.

November 2016

At the near end of 2016, the Cubs were winning the World Series and I was losing another relationship. I was accepted into graduate school and I was struggling to keep up financially with taking care of my three children. As always, life had its ups and downs.

A downtrodden looking individual with head on pillow and eyes downcast.

The relationship I was losing was one that was not ultimately meant to last as long as it did, as we were not meant for each other. I was not getting what I wanted out of the relationship and they were getting more than they wanted out of it. The thing that I was sad most about was that I had become part of their family and it was not your standard-sized family. It was a clan of four Irish families that I had formed bonds with over the duration of the relationship. I was also losing a person that I had so much fun with and so many laughs. I knew we could not stay friends, but it did not stop me from trying for a while. Breaking connections are difficult.

After much thinking, I realized that the things that made me sad are things that I should be giving myself and providing myself. I should be getting just as much enjoyment from time with myself as with anyone else — romantic, friend, neighbor, or family relationship.

December 2016

One of the first things I did to resolve this was to take myself out to a movie. In 30+ years, I had never been to see a movie by myself. I got over my anxieties and went to see “Fences” on Christmas Day. The theater had myself and maybe four additional people in it. Viola Davis’ performance rocked me. She sold me on the character she was portraying. It was difficult not crying and snotting along with her character — she took me there. I left the movie feeling great. I was alone on Christmas, it was dreary outside, raining, and I went to a movie solo. I had accomplished something, as well as enjoyed myself in a time when people expected me to be miserable.

Did my life swerve into the better lane after this? Um, no. It took more than half the year for my hard headed ass to wake up. However, it did open me up - to new experiences, experiences that were uncertain, and being open more than closed off.

February 2017

A couple months later, I went and saw “Hidden Figures” by myself. Watching this movie, reinforced in me that to be great and to feel great required self-dedication, perseverance, and working through my struggles.

By this time, I had tried the friend thing with my ex. The last time we talked, we fought…about nothing. I did not like that. The next day they typed me an ultimatum in text. I chose to pull the plug because they never would.

April 2017

Fast forward to two months later, my kids and me close on a house. Biggest purchase and decision of my life. It had been something I had wanted and dreamed about for seven years after divorcing their dad. It was happening.

The ex reaches out. They have tickets to a local show and no one to take. Could we go as friends? Yes. I am riding a high of self-sufficiency and dream attainment. So, I am totally in control and can handle being friends only. (Famous last thoughts.)

What have I been up to since the end of 2016? Going to movies on my own, buying a house, making a home, breaking up with my personal trainer to do workouts on my own, acing grad school, paying off school and auto loans… What has the ex been up to? Trying whiskey, staying employed through the mild winter, and the usual.

I did not stay for the show. I saw the feature/the opener, we chatted in the lull. Ex said a barrage of shitty, upsetting things and I storm out whilst they are in the bathroom. I am bawling, snotting, speed walking/charging full throttle home. When I woke up the next morning, there was an incoherent text message and a voice mail from the ex. I blocked their number and was done.

I liked my life. I liked where I was. I was beginning to like me. I disliked the energy they continually brought and disliked the way I felt at the end of our interactions. I was moving forward and they were not moving forward with me as a friend, love interest, or anything. FINAL ANSWER.

Summer 2017

The first half of 2017 was spent looking for buddies. I thought that what I wanted was physical release and no relationship, but what I found was that even physical releases — sexual hook-ups are a relationship. All the elements of being with another human being are there as well as the sharing in something. Summer was arriving and I realized I wanted no part of intimate relationships with people — nothing new and nothing to establish or re-establish. The only intimate relationship I wanted was with myself and even then I could see my vagina and the rest of me wanted and needed a break. The avenue for getting to know anyone new (sexual or nah) was closed.

While this avenue was closed, I spent time on maintenance work. That is, I looked at and took inventory of my past relationships, my roles in them, my mistakes, my oversights, and why they ended or were never destined to go further than they did. I was determined to not repeat my past any further and open to receiving “the one.” In my inventory, I saw that I had been settling. I was brought up to believe that I should not expect or have expectations. I did not grow up believing this. I was a girl once with headstrong opinions and boundless dreams. My opinions and dreams got steamrolled so many times they’d been flattened, slipped through the cracks, and under everything. My eyes were opened to what bullshit that is. I have always told people that they should be treated how they want to be treated, and yet, I was not getting the treatment I wanted.

Making a List…and Checking It…a Lot

To strengthen, bolster, and renew my expectations of a partner, I made a list. I wrote it out, I said it out loud, I committed it to memory. Though, in typing this, I make it sound easy. It was not easy. The easier part was the negative part. What I absolutely knew I did not want. Nailing those things down, helped me form, helped materialize and bring forth what I did want.

When you have been settling, putting your expectations aside, sweeping them under the rug/sweeping them under everyone else’s wants and needs, it’s difficult to remember what you set out wanting or to know what you want. You get in a routine and a habit of putting the crowd before you and so it takes time to create a new routine and habit of “me” first.

And then, you will get people that like to needle you with doubt. “Putting ‘me’ first” sounds awful selfish, don’t’cha think? They say. It’s not right to be self-absorbed. They peddle.

At some point, your inner desires have to win out and be the stronger beast. Or you will succumb to old patterns.

I am the type of person that once my mind is set — truly dedicated and wanting/knowing/feeling a thing to be right — no amount of needling and doubting is going to sway me. I will stay the course. That’s what happened.

I wrote my list. I said it out loud. I memorized it. I thought on it. I prayed on it. I talked with the universe about it. When I was ready, I told the universe I was ready. It felt wholly uncertain, unstable, and unknown. I was more open than I’d ever been and so vulnerable. (And secretly terrified. I did not want to screw up. And by screw up, I mean I did not want to settle for less, settle for less than expected, nor settle for anyone.)

Ready, Set, and Surprise!

I had my eye on someone at the new gym. I had a particularly disappointing evening at the gym as far as I could not figure out how to talk to them while they were there.

I tried getting my friend to meet me at one of our favorite places to eat, but they were not having it. I realized I could go because it’d been forever and I wanted to see my favorite bartender.

Luck would have it, my favorite bartender was there and it was not busy. Except for another person at the bar I did not know. I felt compelled to rope them into our conversation. The person and I got to talking while bartender buddy took care of people in the dining area. It was nice and easy conversing with them. I was so relaxed that I did not even think about or feel pressure to consider a date or getting to know them further.

Side note: They’re an earth sign. I am an air sign. I was feeling grounded in this moment and the air was still.

It was their time to leave and they turned to me and said: My name is _____. What is yours? I said my name. They said: I enjoyed talking to you and if you would like to continue the conversation, I would love to take you out. I said I enjoyed it as well and would love to go on a date. Then, they wrote their phone number down with name and left.

Dates and Chance

I did not get back to them right away. We had a date and it went very well. We pretty much saw each other for a whole weekend. I enjoyed my time with them until one of their friends got involved. This is a story for another time.

What is important for this story is that I stood my ground. I honored myself. They respected that. After the thing with the friend, I gave them a second chance. It was a chance we both needed. We have been together for over three years and I cannot imagine myself with anyone else feeling this amazing, (except me).

A Little Bit More

I make it seem like the work I did in 3/4 of one year was enough to last a lifetime. And while that’s not completely wrong, it’s not completely right. When I got to the near end of 2016, I had been alive for over three decades and about half of those decades of time I was trying to unlearn. I will reiterate I am in a happy relationship, but happy relationships are not rainbows and flowers every day or frequent kisses and blowjobs or not having to do the dishes ever again and waking up with good hair days daily (whatever your idea of happy relationship and/or happy may be). I continually have to remind myself to stand up for myself, speak up, and what the difference between settling and compromise is. To say this, is not saying that I am miserable or that my partner makes me miserable. The reality is, we are human and humans go through peaks and valleys. To sustain, to plateau on happy or a high is not feasible, though we do try. We have disagreements, but above all we have respect for each other, we talk things out, and work through the disagreements. More than this, we honor, respect, and love ourselves and are unafraid to stick to our expectations and because of this we honor, respect, and love each other for sticking to our expectations and being willing to stand up and speak up for ourselves.

Self-love is radical. Having expectations of a partner is radical. Be radical.

I’ll leave you with this. When I was growing up and my mom would sit my brother and me down for a talk, she would always wrap it up with making us engage in positive self-talk. It would go something like repeating the following: I am great. I forgive myself. I love myself. Be radical and tell yourself good things about you. Anyone who tries to peddle negativity should know your beast is stronger.

Gold sculpted hands hold a wooden red heart with rainbow colors beaming rays all around.
Image by Marek Studzinski from Pixabay

There is an update to this story. Interested in reading the continuation? Read Healing Yourself through Trauma and Negativity.




Librarian and Information Specialist by day. Queer writer of poetry, sensuality, personal experience, and health by night. Instagram @tolbert_on_medium #BLM✊🏿