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Why it never pays to wonder who “settled” in your relationship

Jan. 2, 2018
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Do you think you can do better? Do you think you’re above your partner? Disregarding what kind of relationship you’re in, thinking you’re less or more, and comparing yourself to your partner are all part of a toxic mindset.   

As much as people joke about how couples came together when they appear to be distinctly different people, these observations are merely surface level. In reality, a healthy relationship sees beyond the surface; both individuals love each other for their differences.

There are many traits that distinguish these so-called “reachers” and “settlers.” Most frequently, they are associated with self-perception and self-image. “Reachers” often feel more insecure about their physical and mental traits, feeling incompetent in comparison to their partner. On the other hand, “settlers” feel superior to their partner. They possess the mindset that they could’ve done better but will stay in the relationship regardless because of possible romantic feelings.

Four red flags await you at the end of the tunnel for each of these mindsets. In a healthy relationship, there shouldn’t be a reacher or a settler. Organizing your relationship into an alpha and their submissive counterpart—or even just permitting the flashing thought of “I settled for this person”—is toxic. Relationships are built on mutual respect and understanding. When you consider yourself to be better than your partner, there is an issue.

These are the four red flags of such relationships:

  1. Criticism
  2. Defensiveness
  3. Contempt
  4. Stonewalling


“Why can’t you be more like her?”

Do you ever criticize your partner because you subconsciously feel like they could be better? Criticism drives relationships apart, that is a given—but when people spend the majority of their time hoping their counterpart can live up to their standards, that's when the issue becomes damaging. Once “settlers” began picking on “reachers” and making them feel incompetent, it leads both of them one step closer to the metaphorical relationship tomb.


“It wasn’t my fault. I’ve been too busy fixing your problems to look after my own. Why don’t you just do it yourself if you have so many problems with it?”

Pause, and hold on. When criticism occurs, we often become defensive. Situations like this, however, require both parties to take a step back. When our partners confront us about things that they are not happy with, many take the route of fishing for excuses or bouncing the blame back to their partner. Regardless of who is in the right or wrong, pointing fingers dooms the relationship for another fight. This doesn’t mean that you should just take the blame to avoid a fight; rather, you should look at things logically and have a respectful conversation about the current situation.


“Wow, aren’t you just perfect! Please complain to someone else about your problem. I’m not going to play you the world’s tiniest violin.”

Once your relationship begins reeking of disrespect, it’s heading towards toxicity. Using condescending tones and making sarcastic comments in response to your partner's actions is not the right choice. Contempt grows from miscommunication; many use contempt to hide their own insecurities and inabilities to provide their partners the support they need. In the process, though, both people are driven apart.


“We’re not talking about this.”

Ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away. Stonewalling, a refusal of communication, is no different.  While pausing interaction may seemingly put an issue to bed, conflicts will only further manifest behind the scenes. It is denying you and your relationship both a better future and the ability to fix a problem.

Whose fault is it? The reacher or the settler? In reality, it seems like many so-called reachers don't perceive themselves as such. Yet, on the other hand, settlers feel and see themselves as the better half. Have you been a reacher? Or even felt like you've hit the lottery because it felt surreal that someone so “unattainable” was suddenly within your reach? Has your partner even told you that you couldn’t do better than them?

It is manipulative to shun your partner or to even shut them down. By putting them down to build yourself up, you’re just taking another step towards a red flag.