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Q & A: What do I do while I wait? Should I settle?

Q: Dear Pella,

What do I do in this time leading up to finding a partner and starting a family?

I know what I want, I feel ready, and I don’t know when it will happen - and that causes me a lot of anxiety.

I’m either consciously replaying it like a broken cassette in my head, or it’s subconsciously on my back burner with a sense of unmet urgency. I’m losing a lot of my energy towards worrying about this, and it doesn’t feel good.

What do I do while I wait? And what do I do while I wonder if i should be waiting and if it will EVER happen - or if i should just call it a day and go “settle” for something that is available, even though i don’t have the “Hell Yes” feeling that shows me this is truly the best fit for me.

Anxiously,

Antonia

---

A: Dear Antonia,

So many people feel anxious about when (or if) they will find a partner; it’s really common to feel urgent about it. There are lots of ways to deal with the anxiety and fear. You’ve got a few great questions in here. Let’s tackle them one at a time.

For starters, let’s focus on that broken cassette in your head. What is it saying to you? The first step is to notice what story you are telling yourself. (It probably sounds pretty similar each time, that’s what stories do - they repeat themselves). The next step is to find a kinder, gentler story to tell yourself. Feel free to get some help with this part from a trusted friend, therapist, or coach. Then, whenever you hear that old, familiar story playing on that cassette tape in your head, you can press ‘pause’ and play the new story. It takes some practice, but even if the old story keeps starting to play, each time you interrupt it with the new story you will feel some relief.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say the cassette recording is saying “I’m never going to find a partner. I’m too (fat, crazy, old)”. Maybe your kinder, gentler story says something like “I will find a great partner because I am committed to having a partner in my life and I will do what it takes to make that happen. Lots of people who are (fatter, crazier, older) than me have partnerships. There’s no real reason I can’t have love in my life, too.”

Now let’s talk about the second part of your question: What do I do while I wait?

I think the best thing to do while you wait is to take action. (It’s a great thing to do with all that energy that’s currently going towards worrying). While it’s true that we can’t control when our partner shows up, we can definitely increase the odds of it happening sooner. To do that, you’ve got to continue to put yourself out there even when you’ve been hurt or disappointed. Stay active online and offline. If you get burnt out it’s fine to take a break, but then get back out there as soon as you’re ready. Of course, you want to keep creating your own great life as well, just do this while making dating a priority.

Now, let’s talk about whether you should settle or not.

Um, NO. Why would you settle? You’re a fabulous woman with a great life and tons to offer a happy partner. ‘Settling’ implies that you’ve given up on what you really want because you think you don’t deserve it, won’t find it, or are too rushed to wait for it. That’s not a great way to start a partnership, especially if you’re hoping it will last you a lifetime. There is someone out there looking for you right now who is a great match for you. You won’t have to give up something that’s essential for you in order to be with him/her.

There's an important distinction here, and that’s the difference between ‘settling’ and ‘compromising’. Real relationships require compromise. Real people are imperfect, and an excellent partner for you may not be all that you fantasized about. Compromise is about two people finding ways to share their lives together when they have different needs and desires. Compromise is necessary. Settling is not.

One final note: The “Hell Yes” feeling doesn’t always happen instantly. Keep your eyes open for potential partners who may not instantly show themselves. Sometimes, the “Hell Yes” comes with a slow build. However you get there, it’s worth waiting for - and working towards.

Warmly,

Pella

***

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