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What does it mean to settle?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  May 18, 2010 09:42 AM

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I know, I know -- I've been posting at 10. I'll post by 9 tomorrow, I promise.

Q: Dear Meredith,

I am interested in your thoughts (and those of your insightful readers) on what it means to sabotage a relationship, and what it means to “settle.” I used to think I was just particular, and thus could not find a suitable match for me. That is, someone who likes competing in triathlons and baking pistachio biscotti, who would consider moving to Botswana for a few years with me as a development worker or researcher, who eschews motorized vehicles and television and prefers bicycles and books, and who can make a witty reference to Kant and macaques in a single sentence, without too much effort and without sounding smarmy. Is that asking too much?

So at first this was a question about "settling." Maybe I am expecting too much from a partner and should reconsider what a partner is and means to me, and what I also am willing to give to a partnership. I mean, I don't often make biscotti, and every now and then it's convenient to have use of a car. And I'm no saint; I can be selfish, impatient, tardy, aloof. So question one is: am I asking too much, and do I need to reassess my expectations? Or, am I ready to settle, and is that perhaps good enough?

Finally, I realize that with every male I date, I am excellent at finding exactly what is going wrong with the guy; he doesn't eat sushi or uses poor syntax, or he doesn't know what "megalomaniac" means-- even if he is kind, patient, generous, funny, intelligent, compassionate, etc. This seems like a well-formed defense mechanism to avoid intimacy. So, what's wrong with me, Dr. Meredith? What am I missing as I near age 30 and realize I both yearn for a healthy and happy relationship but keep on finding fault with those I have?

Thanks.

– Saboteur, Boston



A: Nice trophy husband, S. Pistachio biscotti? Well done. Mine surprises me with Skittles and kettle corn, knows every episode of "The Simpsons," and lets me control the music in the car. Oh -- and he's undead. And he loves me in sweatpants. He says there's nothing sexier than a waistband that snaps.

Yes, you're avoiding intimacy. And no, your dream man doesn't exist (and thank goodness, because I think you'd hate him if he did). My guess is that you're picky these days because you're not quite ready for a serious partnership. Your feelings of yearning are legitimate, but they aren't stronger than your want to go to Botswana. Your instinct to reject suitors enables you to maintain the wonderfully young and selfish life you want and deserve as a woman in her 20s.

You strike me as someone who will wind up falling in love with a friend or colleague. The better you know someone before dating them, the more you'll be likely to forgive their lack of interest in wasabi or the fact that they had to Google the word "macaques" to know what you're talking about. I see you meeting someone organically while you're doing something you love. You'll want to reject them but because you already like them too much, you won't be able to.

I know you yearn, but you're not quite there yet. When you get there, trust me, you'll forgive more than you ever expected to. And that's not settling, by the way. That's called falling in love.

Readers? Is she looking for Astronaut Mike Dexter (thank you "30 Rock")? Am I right to say she's just not ready? What's her problem (if there is one)? Anything she can to do be more open to these men? Discuss.

– Meredith


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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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