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June 27, 2022

“Good Enough” Does Not Mean You’re Settling!

I do an experiment with almost every client I begin working with who is single. Within the first session or two, I will ask them this terribly annoying question: 

Why do you think you’re single? 

I ask not to annoy them or pour salt in the wound of singlehood -- my job is to help people feel better, not worse -- but to gauge invaluable information about their standards, their desires, and what they think has gone wrong in their romantic journey. 

My question is almost always met with some version of the following statement: 

I’m single because I know what I want, I have high standards, and I’m not willing to settle for less. 

My next question is: Okay, what if you found someone who doesn’t have all the things you want, or isn’t what you initially envisioned, but was good enough? 

My response is almost always met with ambivalence. Good enough sounds okay, but it doesn’t sound enticing. It lacks excitement. It lacks passion. Or so we think. 

To most of the singles in our generation, the phrase “good enough” unfortunately feels like settling. We are the instant-gratification generation, the you-can-have-it-all generation, made to believe that we can have everything we want exactly how we want it and whenever we want it. So when we think about the possibility of not getting exactly what we wanted, but instead getting an acceptable substitute, it feels like we are losing; like we are capitulating; like we are choosing something mediocre.

I used to think this way too… until I wised up and realized, after plenty of failed dating experience, that good enough does NOT mean settling for less, and people who are good enough are not necessarily mediocre. 

Let’s say you have a list of ten things you want in a partner and in a relationship. You spend some time thinking deeply about this and you write down these ten values/qualities/attributes on a piece of paper. 

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Good enough means: First of all, you have found someone who has 6 or 7 of the 10 things on your list. We know nobody is going to have all 10 of them, and having 8 or 9 is pretty rare, so 70% is great. Good enough also means that you are okay with the 3-4 things your person does NOT have; it may not be ideal, but it is workable. 

Settling, on the other hand, means that you get into (or stay in) a relationship with someone who has 5 or fewer of the qualities you want; an abysmal 50% or below. In school, that would be considered an F. Settling also means that the qualities your person lacks are things you really need

If you’re dating someone who has 50% or fewer of the qualities you are looking for, and they lack any of the qualities that are must-haves for you, then yes, you’re settling. But if you’re dating someone who has a majority of the qualities you are looking for, and the qualities they lack are not absolute must-haves, then what you may consider “good enough” is actually pretty damn amazing. 

The truth -- and I can tell you this from coaching hundreds of singles who go on hundreds of dates -- is that we are not going to be a match for 98.5% of people out there. Someone who meets the standard of good enough, believe it or not, is actually rather hard to come by. 

The truth is also that the fantasy of finding the perfect person and riding off into the sunset is exactly that: a fantasy. The stuff of Disney movies. In reality, relationships rarely go down like that, so you may have to bring your standards back down to earth. 

When you find someone whose values are aligned with yours and with whom you can share a good, stable life, embrace good enough and hold onto it like hell; because the secret to finding the perfect person will always remain a secret. 

-- Kevin from the Keys Team, Dating & Relationship Coach

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