DATING EPITHET #1: “Settling” - something negative


Often the frustrated dater complains, I would rather be alone than “settle.” Settling has at least six different meanings:


  1. a geological artifact of the fluid properties of soil finding its lowest level

  2. the result of a litigation where neither party gets everything they want

  3. sediment landing in the bottom of a beaker or holding tank

  4. colonization

  5. getting into a relationship with someone you think isn't good enough for you

  6. an ambiguous metaphorical term that denigrates the reality of interpersonal connections that are necessarily less than total fusion, leading to doubt of the other and self and undermining the possibility of relationship longevity


Humour aside, what is the frustrated dater talking about? The correct answer is 6, but this seemingly simply term has crept into the vernacular to mean 5. If you are in a relationship with someone you think isn't good enough for you, the problem of the relationship is externalized; the deficiency is in them, not you. This is not only self-exculpatory; it objectifies the other (and the self). And in this mindset, even good enough is not good enough. The premise sounds innocent enough: if one accepts anything less than perfection, one is settling. However, believing in the existence of The ONE or my Soul Mate, or that I must have the total package are all variants of a perfectionism that covers up possible self-esteem problems and a lack of self-confidence to be in relationships of all kinds. The logic is that if the other person is perfect for me, none of my imperfections will matter.

"Settling" is a "problem" only for those who are not comfortable enough with connection to be drawn to forming long term affectional bonds that will survive. Some fear "settling" in any form, being used to chaos and uncertainty. Their formative family relationships may have felt like by being tossed around in the roaring ocean, leaving them with an unease around and distrust of settled waters. Long term relationship seeking is replaced by hunting for sex and "chemistry" is the operative litmus test of connection.


DATING EPITHET #2: “Chemistry” - something seemingly positive


So what is chemistry? Lust, feeling connected? Chemistry is an intangible connection, or (sometimes a one-sided, unreciprocated) strong desire for attachment. Although one might expect lovers to be overflowing with reasons why their lover is right for them, and any onlooker would see evidence for their enthusiasm, there are sometimes no ready explanations for this powerful feeling. The gravitational attraction of some lovers that makes no sense to anyone, perhaps even to themselves, results from underlying psychological processes:


  1. Desperation so strong to find connection that you see what you want to see in the other and miss who the other actually is.

  2. Aspiration (no, not a French vacuum cleaner). I so want this person to be perfect that I will see only confirmatory evidence. The other is the saviour of one’s life. I am nothing without you.

  3. Projection: 1. above is a version of this, but it can go further, taking the form of reacting to their partner as if the partner are identical to someone well known to them (e.g., a parent), but in fact the partner is alike in only few possibly superficial ways. The partner is a surrogate for the familiar other with whom there may some unfinished business, and as such, the partner is largely psychologically unseen by the projecting lover. If the partner is of an agreeable nature, they may begin to respond in ways the projecting partner appears to expect, leading to a growing sense of the partner projected onto of not being themselves in the relationship.

  4. Curiosity: novelty takes the place of screening, and exploration, of connection. Next!! This is the addiction to eroticism taking the place of the desire for connection.

  5. Revenge / SpiteAnyone hot is better than the one I’m with now.

  6. Identification: seeking validation in a very similar other

  7. Incorporation/colonization: seeking completion through a partner who has what one believes one lacks such as youth, beauty, money, influence, belonging.


All of these emotional states are potentially passionate, but none are likely to result in a successful, enduring relationship. Chemistry may be necessary, but it is not sufficient for an enduring connection. In searching for it, we may come to fool ourselves into thinking that it’s the only thing that matters, like winning being more important than the goal of a long-lasting, cherishing and intimate relationship.