Happily Ever After: The Psychology of Settling

Friday night I attended a relationship forum titled, “Happily Ever After: Courtship, Wedding Costs, and the Joys of Marriage.” Put on by Together Apart: The Live Convo, the purpose of the forum was to facilitate open and honest dialogue between men and women about relationship issues. The hosts were Malik Yoba of the Why Did I Get Married series (and New York Undercover–that was my show!) and Egypt of WBLS. The panel of go-to experts consisted of Essence Relationships Editor and author of ABelleInBrooklyn.com, Demetria Lucas; power couple Anthony Morris and Thembisa Shaka, who have been married for 13 years; and psychotherapist and minister Shawna Marie.

Through three rounds of discussion, the audience and panel tackled the subjects of how you know that the person that you’re with is “the one,” whether the wisdom of your parents should override your feelings for a mate, and the psychological costs and financial burden of a debt-ridden wedding. The take-home message from each dialogue boiled down to self-awareness, with the premise that if you are mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially fit, then the reflection that you ultimately seek has to show up. Furthermore, deciding who you want to spend the rest of your life with is a process and marriage is not a final destination, but simply a stop on this journey through life. OK cool.

The point that resonated with everyone, though, was a statement made by a newlywed woman in the audience who said, to paraphrase: The reason that we settle in relationships is because we really don’t believe that we can have happily ever after, that we deserve abundant love, and that we can get the love that we desire. (ding, ding, ding)

I realized this about myself years ago—not that it necessarily changed my behavior, unfortunately, but I had the AHA moment when I recognized that I tolerated the majority of the men in my past because I thought “this is as good as it gets.” While it was comforting to hear other women express similar sentiments, the kicker for me was when the man behind Together-Apart, Chris Kazi Rolle, admitted that he’s dealt with that very issue himself.

His way of not believing in happily ever after showed up in the form of trust issues with his mate whom he said gave him every reason under the sun to trust her, but because he didn’t believe that someone would actually love him the way that he needed, he’d kept women on the side “just in case”—women who were in their own relationships.

Rolle was openly emotional about how he’d hurt his girlfriend and at that moment I thought wow, men actually care. (I come from a long line of men-just-don’t-give-a-damn thinking.) Second, I was amazed at the idea that some men might believe that they won’t get the love that they want from a woman, and the fact that that mindset might manifest itself in the form of cheating was eye opening. (I also come from a long line of men-cheat-just-because-someone-walked-by-with-a-big-butt thinking.)

To me, it always seems that men don’t really care if they find “Mrs. Right,” and they certainly don’t doubt that they deserve a good woman. Aren’t women the only ones who cry themselves to sleep at night, haunted by nightmares of never finding true love and believing that something is wrong with them if they don’t? Maybe not. Could it be that we (meaning those of us who aren’t in a successful relationship) are all just settling out of fear of being vulnerable and an unwillingness to be alone? You tell me.

Are men just as fearful of not finding the love that they want? Do men settle because they don’t expect to find that love? And furthermore, does that lack of expectation show up in the form of cheating when a man is in a relationship?

[Originally Published Here]

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