Stop Settling Just So You Can Settle Down

“It’s 6:00PM and in about an hour, I’ll be a single woman.”

This is what I wrote in my journal exactly one year ago.  On September 3, 2018, I ended my 5-year relationship and an engagement. I didn’t want to do it, but I felt I had no choice. Long story short, I had to end my engagement because I knew that if I went through with it, the marriage would have ended in divorce.

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Here I am in Cabo in late September 2018. This was supposed to be my bachelorette party. Instead, it turned into an amazing girls trip!

Compatibility is Essential

Before my experience, I always thought that if two people loved each other, that a relationship between them could work, if they both really tried. What I’ve come to realize is that love, alone, is not enough. Two incompatible people can love each other, but they will never be able to have a healthy, peaceful, long-lasting relationship. I don’t usually throw around extremes like that. I’m a lawyer for God’s sake, and the answer to most questions asked of lawyers is “it depends.” But in this case, I can say with full confidence that if you and your partner have conflicting personalities and values, it won’t work.

I know this because I lived it for five years. And for five years, I tried to convince myself everything was okay by forcing myself to accept certain aspects of our relationship that never sat right with me. I would constantly repeat over and over to myself that “no relationship is perfect,” “every relationship is hard,” “no one is perfect, including you,” and “everything can be worked out as long as you communicate.” What I’ve come to realize is that relationships can be hard, but they don’t have to be so difficult that you are depleted and have nothing left to give. And I think one of the hardest pills for me to swallow was that some conflicts in relationships are rooted in each person’s essence, and cannot be resolved with a discussion, counseling, or even prayer. Everybody isn’t meant for every body and that’s okay.

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Peace is priceless. Joy is non-negotiable.

You Can’t Marry Potential

Before, I thought if we just talked more, if he opened up to me more, if I could understand him better and he could understand me better, that things, specifically he, would change. Only now do I understand how toxic that thought pattern truly was. Now, I know that it is not my place to try to change someone else. Everyone is who they are, and I have no right to impose or project my ideals onto another grown ass person. The only thing I can do is learn to accept them for who they are and move from there. And “moving from there” may mean moving on.

I understand that people can change if they want to. For me, however, getting married to find out if the change would occur was not a risk I was willing to take. I remember counseling with the pastor who we hired to officiate our wedding. He told me a story about a husband and wife who were having problems. After 20+ years, the husband finally came around, and the couple’s relationship was better for it.

The pastor told me this story to encourage me to stick it out and be patient. But I explained to him that the couple he described to me was married. They made a vow before God that they would be together through anything and everything. However, I had made no such commitment. And I refused to marry someone based on who I hoped they might be in the future. I had to learn to accept that my current reality could easily be my reality for the rest of my life.  I asked myself: “If nothing ever changes, will I be happy?” And the answer, for me, was no.

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I only have this one life. I want to make the most of it by being my authentic self, regardless of societal norms.

Societal Pressures Are Real

This past year has been very eye-opening for me in so many ways. One thing I didn’t expect was the overwhelming number of people who congratulated me on being brave enough to end my relationship. At first, I didn’t understand what was so brave about what I did because I felt I was doing what I had to do. But now I get it. What I’ve learned is that so many people settle just so they can settle down. So many people know before they get married that their partner isn’t right for them, but they get married anyways. And so many people are married and miserable. But why?! How?! This is the most common reason I’ve heard:

Society places more value on your life when you’re married.

Depending on your culture, your family may put a lot of pressure on you to marry once you reach a certain age. You could be well-accomplished in your life, (which may explain why you aren’t married because you were busy achieving your goals) and the first thing your parents, aunties, and uncles ask you is “when are you gonna settle down and get married?” You might be overwhelmed from being in, and attending, so many of your friends’ weddings. You’re always the single friend that everyone seems to pity because you’re alone, even if you are genuinely happy. You may also be tired (maybe even envious) from seeing those beautiful marriage proposals and wedding videos on Instagram. That pressure is real. And anyone who says they don’t feel it, I really don’t believe you.

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This photo was taken on the day my wedding was scheduled. I know what I deserve is out there for me and I will not settle for anything else.

“Good Enough” is not good enough

Many people give in to the pressure of society. So, they find someone who is “good enough,” they have a bomb ass wedding, and then…they’re married. Now they’ve made that promise before God that they will stick it out no matter what.  But what are they going to do when they don’t see eye-to-eye on the basics? Your mom and dad, and those Instagram couples can’t help you when y’all are having the same exact argument for the umpteenth time with no resolution in sight. 

I consider staying in a relationship where there is constant conflict over fundamental issues as settling. And when I say “settling,” I’m not saying “settling for less.” What I am saying is that you are settling for something other than what you truly need to have genuine joy and peace in your relationship, in your life, and in your heartAnd there can be no peace if there are conflicts that erode the foundation of your relationship. When you see those red flags, you have to be brave enough to walk away. You have to know that you deserve better because the alternative could be a lifetime of unhappiness. Of course, no relationship is all bad, but you have to ask yourself: “Is the good worth the bad?”

Nevertheless, to some extent, we all have to be understanding, compassionate, and accept our partner for who they are, and be willing to love them no matter what, right? Right! However, that doesn’t mean that in choosing your partner, you can’t have standards for what you will and will not accept from the person you plan to spend THE REST OF YOUR LIFE with. 

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I’m not perfect, but I know that God has someone out there who is perfect for me.

I Refuse to Settle

I’m sure this may rub someone the wrong way, but that’s okay with me. I know that if I read something like this while I was engaged, it would have made my heart flutter and my anxiety go through the roof because it’s what I knew deep down to be true, but I wasn’t ready to face. I’m not sharing this to be negative or cynical. I’m sharing this to help someone. I take marriage very seriously. I believe in true love with my whole heart. I believe that God has someone out there that was made for me. Not a perfect person, but MY perfect person.

I’m not expecting that everything will be easy and that we won’t experience conflict or have different opinions about things. But I know that the person for me will be compatible with my personality and share my core values, so that we can withstand the test of any hardship that might come our way.  And because I know that God has someone out there just for me, I would rather have genuine joy and peace while being single, than be unhappy by forcing a relationship with the wrong person. Until I meet my perfect person, I will remain patient and wait for what God has for me instead of settling for anything other than that.

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I Hope this Helps Someone

I have been going back and forth for months on whether I should share my story. Only after countless family members, friends, and near strangers, have encouraged me to tell my story have I finally come to terms with being vulnerable enough to share this with you. If I can help just one person avoid making one of the biggest mistakes of their lives by knowingly marrying the wrong person, then sharing my story will have been worth it.

Over this past year of healing and reflection, I have learned so much about myself and relationships. I have grown so much and I still have so much more growing, learning, and healing to do. Although I’ve accomplished and have overcome many things in my life, the work I have been doing on myself has been some of the most challenging work I have ever done, and I am so much better because of it. I know I have a long way to go, but I can honestly say that I have reached a certain level of joy, peace, and enlightenment that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced before.

I know this post is very different from anything I’ve ever posted on my blog before. And I know it’s been over a year since I’ve posted anything, and now you know why! Trust me, I still love sharing my stories on being a lawyer, thrifting, and practicing yoga, but I just had to share this with you to help somebody.

If I can leave you with one short phrase, it is this: NEVER SETTLE!

xoxo

Ashley

14 thoughts on “Stop Settling Just So You Can Settle Down

  1. Hey girl! This was an excellent read. I actually just made a post about why I’m afraid of marriage, and I think it comes down to one day waking up and realizing that I settled for a life I no longer want. Singlehood is underrated. Maybe I’ll get married in the future and be confident in my chosen partner, but I appreciate this time of discovering who I am and what I want, without the pressure of already being in a relationship. All that to say, I think we’re on the same wavelength and hope to read more of your posts.

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    1. I totally feel you! Singlehood is definitely underrated. Even in this last year of being single, I forgot how much freedom I had given up! I’m sure we will get there when the right person comes along. Until then, we should enjoy our lives as they are now and make the most of it! I will definitely check out your post now too! Thanks so much for your support!

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  2. I’m glad you had the awareness to make that decision. It takes guts to do that. I admire your way of “never settle” it’s a great mentality to live by. Thanks for sharing, wish you the best with your future.

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  3. Hello Ashley Cloud, stand strong in time of trials and tribulations. God is not through with you yet. Indecision in love and marriage is common place in most,(if not all relationships).You are an individual living your one life. And to live it well, your learned and deep seeded values must have a place at the top of your decision making. Stay focused, your true love is indeed on the horizon.

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