“You’re settling.” It’s a phrase that my squad has used numerous times over the years, and one I've become immensely grateful for, regardless of how difficult it can be to say — and to hear. At some point or another, each of us has dated someone who offered less than we deserved — and we were lucky enough to have besties who could bravely give us a reality check. But what does deserving more from a relationship mean? And what are you supposed to do about it? Can you work toward getting your needs met, or should you walk away?
Of course, there are certain core elements that are crucial in any relationship.
“A healthy relationship requires love and respect,” says board-certified psychiatrist Dr. Susan Edelman. “If you aren't feeling those from your partner, it's important to recognize that you need more.”
The fact of the matter, however, is that beyond those obvious basics, it can get a little complicated. That’s because every person has unique needs, desires, and priorities, so there’s no one-size-fits-all model in terms of finding the relationship that you deserve. For example, some people may require more physical intimacy and touch, while others may need verbal encouragement more often. That said, Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent couples therapist in Los Angeles, says that there are certain “baseline needs” that everyone deserves to have met, including kindness, trust, gratitude, freedom to be vulnerable (emotional safety), and dedication to an emotional connection.
“Too many people wind up settling for less than they deserve when it comes to these baseline needs,” he tells Elite Daily. “So, I have and continue to encourage singles and couples to settle for much more than what they typically do.”
Experts agree that it’s super important to recognize if you deserve more from your relationship — and the sooner you acknowledge this, the better because you can do something about it before it takes a toll on your self-worth, self-esteem, or overall mental health and emotional well-being.
“Assuming that this is the only life that you get to have, do you really want to be at the end of your life only to come to the painful realization that you settled for less — potentially much less — than what you really wanted in your heart of hearts?” adds Dr. Brown.
Certainly, no one wants to end up in a scenario where they’re wondering “what if?” By recognizing that you deserve more from your relationship — whether in regards to honesty, emotional support, appreciation, or another factor entirely — you may decide to swiftly take action in terms of making sure those needs are met, whether with your current partner or someone else.
Once you realize that you deserve more from a relationship, Dr. Brown says there are several steps you can take to assess how you’d like to proceed. He recommends starting a journal, in which you make a list of your must-haves in a relationship.
“These are your non-negotiables — your bottom-line minimums,” he adds. “For instance, love, marriage, where you want to live, being with someone that you are proud to walk through life with, etc."
Once you’ve completed your list, Dr. Brown suggests considering how many of these items your partner meets. If they’re lacking in almost every regard, then it's possible that you may not be in the best relationship for you. However, if you feel that you deserve more in one or two aspects, then you can certainly bring these up to your boo and discuss some ideas for how they might improve in those areas.
“Be courageous,” says Dr. Brown. “Be self-aware and honest with yourself about what you really want and don't want in a relationship. And then make a firm lifelong intention to settle for more — because you deserve more of what makes you happy, fulfilled, and grateful.”
While you may question whether you’re being "too demanding" or expecting too much, Dr. Edelman asserts that it’s critical to listen to your gut in evaluating your needs and desires and whether or not they’re being satisfied. It can be helpful to talk to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist if you need some outside support in terms of validating your feelings before talking to your partner.
“You may wonder, ‘Is it OK to feel this way? Am I being too critical?’ You may even make excuses for your partner,” she explains. “But if you feel that something is lacking, it's better to be aware of those feelings rather than talk yourself out of them. Not communicating with them makes it hard for your partner to know there is a problem, and thus for you to figure out if they are willing to address what isn't working for you in the relationship.”
Coming to terms with the fact that you deserve more may not be easy, but it can be the first step toward making sure that your relationship is nothing short of satisfying. After identifying exactly why you feel you deserve more, you can launch a calm, loving conversation with your partner about what they can do to step it up. Avoid accusatory statements, which could cause them to get defensive. Instead, perhaps focus on speaking to positive needs — in other words, rather than talking about what they’re not doing, talk about what they can do to make you happy. A partner who cherishes your relationship will be willing to put in the effort to ensure your needs are met. And if they aren’t? Well, then at least you’ve already identified your must-haves — because if your current bae won’t attempt to check them off, someone else surely will.