Is it time to settle?

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Dear Meredith,

I feel that love is a concept that unless a person goes through it, it won't make sense to them, no matter how many books or stories they've read. I'm that person. Ever since I was young, I devoured books and movies about love - "Ella Enchanted", "Gone with the Wind" (which now I see as really problematic...), all the Disney movies... heck, I was singing the song Aurora sings in the forest before she meets Prince Phillip for the longest time, expecting the same result … longer than I'll like to admit.

When I entered high school, I thought maybe this is it. I'll find my Harvey ("Sabrina" reference) and it'll be my soulmate. High school went and gone, and it was college, and I thought THIS is my chance... I'll be like Rory and find my Logan (although she really belongs with Jess). I commuted to school, so I was off campus by 5 p.m. and never had the chance to really meet new people, while losing my old friends. And now I'm in my mid-30s, scraping the bottom of the pool on a dating app; most of the guys I start chatting with don't respond or later get flagged by the app.

My grandma introduces me to random people – like her neighbor's aunt's nephew's friend in California. But I never felt that spark after meeting them, I'm supposed to feel a spark when I meet "The One" right? Over time most of these guys just fade away. We don't have anything to talk about, and the conversations just die. I'm still chatting with this one guy though. He's OK. Decent looking, but not exactly my type, but a decent human. If you made it this far... thank you.

Here's my question: when do you make a decision to settle? Many people take chances on arranged marriages, and while this relationship may have started as blind date, it could work out right? Am I selling myself short though, if I choose to go with the guy whom I feel like is mediocre? Am I a bad person to choose him because I just want someone and can't seem to find anyone else? It could work out. My friend keeps telling me to wait, and how I shouldn't settle. But I would lie to say I'm not looking at my age like a count down. Seeing my other friends and their beautiful children, I think I want kids. I want my own family. But if I choose to settle and try to make this relationship work, am I selling myself sort? or worse, is this wrong to him?

– Romantic

Don’t settle. You’ll wind up miserable and then you'll have to undo the whole thing. Divorce is expensive.

You need help figuring out what a real relationship looks like – and maybe you need a new slate of movies and books (and talks with friends) to figure it out. First, there is no one. There are, luckily, many people out there who are potential partners. It's about finding them and having the right lens to see all they offer. It probably won't feel like lightening. Get used to the concept of a slow burn.

The thing about most of the movies you mentioned is that they're two hours of "how will these single people get together?!" ... and then it ends. We have no idea what their fictional marriages would look like.

It's not helpful to go into every date thinking, "I'm so tired of this. Is this going to be the one?" It messes with the vibes – and probably makes you seem dissatisfied right off the bat. That's a lot for the other person to live up to. Get to a place where you can say, "Whatever, I’m just getting to know a human." Then really listen and be present. You might notice more.

It's not easy for me to tell a woman in her mid-30s, one who wants kids, to take her time. But you need to settle your brain before any of these people – the good people – will become noticeable. Limit your time on apps so you don’t see too many faces. Ask good questions. Have Zoom dates because you might be more relaxed if you're already at home, not feeling rushed to make something worth it. Ask your friends how they really fell in love. The stories might be different than you think.

It sounds like you should also drop this guy. You've given him a chance, and you want something else.

– Meredith

Readers: I want to make a better list of books and movies (fiction, nonfiction, memoir, etc.) for this writer, to get a more realistic sense of what meeting someone might feel like. Please help in comments. My offering is the "settling soulmates" episodes of "30 Rock" – which has to be streaming somewhere. Start with "Future Husband" and watch until the very end of Matt Damon's run on the series. The point is: you don't have to settle, but you also might be wrong if you think that Matt Damon is going to come in and save you. He's not the one either.