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If You’re Single Over 40, Should You Ever Settle?

A woman who's single over 40 hugging her boyfriend who she didn't settle for in a sunny field.

If you’re single over 40, chances are your journey of surviving the dating world in the 21st century is starting to take its toll. And if you’re anything like me, you may have come to a point where you’re starting to question whether or not you should “settle” for someone. Nobody is perfect, but how do you decide whether you’re settling for someone who’s not really for you or compromising to be with someone who may be really wonderful?

The Difference Between Settling vs. Compromising:
My definition of settling is basically giving up and giving in, even though your needs aren’t being met.  The Urban Dictionary defines it something like, “When one chooses to become romantically involved with someone who is not as impressive, but simple to be with, as the best available option because it’s easier than continuing the search.”

My definition of compromising is meeting in the middle and understanding that not everything is going to go your way. The dictionary lists compromising in a relationship as, “Engaging in positive compromise. Sometimes compromise means one person has to give something up, or extend oneself for the greater good of the relationship.”

As we get older and continue to date, one of two things can happen—Either we get more set in our ways and refuse to negotiate on anything, or we become desperate and will throw in the towel and settle due to fear of being alone forever. Being a stubborn curmudgeon who is unwilling to embrace and accept new things will leave you alone and miserable. When two people are in love, compromise is an everyday occurrence, which (for the most part) occurs naturally. But settling is different. Settling means you’re compromising your true self.

Now that we’re in our 40s, it might be time to reevaluate our list of non-negotiables. What we were unwilling to accept in our 20s may be different now that we’re older. Usually one of the first things we’re attracted to when we’re younger (and older too) is someone’s physical appearance. But while physical attraction and chemistry is extremely important, we have to realize that looks change for everyone as we age. Some of us might be more fortunate than others in retaining our youthful appearance, but we need to take into consideration that we will not look the same at 40 as we did at 20. If the way you evaluate possible partners is still based on their looks, you may be missing out on some really great people.

In our 20s, very few of us had achieved financial stability and success. However, in our 40s, finding someone who has a career and is financially stable is more common and important. Dating someone who is living at home in their childhood bedroom may be a deal-breaker at this point. These are some of the things to consider updating when you think about your list of non-negotiables.

Compromising occurs after you’ve met someone who you’re attracted to. That’s when issues that may have been on your non-negotiable list, aren’t so cut and dry. For example, dating someone who is financially stable may be non-negotiable, until you realized the person you’re already interested in left a successful career to start out on a new path. You may not want to date someone who lives at home with their parents, but then you realized they moved back home to care for their elderly parents. These are things that you compromise on due to circumstances or the stage of life that you’re in. Not because you’re giving up something that’s important to you.

No one should ever have to settle, but we should all be realistic about what we’re looking for and what we’re willing to accept in order to find happiness.  We all have needs and wants, and I think one of the most important things to do when you’re single in your 40s, is to meet your needs, and realize your wants are secondary. There is no one person who will meet all of your wants and needs. However, if they can meet most of them, you may have found that special partner who you can grow and be happy with.

To read more of Tonia’s work and learn about her book Single and Not Settling, visit or follower her on Twitter at @ToniaDeCosimo.

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