Women

When it comes to finding a man, does compromise mean settling for less? LINDSEY KELK wonders if it's time to give that turtleneck-wearing

As a woman, i was born into the art of compromise. A recent example -my friend suggested that we go and see Titanic 3D. I suggested I would rather kill myself. Surely there was a happy medium that involved neither self-harm or Celine Dion? After a brief debate, we worked it out. Turn out my friend was happy to trade Titanic for a stiff drink and I was happy to watch Romeo +Juliet instead. Everyone's a winner. Be they small or large, I feel like I'm constantly making compromises. It's one of the things that remind us we're a grown-up. We can't always have exactly what we want, exactly how we want it. But when it comes to relationships, isn't compromising just a fancy name for settling for less?

Description: when it comes to relationships, isn't compromising just a fancy name for settling for less?

when it comes to relationships, isn't compromising just a fancy name for settling for less?

I'm the first to admit I've made some serious mistakes in my dating past and for the most part, that's because I was Queen of Settling. One of the reasons I didn't want to see Leo and Kate mince around an ill-fated ocean liner in glorious 3D was because they've already had three and a half hours of my life and, dear reader, they are three and a half hours I can never get back.

Without wanting to be unkind, that's pretty much how I feel about my first real relationship. Seven years. A seven-year-long, passive - aggressive, pretend to be asleep so we won't have to do it, domestic nightmare. In hindsight, I should have known the relationship was over after two years, when the most exciting thing in our joint diaries was the weekly shop but no, under the guise of `compromising' we dragged that thing out for five more years. That was half of my twenties, gone.

My ex was a great guy, everyone said so, but even though I knew something wasn't quite right, I hung in there when I should have vamoosed years before. Just like the Titanic, we were sailing along, completely oblivious to the great big iceberg about to rip into our relationship. So when we finally sank and I was given my second chance, I swore I would never again settle for a relationship that made me unhappy. But guess what? I did. Again and again, And, um, at last count, twice more after that. I do not know when to say when. This is problem number one.

Description: I do not know when to say when. This is problem number one

I do not know when to say when. This is problem number one

Problem two: I'm now worried I've gone too far the other way. For fear of not knowing when to leave, in the past six months, I've written off several potentially great boyfriends for the following reasons: too much aftershave, wearing a turtleneck on the second date, a distracting lisp, arriving on a skateboard, not owning a TV. I hope you'll agree that the latter is a deal breaker. The others? Well, they kind of make me a huge asshole. I'm not sure how it's happened, but I've gone from being someone who is prepared to `work through things' when my boyfriend tells me he's sleeping with someone else because he cares about me so much, he's scared to have an `intimate relationship' in case he gets hurt (no, really, I fell for that), to being someone who ditches on date one because they tell me they love Bryan Adams. I have now forgotten how to compromise altogether. With visions of riding the B62 bus back and forth to Ikea Brooklyn, wearing a housecoat, too much rouge and carrying a basketful of kittens, I turned to a wise friend for counsel.

First, she explained the differences between settling and compromise: `Compromise is about listening to someone else and working together,' B explained. 'When you're settling, it's really only about you. You're making it all about yourself, but in a negative way. You're closing doors on yourself instead of opening them together.'

I took a minute to soak up her genius. `You're right,' I marvelled. `I have been doing that: And I had. I was using my fear of settling as an excuse not to be with anyone and then complaining that I couldn't find a boyfriend - problem number three.

`So how do I stop doing it?' I asked. `How do I change?' B stopped, shrugged and sank her pint. (B drinks Guinness. B is amazing.) `I don't know,' she replied. `You're screwed.' Well. On the upside, I have no idea where I need to go to buy a housecoat, so perhaps in the time it takes to procure one, I will have made some changes in my life.

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