If you had to choose a side—reaching vs. settling—where would you be?
How I Met Your Mother has helped shape some of pop culture’s many corners: The Bro Code, the olive theory, the hot/crazy scale, the lemon law, the naked man…and so forth. But on its 101st episode, it introduced us to another belief: that every relationship has a reacher and a settler.
In case you’re not a HIMYM fan, let me discuss this a little further. The better looking party in a relationship is a settler; the lesser-attractive one is a reacher. The one who cares less is a settler; the one who cares more is a reacher. If someone makes more money, he or she is a settler (and the other is a gold digger—just kidding!).
To put it simply, there are two sides in every romance. There is reaching vs. settling. There is a pull and push. An imbalance exists.
Now, do I believe this theory? Yes, I do.
It’s never been intentional for me—I’ve never strived to be one or the other—but there have been moments in my past relationships when I realized I was reaching and/or settling. And let me tell you, if you’re conscious of it, it hurts to be the reacher.
There’s a level of uncertainty you have, like you always have to constantly prove yourself worthy of your significant other. Sure, they chose you and they’re dating you but how long is it going to last? And when you recognize them pulling away, you hit a panic button you never thought you’d reach for. Suddenly, you’re always available for them and you’re typing out a reply faster than usually possible. Whether or not it’s unlike you, you’re suddenly biting your lip in fear of offending them.
Needless to say, I was there once. And given the choice, I’d never hold the (arguably) shorter end of the stick again.
All succeeding relationships since, I’ve made it a point to stay a safe distance away. I wanted to have the upper hand and I’ve been successful in it thus far. Whenever walking away made sense, I took it. When the dinners got boring, I stopped them. And when it ever finally got to the point where I knew I had to give more effort, the idea never became a point of action.
I liked knowing I would be fine afterwards. I reveled in the notion that I would be the one that’s okay. It’s a little masochistic, definitely selfish and even slightly egotistical—I’m self-aware enough to admit this. Call it a defense mechanism, call it cowardice; or maybe I just haven’t met anyone that I’m willing to put it all out there for again.
So is this competitive spark helping stifle the flame of a possible romance? I don’t know. Maybe my refusal to be the reacher again has stopped any real potential. But truth be told—in my ideal world—I’d be a reacher and so would my significant other.
That’s what I want and that’s what I’m holding out for. I want to want to prove myself good enough for someone and I want him to look at me and feel the exact same thing. I want that balance; I just don’t know if it’s possible.
I was talking to a close friend of mine and he doesn’t even believe in reaching vs. settling. He told me on a level of honesty that he and I find comfort in, that he’s never felt like one or the other. As an outsider looking in on his relationships, I could argue differently—but how I saw his romances isn’t important. What matters is that they were equals in his eyes.
That’s what I want.
Art Alexandra Lara