Family Mottos and ‘Settling’

“When you love yourself enough you won’t settle for less than you deserve in a relationship” Karen Lighthouse

We’ve probably all got family mottos created in our family of origin – sayings that shaped and guided us when we were little and may still influence us today. These mottos, often hidden, submerged like the bulk of an iceberg, can cause us to unwittingly sabotage our highest good until they are exposed and dealt with.

There were many family mottos in my family growing up, mostly negative and born out of my parents’ experiences in an era marked with poverty and hardship. I was born 14 years after WW 2 ended, food was scarce and times were hard for many years.

One motto in my household was, “Beggars can’t be choosers”, and given what my parents endured, I can see where they were coming from. The fact that I wasn’t actually a beggar was irrelevant. Kids are like little sponges growing up, absorbing the things we’re told by our caregivers without question. The message was clear, take what you can without complaining and don’t expect or ask for anymore!

This has played out in many ways in my life, one of which is the dreaded ‘settling’ in relationships. Settling in relationships is when we settle for less than we really want because we think we either don’t deserve better or can’t have it, (in my case because I’m a beggar and can’t afford to choose), that it doesn’t exist (so what’s the point looking), or that what we currently have feels familiar (better the devil you know than the devil you don’t).

Settling in relationships is bitter-sweet. We’re social creatures with a primal need to relate and attach. The problem is if you think you can’t have better or it doesn’t exist (a common one I hear about) the chances are you’ll prove yourself right. It’ll be a self-fulfilling prophecy and you will close the door to opportunities that a different mind-set can bring. If we believe that we don’t deserve a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship (albeit subconsciously…remember the hidden iceberg) or what we desire doesn’t exist we might be tempted to settle with an unsuitable, or worse still, abusive partner rather than be alone.

Let me tell you something about settling… leads to pain! I’ve come to learn (the hard way) that being alone is preferable to being unequally matched with the wrong partner and all the complications that brings. Settling in a relationship with someone who’s not really compatible because you don’t want to be lonely or don’t think you can have better is not honouring yourself, who you really are and you can’t be fully happy if you are not being your true authentic self. We weren’t meant to settle for crumbs of relating…gimme the whole cake (or at least a whole slice)!!

Settling can be a major contributor to depression (check-in with yourself if this applies to you), over-eating, addictions and other forms of misery. Not good. Medicating to cover the truth within, the nagging, persistent tug towards your true desires, has its place – it works for a season, but it comes at a very high price. I’ve known many people for whom being alone is intolerable. My question to them would be, “What are you trying to avoid by staying in a relationship too long/that’s not satisfying/that’s abusive?” Feeling lonely can be painful but it’s not unbearable, it’s unlikely to kill you, unless you let it.

In my work with clients and my own healing journey I’ve discovered that if a feeling feels unbearable for you, or it seems out of proportion to the current situation then it’s nearly always attached to something painful in the past. Follow the ‘thread’. What is this unbearable feeling attached to, where is it coming from? What are you telling yourself? Are there some family mottos submerged that are sabotaging your happiness and perpetuating a belief that no longer serves you?

Learning to tolerate and manage uncomfortable emotions is part of maturing and developing a healthy sense of self. When we can learn to manage our feelings and examine our self-talk, we may just find that being on our own isn’t as intolerable as we once believed. We may just find that being on our own is better than being with the ‘wrong’ person.

Perhaps you were lucky enough to have some positive family mottos. I’d love you to share some of yours.

(c) Karen Lighthouse 2022


Thanks for reading and take care until next time.

Comments and questions are welcome.

Words by Karen Lighthouse.

I also offer –

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  • Group facilitation
  • Mental health education
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2 thoughts on “Family Mottos and ‘Settling’

  1. My parents had a favourite one – “stop that crying or I’ll give you something to really cry about” 😁 I think they trotted that one out when we were overdoing the snivelling about something. The other thing I remember is that mum wouldn’t allow us to do the ‘no talking’ thing with each other if we’d had a fight as kids, because – as she said later – she’d seen families pulled apart from that, and didn’t want us to get into the habit of it even if we’d had a fight.

    Liked by 1 person

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