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Is Your Partner the ‘Settling Down’ Type?

Are you wondering if your relationship is just for fun or could become more serious? We’ve got some things to consider…

In the 2009 film “Up in the Air,” George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a corporate downsizing specialist whose beloved life on the road is threatened just when he is about to reach his goal of 10 million frequent-flyer miles and just after he’s met the frequent-traveler of his dreams.

For years, Ryan has been constantly on the move, traveling almost nonstop and living out of a suitcase most of the time. He has no meaningful attachments to people. But then he meets a like-minded woman named Alex, and they plan trysts in various cities when their itineraries overlap. Ryan resists his deepening feelings for Alex, holding on to his footloose lifestyle.

In one scene, Ryan is confronted by his young, ladder-climbing colleague Natalie, who is licking her wounds after being unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend via text message.


Natalie: What happened to Alex?
Ryan: She had to leave town early to get to a meeting.
Natalie: That’s too bad. Where does she live?
Ryan: Chicago.
Natalie: You’re going to see her?
Ryan: We don’t really have that kind of relationship.
Natalie: What kind of relationship do you have?
Ryan: You know, casual.
Natalie: Sounds pretty special.
Ryan: It works for us.
Natalie: Don’t you think there’s a future there?
Ryan: I never really thought about it…

Natalie: How can you not think about that? How does it not even cross your mind that you might want a future with someone?

Ryan: Simple. You know that moment when you look into somebody’s eyes and you can feel them staring into your soul and the whole world goes quiet just for a second?

Natalie: Yes.

Ryan: Right, well, I don’t.

Natalie: Don’t you think it’s worth giving her a chance?

Ryan: A chance at what?

Natalie: A chance at something real.

Ryan’s nonchalant, take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward romantic relationships exemplifies a frustration among many singles: they’re dating someone who seems like a good match but appears to have no intention of being in a committed, stable relationship.

If you’ve been dating someone for a substantial amount of time without any sign the person is the “settling-down type,” you might be ready to ask yourself (or your partner) a few questions:

Is this person dating just for the fun of it? Plenty of singles date for companionship, excitement, or to fend off boredom—without any desire for something more serious. There’s nothing wrong with that, so long as both individuals agree their relationship is casual and open-ended. The problem comes when one person is looking for permanence and dependability, and the other isn’t.

Is he or she checking out the relationship while keeping options open? Sometimes a person resists settling down because he/she considers this relationship “pretty good” while wondering if someone better might be around the next corner. If there is no stated commitment between the partners, then there is little room to complain. But if there is an explicit or even implicit agreement to be exclusive, then an attitude of “keeping options open” becomes problematic.

Is he/she interested in settling down someday but not right now? Lots of men and women plan to make a commitment to a long-term relationship at some point in the future—just not yet. The time may not be right because of career obligations, the need to finish school, financial constraints, or other factors. For some men and women, they simply aren’t ready emotionally.

Is your partner reluctant for legitimate reasons? Millions of singles carry the wounds of broken relationships—their parents’ painful break-up or their own. That heartache makes many individuals cautious. The issue then is whether the person is working through past hurts so he/she will one day be a healthy and stable partner—or whether the person will sit on the fence indefinitely.

The most important question of all relates to you: Are you willing to be patient and stick with a relationship that has no guarantee about future permanence? It’s one thing to bide your time while the person gets his/her head and heart straightened out; it’s another thing to be strung along endlessly. You deserve a partner who will, at some point, provide the security and satisfaction that come with commitment.