Don’t settle for secondhand love, for the friend who was there all along. Don’t settle for the one who stuck around regardless just because you knew they would. Just because you knew they would answer your texts late at night, laugh at your jokes, and call you on your bullshit doesn’t mean you love them. Not in that way. Settling for secondhand love wouldn’t be fair to them.
Don’t settle for a friend because it’s convenient, or because you know it will make them happy. Don’t say your heart’s in it when it’s not. It would be cruel to give them false hope, to make them think you’ll change your mind. Logically, you could, because on paper, it makes sense. You make sense together. You could grow to love them the way they want you to, but chances are you won’t.
Emotions and logic aren’t the same thing, and they never could be. And they’ll still hope that things may be different, that you’ll feel differently about them in time, but you both know that isn’t going to happen. You know they deserve more than your resignation, and they’ll think that you shouldn’t have to settle for them, because friends don’t like to see their friends settle. And you’ll both know you agree.
There are always going to be those people we keep around because it’s convenient for us. Because it’s easy to put them on the back burner, to place them within arm’s reach, because we know they’ll stay there and be content with at least the hope that maybe one day, we can get a little closer, as long as they stick it out and pay their dues. There are always the people who we think would make a decent worst-case scenario, and who are reassured by the idea that even though they’re our safety net, we’re their first choice. There is comfort in ego and in knowing you’re wanted. There’s a freedom in the knowledge that somebody will still be there, even after all is said and done.
They will want to reassure you, to comfort you, to be there. But instead of settling for them, you should let them go.
They deserve more than being your runner-up, though it wasn’t your intention to treat them poorly. They deserve someone who doesn’t want to lose them, who will go to the ends of the earth to keep them in their lives. We all deserve someone who thinks we’re the first choice—not just that we’re the best possible option or that there was no other choice, but that any other option didn’t even stand a fighting chance. But when you let someone settle for you, when you wait until they’re ready and they’ve decided and everything is on their terms, there’s always the nagging suspicion that maybe you’re still not quite everything they want. They will resent you for that suspicion. It’s better to let them go.
And you will miss them, of course, just like they’ll miss you. You will mourn, but there’s nothing wrong in that. And they will still check their phone for your texts at all the usual times, and you’ll force yourself to delete their number, and they’ll steer clear of your neighborhood, but still, you’ll each find a way to heal. They will wonder how they could have changed themselves for you. But if you had validated them, if you had let them become something they’re not for your love and for choosing them conditionally, they would have resented you anyway. And if you choose who someone is trying to be over who they really are, you will resent yourself, too.
It will take time, and you will wonder if you did something wrong, if it really wouldn’t have been settling after all. But no one wants to come in second place to the idea of who they are.
Don’t settle for someone because it’s easy, because they’ve come ready-made, because they already love you. There’s more to life than what’s simple and convenient and available. There’s struggling, striving, and holding onto the silly, inane, naive hope that maybe something perfect exists after all. And when you find something perfect, if you find someone perfect, they won’t be an ideal, of course, because no one is without their flaws. But there is bound to be someone who will be right for you in that moment. They will be what you’re looking for.
Don’t settle for someone just because it’s time you made a choice, and they just happened to be there the whole time. A person’s heart isn’t a consolation prize. Don’t settle for them because they’ve been there all along. No one deserves secondhand love.
- Ella Ceron