What Does it Mean to Commit to Your Second Choice?

What Does it Mean to Commit to Your Second Choice?

Spencer recently spoke with Huffington Post for an article about committing to one’s “second-choice”. Below is some interesting Q & A with Spencer’s insights about a complicated and controversial topic.

Do you think this dynamic of going with the second choice when the first is not available is more common than people realize or care to admit? Have you ever heard clients talking about this, even if not in an explicit way? How so? (For instance, if they’re dating with marriage as the end goal and seeing two people at once to some degree — or perhaps they’re dating a person seriously but if someone from their past or an ex gave them a chance, they’d choose them?

I don’t think I’ve ever seen the exact scenario where a client is put in a position to immediately “fall back” to their “second choice.” Though I know it can happen. What might be related, and that I often see, is that a person or both people in the relationship are still getting over their ex(es) as they move forward with their new partner(s).

I caution against quickly jumping into a relationship after a breakup – you need time on your own to heal. That said, I think it’s unrealistic to say that you should not start a new relationship until you are 100% over your ex (can you ever be 100% over someone who was a big part of your life?). I often normalize for clients that there are two big stages to getting over an ex: one: getting over an ex to a point where you feel stable on your own, and two: getting over an ex to the point where you feel stable in a relationship with another person. Often you can’t complete this second step without being in a new relationship. You need to practice breaking bad habits and building trust with someone in a relationship with another person.

So memories of exes can be common, especially in the beginning of a relationship. And sometimes this can feel as if the new partner is the “second choice,” as you continue to process the loss of the person that came before. I guess the “second choice” could be true for people who didn’t fully think things through when ending or beginning a relationship, but most of the time it’s just a passing feeling. I would caution against feeding the idea that the person you end up with is your “second choice.” The “first choice” or “the one that got away,” got away for a reason. When things get tough in your current relationship, it’s easy to idealize the ex as the one you should really be with, but that is seldom the case. If your relationship is otherwise good with your new partner, it’s best to dismiss the “idealized ex” reaction for the fantasy that it is.

Is it fair to “settle” for someone who wasn’t necessarily your first choice? And why do you think this topic makes people so uncomfortable?

I think we need to clarify: “first choice” for what part of you? Because sometimes what may be first choice for your naiveite, your impulsivity, or your ego is not necessarily your first choice from a wiser perspective. If we are specifically looking at the “Love is Blind” example at face value: it looks like Jarrette proposed to Mallory when he didn’t know any better. He was still attracted to her due to ego and impulsivity. But at the end of the day (and it literally was just days in this case!) Iyanna was the one who was truly there for him, sharing his values and life mission, and is the best choice as a life partner. Maybe it’s important to emphasize that “first choice” doesn’t always mean the “best choice.”

Do you think this pattern is more common among men or women? (This — admittedly very generalized — tweet got a lot of attention a few years back: “Most men don’t marry the woman they love(d) the most. They marry the woman that is around when they are ready to marry.” Do you think there’s any validity to that? )The author who posted it also shared some DMs she got from men about their experiences “marrying for convenience.”)

I don’t think this is more common for any specific gender to consider timing an important factor when making a relationship commitment. I think this tweet is speaking to the trend of how the millennial generation more commonly chooses “capstone” relationships over “cornerstone” relationships when we get married or make a serious long-term commitment. Ester Perel explains this choice in a talk about relationship trends. She states that in a “capstone” relationship, “it’s not a marriage for the making of me, it’s a marriage for the recognition of who I’ve already made myself to be.”

My clients, like their peers, often consider that they need to meet certain milestones before finding or fully committing to someone. Finishing graduate school, landing a significant job, developing a certain level of social connections and status, and making a certain amount of money, are common milestones for people with the “capstone” mindset. Also, developing more emotional maturity and a better sense of who they are may be important for the psychologically minded.

Elisabeth LaMotte

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