Girls, Don’t Settle for Bad Relationships

I had a friend in college who kept a quote on her bulletin board that I’d found in a magazine.

It reminded her to stay strong, to be mindful of the truth she knew deep down: that she deserved better than her current boyfriend, who often treated her poorly and made her cry. Their relationship was rocky, but since there were good moments and fun times too, it was hard for her to cut the cord and move on for good.

The quote was: It’s better to be by yourself for the right reasons than with someone for the wrong reasons. 

Today she is happily married, so we can laugh at this old mantra that helped her be brave. I’d forgotten about it myself, buried it in the past, until it resurfaced in recent years as I’ve re-entered the world of teens through my writing and life as a mom.

I get so many emails – and hear so many stories – about the relationship pain that girls face. Sometimes it’s a boy causing the hurt, but more often it’s a friend…or someone they think is a friend.

It kills me how many girls today settle for bad relationships with girls and boys because they don’t believe they deserve better. They’re either 1) scared to be alone, 2) scared of what may happen if they leave, 3) overly attached to a group or individual, or 4) too insecure to realize they were made for so much more.

I have a Friendship talk I give where I share (anonymously) some emails I’ve received to help the girls understand how hurtful words and actions can be. While girls message me on Instagram, moms message me on Facebook. Their struggles sound like this:

“My 14-year-old daughter who has such a godly heart has been caught up in a mean girl crowd. I took her phone tonight, in private, and some of the texts from her friends are so hurtful. I also cannot believe the things she is saying about herself. It’s breaking my heart. She feels alone, she’s stupid, she shouldn’t have been born – her friends are saying this to her and she’s pouring her heart out to them. It’s horrible. I am buying your book for her tomorrow.”

For years I didn’t know what to do with these messages. I wanted to fix these heartaches and hug these girls. Then I realized maybe God was opening my eyes to the hidden pain inside teen relationships so I could shine light on it. Use the stories to encourage girls to be better friends, to choose better friends, and to not settle.

In any relationship, there should always be an uncompromising level of kindness and respect.

Tim Keller, in his book on marriage, says, “Marriage provides a profound ‘shock absorber’ that helps you navigate disappointments, illnesses, and other difficulties. You recover your equilibrium faster.” I believe all good relationships act as “shock absorbers” for pain, and that’s why they’re so important. That’s why we need good relationships in our broken, imperfect world. Girls who settle for unhealthy friendships are likely to settle for unhealthy romances too, and by being brave in one realm, they learn to brave in others.

I recently heard from a girl who left her longtime friend group. She had nowhere to go, but she couldn’t stay because many in the group had turned on her. She’s starting from scratch, rebuilding her network one friend at a time and reaching out to girls she likes and admires.

It took great courage to make this choice, but her courage will pay off. It will lead to better relationships and a brighter future. I’m not worried about this girl because she did the right thing while also cultivating essential life skills. She’s learning to think for herself, set boundaries, discern who’s good for her (and who’s not), and seek positive influences. She understands her value and the value of the right company.

Leaving a bad relationship is hard when you have good memories and have invested a lot of time and energy. In one bad relationship I stayed in, it seemed like every time I was set to leave, something positive would happen. I’d postpone the inevitable split by clinging to a temporary high. And if I have any thoughts for a girl who suspects she may be settling, it’s these guidelines:

  • Trust your gut (are there deep-down truths and feelings you hesitate to admit?)
  • Trust your people (those who know and love you best – siblings, parents, close friends – and have observed your relationship may see what you are blind to, so ask for their opinion)
  • Talk to a counselor (they have unbiased opinions and are trained to recognize healthy and unhealthy connections)
  • Ask yourself why you’re with the person (because they’re fun? charming? impressive? or do they make you a better person and help you like yourself?)
  • Know your worth (people will treat you poorly if you let them, so set standards for what you’ll put up with)

It’s better to be by yourself for the right reasons than with someone for the wrong reasons. I know someone needs this reminder today, and whether that’s you or a person you love, I hope it instills the courage to make brave relationship choices.

It’s hard to see the light when you’re stuck in a dark relationship. But remember, being alone for the right reasons opens the door to HOPE. It creates a future of possibility. Most importantly, it gives God the room to move, bringing to life new relationships that can bring out the best in you while living up to all you deserve.


For more on healthy girl relationships check out:

What Makes a Guy a Keeper

Cast a Wide Net – and Be Kind to Everyone

What Middle School Girls Should Know about Friendship

Helping Your Daughter Find Real Friends

Raising a Kind Daughter


Thanks for reading this message today. If you enjoyed it, please share it on social media. 

On Aug. 18, my new book Love Her Well: 10 Ways to Find Joy and Connection with Your Teenage Daughter releases. It’s gaining fantastic early buzz, and by pre-ordering now, you’ll receive amazing incentives like downloadable prints and prayers. Simply redeem your receipt here. Pre-order through Amazon, and you’re guaranteed the lowest price between now and Aug. 18. 

I’ve also written books for teen girls, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know and Liked, used widely across the U.S. for small group studies. To keep up with future posts, subscribe to this blog or join me on Facebook, Instagram, and the Girl Mom podcast

Posted by Kari on October 3, 2018

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4 thoughts on "Girls, Don’t Settle for Bad Relationships"

  1. LeAnn McMillan says:

    Thank you for sharing this wisdom!

    1. Kari says:

      Thanks, LeAnn!

  2. stephanie frick says:

    Wonderful wisdom for every woman!

    1. Kari says:

      Thank you, Stephanie!

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