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I hear it all the time. “You’re 25, it’s about time you bring a girl around for the holidays.” “You have a good job, why not a wife?” We’ve all heard this crap, but it’s nothing new, of course. Hell, it’s even in the opening line of Pride and Prejudice. And I can only imagine how much worse it is for those of you who are a few years older than me. No matter how many times I hear it, I give the same response: “Just haven’t met the right person yet,” even though Chris Christie is closer to giving up M&Ms than I am to even consider settling down. I think the people asking me confuse my irritation with sadness, because they inevitably follow up with words of encouragement: “Don’t lose hope, you’ll find the one soon enough.”
I hate hearing people talk about “the one.” Growing up, my parents used the phrase fairly often when describing the type of woman I would settle down with when I am ready for marriage – gorgeous, smart, successful, loyal, madly in love with me, etc. I’m sure many of you had the exact same experience. We see it in TV shows and movies: nice guy meets hot girl but hot girl is with someone who is obviously wrong for her. Girl realizes the error of her ways and sees the nice guy for what he really is: a soulmate, the one, or whatever you want to call it. Change up the sexes, add or subtract love interests, and you basically have a plot for half of what has been on TV and movies for the last bajillion years.
But there’s one glaring problem: there is no such thing as “the one.”
We’ve been told otherwise our whole lives. Why? Because it’s easier for a parent to tell their heartbroken high schooler that they got cheated on because that person isn’t “the one” than to suggest that ignoring your boyfriend will cause him look for attention elsewhere. It’s easier to tell yourself that your ex-girlfriend banged her personal trainer because she is a slut, and therefore not “the one,” rather than blame at the 40 pounds you gained since you entered the relationship. “The one” is a convenient lie we tell ourselves so we don’t have to confront our culpability in unpleasant romantic situations. Besides, “happily ever after” makes for a much cleaner ending for TV shows and rom-coms than “and they made sacrifices for each other every day of their relationship and kept in shape and communicated to work through their problems and went through periodic bouts of resentment but pulled through and eventually reached a happy medium ever after.”
This isn’t to say that every relationship that goes south is entirely your fault. Maybe you didn’t do anything wrong and you broke up due to circumstances beyond your control. But if you find yourself consistently looking outwards for explanations as to why you still haven’t achieved your goals (in this case a significant other), maybe it’s time to look inward.
Belief in the idea of “the one” breeds complacency. If you believe that all you have to do is keep the faith until your soulmate shows up and loves you, warts and all, then there is very little incentive to improve yourself. Why should I hit the gym to drop the inner tube if I know my own ScarJo clone is waiting in the wings to love me forever? Why should I work the extra hours at the office to be noticed by the partners for when I inevitably want to join their ranks if I know that my future Mrs. Winger will be happy with me no matter what job I have? At its heart, the idea of waiting for “the one” embraces a strong a sense of entitlement: “I’m entitled to marry the woman of my dreams because… that’s what I’ve been told all my life.” Reality has a way of proving this belief wrong, but that’s the problem with beliefs – they often persist despite reality’s insistence otherwise.
The concept of “the one” also skews how we should view relationships. Your significant other isn’t the final puzzle piece of your life that promises everlasting happiness and consistent sex (was that redundant?). They aren’t the cure-all for your insecurities and anxieties. Call me old-fashioned, but I think a significant other is someone to whom you should give your best self, not someone who you expect to accept you no matter what. GSElevator said it well: “My wife would leave me if I lost my money. And I’ll trade her in if she gets fat.” Sure it’s crass satire, but the underlying principle is sound: why should someone choose to be with you if you aren’t the best version of yourself?
At the risk of sounding like an Instagram model, it’s incredibly important to find your happiness and fulfillment from within yourself, and most especially not from “the one.” It took a breakup several months ago for me to finally realize that. The moment you make your happiness dependent another person, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. After all, no human can possibly live up to the idealized version of “the one” that has been built up in our heads over the years, so the sooner we disabuse ourselves of the notion, the better. And you know what? I’ve been much happier since I learned that and began focusing on improving myself and spending time with the people I care about: friends and family. And if all else fails, look to Chris Christie for inspiration: M&Ms never disappointed anyone..
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