I’ve attended a lot of weddings this summer (my own included in that). And in going to so many weddings, the question naturally arises “how do you know when you’ve found ‘the one’?”
This is a very anxiety producing question in our culture. Many of us were raised on a diet of fairy tale love stories, Disney movies, and rom-coms that depict moments where the light bulb goes off, things click, and suddenly the characters in the story just know that this other person is the one they want to spend the rest of their lives with.
And while that makes for a good story, real life doesn’t actually work that way all the time. Often there is much more ambiguity. “He makes me smile and laugh, but I don’t know how he’s going to be with kids.” “She really understands me and I feel really close to her, but am I ready to commit to something for the rest of my life?” “He is a great partner, I feel emotionally safe with him, we have fun together, I know he’s going to be committed and loving…but I always imagined there would be more passion, so am I settling?”
Deciding if it is time to get married, to move the relationship deeper, is difficult. And yet, it is a decision that must be made because without movement and change, relationships stagnate and die. So how do you know when you’ve found “the one?”
First, ask yourself if you feel safe and supportive in being your most authentic self around them. This is jokingly called the “farting-in-bed test,” but really there is so much more to authenticity than normal human bodily functions. Can you share your biggest regrets with this person without them putting you down or rubbing it in your face? Can you exhibit all your shadow qualities in front of them and still have their unconditional love? Note that my questions aren’t about your feelings. I’m not asking “can you share your biggest regrets with this person and not be afraid of being put down”…I am asking “can you share your biggest regrets with this person and not be put down?” You’ll always be scared that this other person won’t love the parts of you where you’ve fallen short, made mistakes, and do things that aren’t attractive. So it isn’t about finding a relationship where you don’t feel that fear because you probably will never find that relationship. It is about finding a relationship where that fear rarely or never materializes.
Second, ask yourself if this person helps you grow. Does being in a relationship with this person push you to gain new relationship skills, dig deeper in understanding yourself, or be a more loving presence in the world? In this relationship do you feel invited to grow or do you feel like you are just getting by? The most meaningful relationships in our lives are the ones that lead us towards growth. Every single one of my most meaningful friendships, past girl-friends, and relationships with clients are ones where I learned something about myself or grew in some new capacity. Again, notice that my question is about being in the relationship, not about what your partner does. It is not about your partner forcing you, pestering you, or shaming you into changing. Even if they claim they are doing it so that you can “grow.” If your partner pushes you to change, then go back and consider whether you can be your most authentic self with this person.
And finally, how do you know if you’ve found the one? You don’t. You don’t know because in part there probably isn’t just one person who is your soul mate and completes you. Be wary of the notion that the person you marry should somehow complete you, or make you whole, that is the definition of co-dependency. And in life there are no guarantees. So this anxiety over “is this the one” is overblown. There is no such thing as “the one,” and even if they are that “one” right now it doesn’t guarantee they will be that “one” for the rest of your lives.
So ultimately answering that question comes down to courage and trust.