At some point along the dating way, many of us are confronted with the big question—How do I know if she or he is the one?
Since my first girlfriend at 17, I had been asking “is she the one?” with almost all my girlfriends. I even spent two years wondering if my wife was “the one.” This caused us both unnecessary suffering.
I do meet some folks who report knowing they found “the one” within minutes of meeting them. Not me. I dated several women prior to meeting my wife, and many of them I thought might be the one, even though I had no interest in marriage at the time.
During my time dating these women, I often would torment myself with this “is she the one?” question. I would pick them apart, finding all of their faults and wanting them to be different. I made all of them wrong. Looking back, there was nothing wrong with these women, however, I was a pretty defended, idealistic guy with a very naïve view of love.
By focusing on what was “not perfect” with the women I dated, I could avoid taking responsibility for my own fear, unexplored blocks, and issues.
To understand this dynamic further, we have to understand what kind of love we are looking for.
In general, many of us tend to have a very young, childlike, romantic notion of relationships. In the honeymoon phase of a new relationship, everything can be amazing. Fireworks, great sex, passion abound, lovey eye-gazing and more. But for most of us, this ends after a period of 1-6 months.
Then what? Because that feeling goes away, we blame our girlfriend or boyfriend for the feeling going away. “I’m just not feeling it anymore.” “It was fun while it lasted.” “I think I love her, but I’m not in love with her,” and on and on.
So, we keep chasing that honeymoon, romantic feeling and have a hard time settling down with one person.
For example, remember the movie Jerry McGuire? Some of us think that there is actually one person who will make us feel perfect—everything will be okay. “If I just find the right person, he will satisfy the longing inside.” She will fill the void. Or as Jerry McGuire said, she “completes me.”
This is a major set up for both parties.
You know you are in a kind of romantic love-state when you are overcome with an almost euphoric, drug-like feeling.
Romantic love is where we become infatuated with a woman when we hardly know anything about her. Essentially we fall in love with our projections of who we think he is, rather than who he actually is.
When this happened for me, it never lasted and often the woman didn’t end up liking me back.
When we are in a romantic love zone, we taste the possibility of perfect love.
Perfect love or absolute love is a term coined by psychology and Buddhist author John Welwood. Welwood describes it as “the perfect love we can know in our heart.” In other words, perfect love is like the sun, radiating and penetrating—always there, on fire.
We are all capable of perfect love and when we experience it we feel like we are coming home. Perfect love is a bit more grounded and penetrating than romantic love, frightening even. Perfect love is who we are at our core. It can be quite scary.
Perfect love wakes us up to what is possible in a relationship with another person. This is what each of us longs for in every cell. We want this unconditioned love so badly we’d do anything for it. And when we experience it, we run or desperately attempt to hang on to it.
But herein, is the trap. It is impossible for another human being to provide perfect love in an ongoing way.
Why? Becauase they are flawed too.
Relative love is our ability to experience perfect love. Because we all have issues, wounds, and limitations in relationship to love, we remain blocked from consistently giving and receiving the perfect love that is always present.
Watch yourself in relationships. What patterns do you repeat? What ideas about love and women do you have? Do you ever get stuck and frustrated in intimate relationships? If so, that is relative love and it’s part of being human. This is both the good news and the bad news.
The bad news is that your issues keep you from the love you claim you want. The good news is that by diving into a committed relationship you have the opportunity to burn through your own blocks and patterns relationally so that you can experience the love you claim you want.
So why does this difference in love matter?
As Welwood states, “That is why it’s important to distinguish between absolute [perfect] and relative love — so we don’t go around seeking perfect love from imperfect situations.”
This is the great trap: In our society we are taught to believe that one person is supposed to meet our needs and make us happy so long as we both shall live. But let’s be honest. If you want to grow as a person and become stronger, more open, more whole, then having someone meet our every need probably isn’t best for you.
So, when you ask “Is she the one?” be honest about what you are expecting. Are you, like all of us, wanting perfect love from an imperfect person? Be willing to see through this game.
Trust me, it is possible to sit in the fire with a “good woman,” burn through some of your issues, and discover deeper and deeper experiences of love.
Once you begin to see the difference between these types of love, you can make mature, conscious choices about the person you are with.
The Grass is Greener
But what happens if I’m with one woman and I might be better suited for a different woman?
The “grass is greener” is a common phrase for many of us and can be incredibly stressful, causing many of us great torment.
For example, within the long-term relationships I had, I always felt like the grass was greener somewhere else. I would freak out on a regular basis and ask “should I stay or should I go?”
I created a fantasy object in my mind. Because, if I had “that woman over there” then everything would be much better than right here, right now.
You see, we all want some other person such as a dream woman to enter our life and make everything better. It is the hopeless romantic in us that really does believe some other town or city, some other job, some other person holds the key, the answer.
Ambivalence and Fear
The grass is greener mentality is often merely an excuse to not relate to your fear and ambivalence. It was for me.
Consider that you are simply scared. Scared of what? Scared to commit. Scared to experience giving and receiving relative love. Scared of facing your own issues and demons in a committed relationship. Scared of what you or they might discover if you make the deep dive with another person.
Consider that you are ambivalent. In other words, part of you wants the dive deep in a committed partnership with a lover, and part of you wants to be forever free to roam the global landscape of sexy men/women everywhere.
Let’s go back to me as an example.
While I was dating my wife, I had this fantasy woman whom I thought I was supposed to be with. Maybe she was the one, I would quietly wonder to myself. I began to chase this woman in my mind. Needless to say, it didn’t work out.
It wasn’t until later that I realized I was not chasing another woman, I was chasing another feeling. The feeling? The perfect love feeling of course. And, I did not know that it was not sustainable.
What I realized was that relative love is the path to perfect love.
So ask yourself, are you chasing a feeling or a person? What kind of love are you chasing and are you being realistic?
I’m here to nudge you to relate to your relative love situation. This is where the juice of relationship is anyway and where we begin to see relationship as a path to awakening. Remember, if you want to grow, choose relative love and know that you will experience moments of perfect love all along the way.
What else can I do?
- Get real. Stop looking to Hollywood and romance novels for examples of relationships. Instead, look around at real people in real life. Who do you want to emulate?
- Grow up. The little kid in you wants an omniscient person (like the cosmic mother or father) to fill all of your needs. But remember, you are not a child, you are an adult. That “inner child” needs you to be there, not another person.
- Ask yourself what kind of love are you chasing? Short term, romantic love? Or long term relative love wherein you and your partner have to do some amazing work to access the perfect love that exists between you.
- Stop looking to a man or woman to make you feel okay. Look to yourself. Get your own business in order, attend to your inner child, clean up the mess, stand tall and then you will attract a good lover.
- Find brilliant friends that support you to push your edges. People who also make other men or women wrong are not helping you find the right person. Get other friends that are not afraid to call bullshit on you and your games.
- Own your fear. Remember, most of us have fear come up in relationships and with intimacy. Nothing is wrong with your fear, just take full responsibility for it, rather than pretending like you are not afraid.
- Own your ambivalence. We want the best of both worlds. Women and men (esp men) want to have their cake and eat it too. I want to be in a deep, loving relationship and I want to also be alone, feel freedom, and come and go as I please.
- Challenge your own beliefs. Do you really believe that by finding “the one” that it will somehow solve your problems and make everything in your life okay?
Report back. Let’s hear your stories about how you knew or didn’t know if she was the one…