A couple of things before I start:
1. Everyone, anywhere, feels the pain of romantic loneliness at some point during their life.
2. It’s almost always cishet women who are being badgered in society about whether they are “the one” or not. I don’t know why. Maybe because marriage rights are still not equally distributed, maybe because marriage is still viewed as a contract where female-identified persons have the lower bargaining position. Either way, the act of choosing and being chosen is still a gendered thing so this article will be aimed at the people who are taking the brunt of the stereotype.
If you haven’t guessed it already, I think the pressure of being “the one” is utter horse shit and we’ll all be better off without it. I recognize that – like all dating cliches – the idea came from a good place, but – like many dating cliches – it has now morphed into something ugly and unpleasant.
Here’s what being “the one” is supposed to be about: being secure and happy in a relationship. Feeling like you are with someone who respects you, cherishes you, and looks after you. Experiencing reciprocity. Having safety and security to be who you truly are – emotionally, physically, mentally. It’s facing life’s hardships without flinching. It’s looking into someone’s face and being completely happy with the idea of never being with another person in this way again. Ever.
Nice, right? Except now being “the one” has turned into filing your own rough edges in order to attract someone as fast as possible. It’s throwing your instincts and self-respect to the wind for the sake of having the “partner” box ticked. It’s diets and trendy clothes and being an endless adventure sexually, all while shrinking your emotions and needs to their maximum potential. It’s trying to make more money, regardless of how, about driving a fast car, and not giving a shit about returning your partner’s emotional labor. It’s narcissism in dating form – “I haven’t got a personality of my own, but I will find the person who reflects on me the best.”
It’s pretty sucky, and the only way you can “win” (besides switching off your own human heart) is to stop playing.
Stop surrounding yourself with people who make you feel insecure.
Stop indulging people who act entitled to your patience, your body, your emotional labor, without reciprocation.
Be the jerk who asserts themselves, who doesn’t take shit. Be the one who says what’s on their mind. Be the one who your friends call, not for empty lip service, but because you tell it like it is. Be the voice of reason.
Will that make you less popular? Most likely. Guess what though: the ones who are left behind will be the ones you want to keep. You will spend time with people who share your values, who appreciate your honesty, who are not afraid to be vulnerable, and who will protect you when you need their help.
I’m not just talking about lovers here. It’s time for you to look at your social circle, and find the friends who really have your back. If that sounds scary, it’s because it means confronting your own people-pleasing tendencies. It’s thinking about the people you surround yourself with and asking yourself who would actually come to your help in an emergency, and who wouldn’t piss on you if you were on fire. You might have to admit – to yourself, at least – that some of your oldest pals are also the ones who enable you to stay in sucky relationships for a lot longer than you should.
But it’s necessary.
Because this is what it means, to never be “the one”: it’s always doubting yourself. It’s lack of trust, and blaming yourself for bad decisions. It’s self-monitoring and self-censure. It’s looking at your partner with suspicion, wondering when the next shoe will drop. It’s scrolling through your phone, desperate to talk to someone, but knowing that none of your friends is likely to be a sympathetic ear.
It’s no way to live. It’s hardly a way to survive.