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Your Soulmate Isn’t Who You Think It Is.

Bonus: How to Find the One.

Mark Radcliffe thinks you should skip the supermodel and go for the one who loves you even on your worst days.

We all have our own romanticized notions of what it will be like when we find true love. How it’ll go. What it’ll feel like. What he or she will look like, sound like, act like. Even kiss like.

And every once in a while, we actually meet that person. There they are! In the bar standing next to us! Or down the hall at work! Or in the line at the bookstore!

They’re perfect. Everything we imagined. And so we engage. And chase. And pursue. And assume our very best behavior. And fight for a chance at that perfect union we’ve imagined in our heads for so long.

And sometimes it works! We get their phone number. And a date! And a second date! And sometimes it even goes a month or two!

But then at some point, it runs afoul. What once seemed effortless becomes arduous. The perfect conversations suddenly don’t flow as easily. The shine has worn off the apple. It’s work, now. And who has time for that?

And here’s where many a relationship come to an unfortunate end. Because the other person thinks it should only be constant magic. That anything else is merely a false symbol.

But we still chase them! We want it back! We think of what we can do to possibly salvage this sinking ship. Should we change ourselves? Adjust our behavior? Change our whole personality? After all: this is love. Surely it’s worth sacrificing for, no?

No, I’m here to say. It’s not. Because there’s a big, horrible idea out there in the world of romance: That if it’s not hard, it’s not real.

True romance must be earned, we believe. Struggled for. Barely survived.

If it comes easy, it’s wrong. Shallow. Too simple.

We must suffer for love. We must cry with certain regularity. Lose our faith time and time again only to barely regain it again.

I humbly submit that such a belief is the romantic equivalent of 100% grade-A bullsh*t.

Perhaps it comes from our culture’s puritanical beginnings. The notion that anything great is worth suffering for.

And while I agree that love takes work, patience and forgiveness, I don’t think it should involve perpetual, ongoing damage-control.

If the relationship you’re in takes constant, ongoing acrobatic maneuvers to keep it afloat, then it’s not a relationship; it’s a doomsday project.

Relationships, in general, should be easy.

If they’re taking a ton of work, a ton of the time, something’s wrong.

Chances are either that:

A) One (or both) of you is not a stable enough person to even be in a relationship to begin with, and you need to go off on your own to learn how to keep yourself perfectly happy with nothing more than yourself to sustain you. (And yes, I’ve been this person many times.)

B) One of you has unrealistic expectations of what the other is supposed to provide them on a regular basis. (And yes, I’ve been this person, too.) They think you’re supposed to keep them constantly entertained. Or wined and dined. Or sexually pleasured. Or emotionally rescued. Or financially bailed out.

Neither of which is sustainable.

Which is why I say the following:

Don’t chase the person you can barely hold on to when you’re at the top of your game.

Seek out the person you can be happy with even when you’re having a bad day. Or week. Or month.

Because those days will happen, many, many times over the course of a relationship.

And the person who’s only happy with you when you’re a superhero will not stick around when you finally become a mortal again and need them to be there for you, instead.

So skip the supermodel. The pursuit of your own personal Jessica Alba or David Beckham. It might be heaven for a week or two, but they’d probably dump you as soon as you failed to be the emblem of perfection for more than 2-3 seconds in a row.

That perfect pairing with the Mister or Miss Right we’ve all imagined in our hearts isn’t going to survive the endless ordinary days that real life is fraught with.

The person who’s truly right for you is probably cleverly disguised as the one you work with every day. Or the one who you’ve casually known in your circle of friends for five years. Who has seen you at your best and at your worst. And is still there, a big believer in your immense potential. And is probably an amazing kisser if you’d just give them a chance.

That’s the person it’s going to be genuinely easy with over the long haul.

So the next time you’re looking for the one, don’t look up on some stage or pedestal for some shining realization of your fantasies. Turn around and look behind you. At the person you might have overlooked. The person who is quietly everything you need them to be and more.

You just have to give them a deeper look.

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—Photo he(art)geek/Flickr

* This essay originally appeared on The Good Men Project on 01/18/12

Bonus: Red Flag, Green Flag, the One! A Buddhist view:

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Elizabeth Jan 14, 2016 8:46am

I loved reading this article. For years I had this belief installed that I needed to work really hard to get anything in life. In other areas of my life it seems to work that way. In love it has been an effortless struggle. Last year I met an amazing man and I truly believed he was my soulmate. There was mutual love, companionship, respect, friendship, support and so many other amazing qualities and I truly thought this was my time to be happy in love. It was so easy… suddenly when I least expected it things turned around so rapidly that before I knew it I was alone again. I went through a rough period but am standing strong on my two feet. It´s been a year to of lessons learned. I have chosen to let go, to stop struggling and believe that someone wonderful is on it´s way. Thank-you for sharing.

Krista Nov 12, 2015 3:00pm

I somewhat understand the premise.. But do not believe its delivery was effective for me. I agree that it is harmful to chase fantasy’s .. But don’t let the meaning of that get twisted. I do NOT mean I think anyone should settle. I do however think a lot of people create an image of what they want , which is fine and healthy , until they apply it to a relationship that doesn’t line up, and run into resentment galore when the other person doesn’t meet them where their imagination has demanded.
I do NOT think it has anything to do with the reference to ‘models’ and all of that . So please explain what is meant by these statements? Good looking people are just all doomsday waiting to happen? This is a small minded approach to prove the intended point I’m afraid. Grouping models/attractive people into a ‘class’ to be stereotyped all as one…. is, well, unfair and judgmental. Those statements hugely diminish the impact of the message unfortunately.

Jska Nov 11, 2015 7:53pm

But what if you (me) do everything the same way as far as caring and doing nice gestures but the other changes? We went from long talks to barely speaking. He basically ignores me now. zero attention, hasn’t touched me in forever and rarely helps me with kids. I’m really lonely now and he doesn’t seem to care. Anytime I bring my feelings up it turns into a competition about who works more and harder. I also have a stressful job that pays very well. I did fine on my own before him. In a nutshell my feelings and needs don’t matter.

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The Good Men Project is a cerebral, new media alternative to glossy men’s magazines. Founded by Tom Matlack in 2009, it’s become a social movement: an ongoing in-depth discussion asking “what does it mean to be a good man in these modern times?” Proceeds from The Good Men Foundation are used to support organizations that help at-risk boys.