From the moment we are conscious, we have been taught to search for “the one”, our “soul mate”, the person who will “complete us”.
Little girls imagine knights on shiny unicorns (or in my case, villains on naked centaurs), and boys imagine—well, I’m not sure what they imagine, but certainly they are imagining something if the vast numbers of them who have signed up on Match.com is any indication.
From Adam and Eve, to Osiris and Isis, to Aristophanes’ depiction of original humans as a combination of a man and a woman which was so powerful the gods felt the need to sever them in two, to the simpering faces of Renee Zelweger and Tom Cruise in Jerry McGuire, the iconic idea of our dream partner is embedded in cultures and across generations.
Too bad reality is not quite so romantic.
We stumble around blindly in bars and online, squeezing melons in produce sections and having coffee dates like our lives depend on it, only to find ourselves—more often than not—either still alone or settling.
What a drag.
But I have good news: we can all still find “the one”!
First, let me tell you a little story.
Once upon a time there was a beautiful little girl. She did everything girls are supposed to do.
When she was 28, she met a boy (many boys actually, as beautiful girls will, and all girls are beautiful), and this boy asked her to marry him. She said yes.
A year or so after saying yes, she suddenly felt a “no” clawing its way up from deep inside. She was brave enough to speak the “no” out loud, and sent the boy away.
It was only then that she began to find “the one”.
Yes, you guessed it. “The one” was actually the girl herself, and after she called off her wedding she began an amazing voyage of self discovery and fell in love.
Here is another version.
Once upon a time there was beautiful little girl. She did everything girls are supposed to do.
When she was 28 she met a boy (many boys actually, as beautiful girls will—and all girls are beautiful), and this boy asked her to marry him. She said yes. But she didn’t feel the “yes” down to the marrow of her bones.
They were married for many years and had several children, and when they were all grown she decided she didn’t like her husband anymore and made him go away.
It was only then that she began to find “the one”.
I did not always know this secret of secrets, but it is true: for each and every one of us, “the one” abides within, and we can make it easier or more difficult to connect with her. We can do it in our youth or wait until old age– but the younger we are when we seek her out, the more time we have to enjoy her.
So how do we start this romance of a lifetime?
Here are some ideas:
1. Write letters to the person you were, the person you are, and the person you hope to be.
Here is an example of a letter I wrote to my past self.
When we write these letters we must take great care in expressing our disappointments, our hopes, our resentments, our fears, and our loves. We can forgive ourselves and dream—let it all hang out.
We can be silly and brave—just as we are when we are “in love”.
We can try and see ourselves as if through the eyes of a lover—becoming bewitched by our magic, sympathetic to our cause and desirous of our success.
Then we need to save these letters. We will want to read them someday.
2. Do something that scares you almost every day.
By doing something scary I don’t mean jumping off of bridges. For me, answering the phone is scary (seriously). I simply mean, doing something outside our comfort zone. Baking a ziti? Fine. Wearing our hair in some funky braids? Okay.
By putting ourselves in crucibles, we find out who we really are, and we give ourselves a chance to love that person.
3. Help other people.
Oh, I know it’s so boring.
Do charity work, find yourself. But you know what? When we are genuinely interested in the fate of our fellow human beings, we not only grow, but we find our own true north.
And in the meantime, while we are doing these things: writing letters, and being brave and charitable, let’s say we meet someone. How can we tell if they will be a fitting compliment to us—a.k.a.—“the one”?
Ask these questions:
Is she/he kind?
For example, if I were to walk out of the bathroom in a nice restaurant with 4 feet of toilet paper stuck to my shoe, would my intended gently pull me aside and let me know about it? Or would he laugh at me in front of the entire table?
Pay attention. These small moments speak volumes.
Also, watch how love interests treat waiters, cashiers, taxi drivers and their mother.
If I had understood that the true measure of a person is in how they deal with the people who serve them, I would have saved myself a lot of aggravation.
Do I like him/her?
It seems so obvious. If we’re in love, of course we are in like.
Not the case. Once our passion wears thin—say, after 10 years or so—that habit of picking the skin off of one’s toes becomes, if not grotesque, at least possible grounds for divorce.
Can we see past that toe skin? Do we still enjoy the foot that’s left behind?
Can I forgive his/hers/my trespasses?
It’s certain that, throughout the course of any longterm relationship, there will be some poor decision making. In other words, we will all betray our beloved.
Whether it is with a look, a misplaced word or even an affair, things happen that must be gotten past. If we are holding grudges when obvious reparations are being made, it is a sign we should move on.
So what is the bottom line?
We cannot/should not fall in love with someone else until we know and trust and love ourselves. It is inconvenient, this dictate, because life is short, and when are we supposed to get all this self love done in between changing our sheets and going to the grocery store?
I don’t know. But be done it must. Because if we don’t invest in finding “the one”, our own true one, ourselves, then nothing else really matters.
On the other hand, if we do find the time and the courage to discover ourselves, a true romance awaits us all—the beauty of which would make the Greek gods tremble.
Author: Erica Leibrandt
Editor: Caroline Beaton
Photo: YouTube Still