Caution: adult language below!
I just came across the (popular) elephant journal article To the Women who are Never “The One.”
I’m not going to sugarcoat my feelings here: it pissed me off.
In it, the author goes through a list of five reasons why we (women) should take a good hard look at ourselves to figure out why we aren’t finding our “One” (man).
With all due respect to the author, I believe she’s missing the point.
Actually, she’s missing many points.
The article offers a list of why we need to examine ourselves to figure out what we are doing to make this happen, the implication being that we (“women”) really only have ourselves to blame for the fact that we haven’t yet found a life partner.
Since it’s our own fault that we are never “the One,” then making this happen is entirely up to us. Not once does she address the entire life situation of the reader, let alone the situation of their would-be partner.
The way that she links our need to be independent with not “relying” on men is a bit dated—I’m pretty sure that we can do both. We can let our lovers be our “heroes” at some point or another, but that in the end this doesn’t have a ton to do with long-term partnership. A long term partnership has to do more with interdependence than whether a man is her “hero,” at the outset. A great long term relationship is most likely created out of the practice and work of both parties, not some set of heroic gestures.
She also alludes to women who “think we’re more like a guy” and then that “we think women are manipulative.” Yes I’ve been that “cool chick” and known lots of them—but guess what? Neither of these things really have to do with finding a partner. Lots of women who identify with behaviour that is traditionally male have partners. The point is that we are either open to love or not.
If we are going around thinking that other women are manipulative, this is a whole other ball of wax that we should probably look into whether we are single or not.
We don’t need to be perfect to have love or make it. But we probably need to practice dropping judgement and drama in order to experience some solid love.
To her point about how “we think we’re different:”
Well, actually yeah I’m different. I’m different in that the thought of settling into a life long relationship that is not happy or satisfying or healthy scares the crap out of me.
I don’t think this is a bad thing.
Here’s a novel idea: maybe we really don’t need “the One.”
Imagine the possibility that not having or finding this person could actually be—well, great, instead of sad? It sounds sad because society tells us that it is—but it doesn’t have to be sad!
Relationships shift and sway. People move and travel and change. Heck, even sexual preference and romantic orientation are flexible for some folks. Many people (men and women and other identities) of us live (or want to life) alternative lifestyles that don’t fit into the nuclear family kind of norm.
This is just part of life as a single(ish) adult today.
What if we can really enjoy our lives and our love without tunnelling into this vision of fairytale romance? What if we choose to view the extra space that this offers as something that offers us more freedom to choose our lives and partners?
What if we are open to loving and living in different ways, thereby connecting with people in a natural way instead of pushing for it?
Do I want to be in a loving relationship? Of course I do.
Am I lonely sometimes? Hell yes.
Am I anti-monogamy? Not exactly.
But I also have a pretty strong intuition that boxing ourselves into this one way of doing relationships can be suffocating if not worse.
I’d love to find a solid life partner, but I’m not holding out for it. Nor do I assume that not having “that” is due to the fact that I suck.
It’s partly choice and partly circumstance.
Here are some reasons why I’m happy to step back and reframe:
1. Seeing ourselves.
When we’re already (maybe) a little lonely and thinking that there is something wrong with us, then we read an article that hammers this home even more…isn’t this kind of like pouring salt on a wound?
We need to practice self-reflection and personal growth without self-flagellation.
2. Understanding and accepting how our current life situation affects our relationships.
Preferences, hobbies, needs, obligations. We don’t always have room for a full time, monogamous relationship, and that’s okay. If a career or travel is what brings us the most joy and satisfaction, we should stick with that, and meet people along those paths of doing what we love.
3. Exploring different relationship structures.
This fits with #2: just because we don’t have time or energy to prioritize one person full time, it doesn’t mean we can’t have meaningful relationships, whether they are romantic/sexual in nature or not.
4. Having realistic expectations of the future.
Maybe we have a substantial commitment like the caretaking of elderly parents, going back to get a PhD or helping a friend to raise their kids. Ideally our life partner will be along for the ride no matter what. But let’s not forget that—especially for those of us who are a little older—they will likely have other substantial commitments too. In this way not only is it harder to find a partner, it’s harder to mesh schedules.
It’s about logistics, energy and resources just as much as actual love…getting to know one another takes time!
5. Knowing that I am not the center of the universe.
I had an ex tell me recently that “I was a really great girlfriend.” It was a compliment, but it pissed me off. It bothered me because what I really wanted to hear was “you are a really great person.”
To the extent that a focus on “the One” objectifies this other person (ie: a thing to fill a gap in life)—it also objectifies ourselves.
I don’t want to be anyone’s One and I don’t want to put this pressure on another person, either. I want to have an equal partnership.
The romantic notion that we are supposed to boil our entire world down towards a single other person (whether that’s them to us or us to them) is unrealistic and dangerous. It can work, but it seems to me like so many people have blinders on and then are surprised and deflated when they discover that the partner/relationship isn’t what they expected it to be during that initial haze of love.
Either waiting on or totally resisting this concept of “the One” are both ways of attaching to an idea that we are deeply conditioned into thinking our lives depend on. We think it’s the be all and end all, and that’s our main problem—no matter what our gender or sex or age or background or preferences are.
Maybe we there are just factors in our lives—both internal and extraneous—that aren’t really matched up to this quest for “the One.”
Maybe this lack of a perfect partner is pretty awesome—even miraculous—in it’s own way.
And maybe we and our (would-be) friends and lovers and lives are pretty great as is.
Author: Renée Picard
Image: Daria Nepriakhina Unsplash