I spent most of my 20s single. At times, it was by choice, but most often, it was not. My greatest goal since I was 8 was to meet a man and fall deeply in love. Even when I got older and became more independent, I still wanted someone by my side. I craved to experience that one true love.
Prior to 2015, my last boyfriend had been when I was 23 and right out of college. We met a few months before my graduation, and we decided to stay together when I moved out of state to take a reporting job. I didn't really see a future with him, and our relationship was meant to be an in-the-moment thing, but I couldn't let go because I had overheard him tell a friend that I could be “the one.”
It didn't matter that I didn't feel the same way toward him. I told myself I would learn to in time. The power of true love seemed so great, and I did not want to f*ck it up by not being into it.
Not surprisingly, the relationship didn't last long. I was single for seven years after that. I latched on to the few men who did float through my life, and I put full faith into them becoming the love I most desired. I would pray and beg the universe to finally let this one be mine, but they never even bloomed into relationships. Many of them met their wives after they exited my life, and I felt like a road sign on everyone else's path to love.
The longer I was single, the greater I built up the idea of "the one" in my head. Any Disney princess, rom-com storyline felt possible. At every corner of life, I looked for the man who would be my person. I thought about all the necessary qualities he must have: vegetarian, well-traveled, dog lover. I believed I would recognize him the instant I met him.
Last summer, I went on a date with a man I met on OKCupid. I had started online dating about a month prior, and although I had more dates in those few weeks than I had in the last few years, I was tiring of meeting dead ends. He took me to a Thai restaurant, which seemed a bit off because most guys had insisted on a drink or coffee for the first get-together. We talked for a few hours, and at the end of the date, he said he had an extra ticket to see a comedian the day after next and asked if I wanted to go along.
By the third time I saw him (less than a week after the initial meeting), I was prepared to end it. The previous two dates were fine, but I didn't feel any sparks. Those elusive, made-up feelings I had insisted would be present when I met the love of my life weren't there. He was a nice guy, but he just wasn't my nice guy.
Instead of breaking up that night, we eventually fell deeply in love, and we are preparing to move in together this summer. He slid right into my life like he belonged there all along. My family loves him. When we are driving down the highway in his car, I envision giggles erupting from two car seats in the back. I am the happiest I have been in a very long time.
My boyfriend is not "the one." He is not a vegetarian. He doesn't have a passport. He doesn't meet all the checks and requirements I thought I needed in a partner. I want to build a life with my boyfriend, and he does with me. But, we both know that if it were to end, we would be OK. We could find someone else to share our lives with and still be genuinely happy.
Falling love with him and being in one of the best relationships of my life has cured me of my love sickness. Instead of us fitting into perfect molds of what we think the other should be, we move with what we have together and build something off of what exists. We aren't perfect, but we don't strive for it because we know that in doing so, we would really hurt each other. Honest love is grittier than fairytales, and it's so much better.
A good relationship doesn't leave you thinking you can't live without it. Rather, it builds you up and breaks down barriers that allow you to see your own capabilities. It teaches you that love isn't effortless, but it's also not limited.
Sometimes, I wonder if there is a better fit out there for me, someone who knows the best dive bars in the city or wants to spend weekends camping. Yet, I don't wonder for long because I don't care about a "someone else." I want to be with my boyfriend. I want him to be the one who makes me laugh when I am about to pick a fight, and I want his to be the hand I hold when I am scared.
That's thing about "the one." We treat it like it's something that's just going to happen to us. We think we must wait for it, and we pray we are deserving of it.
With honest love, we get to choose. We get to say, "Here is a person who treats me kindly, who listens to me and who makes me happy, so I am going to be with him or her." We get to decide whom we want to be next to us when we go through life's ups and downs, and we keep deciding as things change, as we change.
I chose to be with the man who isn't "the one," and the expectations for perfection have dissipated. What's left, then, is a relationship that is whole and real.