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Sex + Relationships

How Searching for “The One” Prevents Finding Happiness in Relationships

Movies, books, music, and the media often represent love and relationships in unrealistic ways. We grow up with fairytales and YA romance novels promising us that we’ll one day find “the one.” However, as I’ve gotten older and more experienced in a long-term relationship, I’ve become extremely aware of the fact that finding “the one” is a myth, and it prevents us from being fully present in our relationships. Specifically, the idea of “the one” not only puts pressure on us to search for “perfection” from our partner, but also to only value relationships that have the capacity to last forever.

As a young teenager, I surrounded myself with love stories and enjoyed fantasizing about eventually meeting my “soulmate” and living “happily ever after.” Most people know that the process of falling in love is the easy part, but choosing to be with someone after the honeymoon phase ends is a daily commitment—and it’s not always easy. This is the main issue with the way love stories are typically portrayed: they show the couple falling in love and focus on the happy ending, but we rarely get to see how they get there.

Navigating a serious relationship is especially difficult when you have years of preconceived notions about what being in love should be like. Throughout my current three–year relationship, some of my happiest moments have been tainted by thoughts like, What if I’m with the wrong person? or What if we eventually break up? It became exhausting to repeatedly have my happiness undermined by self-doubt.

Placing value on your relationship based on events that haven’t even taken place can be extremely harmful to you, your partner, and your relationship. You can become so preoccupied with trying to analyze whether the relationship feels like the “right” one that you end up taking all of the small, fulfilling moments for granted. 

I realized that I was putting so much pressure on my relationship, I wasn’t actually allowing myself to experience it fully. I’ve learned to practice mindfulness and to be present in my relationship, rather than projecting my worries or trying to predict the future. This has led me to one extremely important revelation that people don’t talk about enough: a relationship is not only valid if it lasts.

Being in a long relationship can feel extremely vulnerable, because there’s always the possibility that it won’t last. For a long time, I allowed myself to believe that if my relationship eventually ended in a break up, all of my feelings and effort would’ve been for nothing, and my fears would’ve been right all along—but this couldn’t be further from the truth!

Any relationship that leaves you feeling happy and fulfilled deserves to be celebrated—not only the ones that last! The idea of “the one” has caused us to invalidate any relationship that doesn’t ultimately end in “success,” which can severely alter our perspectives when looking back on “failed” relationships.

Even if a relationship doesn’t last forever, that isn’t always because you were with the wrong person; sometimes things just don’t work out, and that isn’t a reflection of the time you spent together. It’s so important to understand that if a relationship ends, it doesn’t mean that all of your memories need to be invalidated or forgotten because of a not-so-happy ending! This is one of the most difficult ideas to unlearn about how we have been taught to see relationships through the perspective of finding “the one.”

Specifically, the idea of “the one” places too much emphasis on the big picture and end product of a relationship, when the most important part of any relationship is the day-to-day. Instead of dreaming, regretting or stressing over what could be, think about what is!

If you ever find yourself doubting your relationship because you’re about finding “the one,” turn toward creating meaningful connections with people without the pressure of perfection. After all, even if a relationship doesn’t last, the connections and memories made during its lifetime deserve to be valued and remembered. Most importantly, there’s not just a single person who’ll perfectly complete you. Don’t put pressure on yourself to find that person, and don’t put pressure on your partner to be that person. Instead, be present in your relationships and let go of any ideas of love that prevent you from finding the happiness you deserve.

Hi! I'm Emily, and I'm currently a Senior at the University of Pennsylvania. I'm majoring in Sociology and minoring in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies. I love concerts and crystals, and I spend most of my time listening to music or rewatching the same 5 movies I've loved since high school.
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