I believe that you can find out a lot about a person by asking them if they believe in true love, or this idea of a soul mate. It is a very idealistic, optimistic point of view to believe that in the 7 billion humans on Earth, there is one of them that is meant for you. You must be even more of an optimist to believe that you could even meet that person (I mean the odds alone are stacked against you). But I always love to meet those people, and hear why they feel there is an individual handcrafted for them. My ears always perk with awe as stories of first sight glances, and romantic runaways butterfly their way in. I find the cynic in me lifting away to reveal streaks of romanticism running wild imagining a destiny of love awaiting me since before I was born.
I’ve always wished that I believed in true love. It must be a truly satisfying and comforting, but equally terrifying and heartbreaking notion to know that there is only one out there for us, and that we have to wade through the seas of rejection, heartbreak, and misfortune to find them. I’ve always wished that I felt similar, that I was drawn by this fascination, by the romantic fairytale of a princess (or prince) in a castle. But I am not.
Love comes and goes, without a finite number, without a quota to fill or a box to check. Love is there, and then gone, like the wind or a chance encounter. Love can be behind the register, in the car next to you, or in the room down the hall, or all that at differing times. Love changes, evolves as we do. The innocent, first time love from our teenage years is a humbling encounter compared to the mature, long run love we experience as grow.
It forces me to ask why. Why do we believe that there is another, sculpted from from the clay of life, destined to be side by side? Why do we hold the value of love that we do? These bring a few thoughts to mind. I’ve witnessed romantic encounters end without a hesitation, citing the reason of, “She (or he) just wasn’t the one, it didn’t feel right.” Maybe that is true, maybe our hearts know long before we do. But what is “the one”? Does this idea that there is one for us force us into ending relationships prematurely, and scoffing at chances before they come to fruition?
Yes, yes it does. This notion that we are destined for eternal love closes the door on any mistakes, on any hiccups. The notion that true love just arrives, just appears at our door leaves us aghast when that love comes with work. That is what this whole experience is: work. There is no love without work, no happiness, or joy, or fairytale ending with work. We believe that someone will just come sweep us off of our feet, woo us away with a 10K diamond, set us up for a life of bliss, but then we cut and run the moment this life seems blurry. The moment our partner shows a flaw, we “know” that they can’t be the one for us.
There is no love without work. Any other belief will set us up for disappointment. Love is what comes after you work at a relationship, after you overcome the fights and accept the flaws. When I was 17 I asked my grandmother if her and my grandfather ever fought in their marriage. She chuckled, and explained to me that there will always be issues, you just have to manage them.
But yet, we hold out for the right person. We run the streets, search the bars, and scan the feeds looking for someone to sweep us away. So before we even worry about working in love, about establishing a “happy ever after”, and fixing our preconceived notions of happiness in relationships, we must first find the right person? So how do we do that? How do we find the right person? Easy, you become the right person.
You become the right person. Someone who finds joy their own, someone who is capable of saving themselves, because no one will save you. If we focused inward, instead of focusing outward, we would find all of the love we need. Have you ever imagined what the world would look like if we had all of the love that we needed? My friend (and supervisor) Charlie asked me that question. I didn’t have an answer, until a few days later when I realized that everything we do is a call out for love. Every attempt for fame, every book or TV show, every conversation around a desolate kitchen table. Imagine if we found all of the love we would ever need inside, then what type of mate would we be? What type of person would we be?
We become the right person when we accept that no one will fix us. No one will be the glue that binds us together, we must do that ourselves. We are our own glue. We must hold ourselves together, and see them as a compliment, as an added bonus to a life already fulfilled. We must acknowledge that relationships are hard, and as NF says, “If you want love, you’re going to have to go through the pain, you’re going to have to learn how to change, you’re going to have to give some away.” We have to put in work to become ready to love, and to become able to love, which are two different things. We all want cheap, easy love that lasts a lifetime. We spend 30 seconds investing in a swipe right or $6 in a second drink at a bar, only to watch it crumble away and wonder why the world is against us.
The world isn’t against us, we are just matching two sides of a magnet that won’t come together. Two people, who never took the time to become the people they must be on their own, who see each other as a fix to the void that lives inside, two people like that, will never last. Once we become the right person, we will be able to recognize the right in other people. We can make smart decisions about love, and we can avoid the endless cycle of swooning over looks and jaw lines. Because we know that spending time on Tinder is pointless, because “people searching for a mate based solely on looks are not the kind of people you have much use for.” (Michael and Sarah Bennett F*ck Feelings).
When we are the right people, we can build a foundation for our relationships. We can find people who we know fit into our lives, and we can accept when faults and hiccups occur without compromising our relationship. When we are the right person, we know that, “If you care enough to find someone who’s right for you, not someone who makes you feel right, you’ll find what you truly need.” (Michael and Sarah Bennett F*ck Feelings). When we become the right person, finding a companion does not become a to-do task, but an added complement of an already satisfactory life.
This is echoed in marriage counseling as well. Having a conversation over breakfast in a small tourist town in Eastern Alaska, a man told me the story of his relationship, and his and his wife’s journey from true love, to struggle, to work. He explained his encounters in marriage counseling, laughing while he said that walking in, he expected the counselor to accept his story, and blame his wife for the issues. But, without hesitation, the counselor looked back at this man and asked him why? Why is it your wife’s job to make you happy? Why do these things that your wife does, why do they upset you? Chuckling while sipping on his coffee, he said that as a grown man, he finally realized that in order to be a successful partner, he must first be a successful individual. He concluded with the sentiment, “Even after 40 years of marriage, we still have issues that arise to work on. But that is love.”
If we search for someone to be the meaning in our lives, we will always be let down. Once we find meaning in ourselves, in our own lives, then can we find the right person. Only then will that leap of faith, that synapse between safety and rejection seem worth it. Only then will we know that we can risk reaching out, in order to bring someone in, because we know that if we fail, we are not failures. If we accept that love is work, that no one can save us from ourselves, and that in order to find the right person, we must become the right person, then maybe, just maybe, will we have the courage and the ability to not only reach for, but also to make the most of the opportunity when it arrives.