I sat for a conversation with a friend yesterday, and we got to talking about relationships. I told her about that one relationship I had which almost drove me into the ground in so many ways a few years ago. But then I told her about my marriage, and how my wife and I started dating nine years ago this summer and have been married for five years. My friend asked me how I knew that my wife was “the one.” It was a good question, and one that took me a little bit to answer.
“I don’t know,” I told her. “She just was.”
Yeah, the actual answer is a little more complicated than that, actually. But it wasn’t like I had this one moment where a switch was flipped and I knew that my wife was the one. Rather, it was a process, one that took several years to work itself out. In that time, we learned to see each other as more than mere objects of attraction. The natural processes of biology were there, and they still are, but we were then left with a feeling of deep friendship and understanding. My wife and I are a team.
We’re not “two parts of a whole” or anything like that. That’s all metaphysical babble that is not grounded in reality. So is “unconditional love,” by the way. Only parents love their children unconditionally, and, even then, there are plenty of parents who don’t love their children because said children are just not lovable. (Some children can be jerks.) Our love for each other is very much conditional. I don’t cheat on her and she doesn’t cheat on me, and we love each other. I do some chores and she does others, and we love each other. I show her respect and she shows me respect, and we love each other. I treat her well, and she treats me well, and we love each other. You get the point.
If either of us falls short of those conditions, the love would be eroded.
So I guess the best answer for when you’ll know that “the one” is “The One” is that you’ll find yourself in a position of pure love and understanding and respect towards the other person. You won’t see them as perfect, but you’ll see them as striving for perfection. They will be on your side but gently remind you if you’re being a jerk. And, most of all, they’ll push you to new heights in whatever it is that you want to do with your life. For us, I pushed her to get her second master’s degree (this one in mental health counseling) because I saw how much it meant for her to be prepared to deal with the mental health issues of her patients. In return, she is pushing me through getting the doctor in public health degree because she knows how much it means to me to try and save the world.
Yes, you’ll go from one failed relationship to another in youth and even in old age, but that’s just life. Before you know it, there’s this pretty awesome person who sees the best in you and wants to bring it out. And you’ll see the best in them and want to bring that out. The process with “the one” will be easy, with little to no drama. We don’t live in a romance novel or a romantic comedy. There is not going to be that moment when either of you runs to other’s house and stands outside in the rain to show how much you love them. That’s fantasy, and true love is real.
So tread lightly but enjoy the ride.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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