How I learned to date again after I thought I found ‘the one’

So you loved and lost someone who you thought was ‘the one.’ But here you are, alive, healed/healing, and somehow your heart finds itself beating for someone new when you thought it never could again. Losing love can be such a devastating experience as is, especially when you thought you found the one you’d spend forever with. But isn’t it crazy how the heart can repair itself? Sure this wound is probably going to be deeper than previous ones and therefore may take a bit longer to heal, but the heart can always heal once you decide to move on.

It’s the moving on that’s the hard part. But that’s the first step if you want to find love again. Losing the person we thought was our ultimate match can tempt us to want to stay heart broken forever. We may stay hung up on that person for too long, refuse to date again, or worse: find ourselves in a dysfunctional on-again-off-again relationship with them. Speaking from experience, don’t go there. Someone who’s willing to betray you once will definitely do it again.

That’s why I’ve never been crazy about the idea that there is only one person out there who’s perfect for you because A, Nobody’s perfect and B, If things don’t work out with that one person, then you’re kind of screwed. I’ve always subscribed to the belief that we have multiple soulmates (like we can have multiple best friends) because I’ve been blessed to get along perfectly with plenty of perfectly imperfect people many times in my life. Yet I still find myself attracted to the idea that there is one perfect match out there for me. Who doesn’t? It sounds so romantic in theory!

So when I fell in love with someone I’d loved more than anyone previously who seemed different and seemed like a great forever partner, I also fell head over heels for the idea that he was “the one.” I know, I know, I went completely against the whole “multiple soulmates” theory I believed in, but isn’t love madness anyway?

But when I thought I found true love and then lost it, it planted more than a few doubts. If I had felt so strongly that this person was “the one,” how could I be wrong? What if I never love someone as much as I loved him? What if I lost my chance? What if that’s as good as it gets? Well it turns out the whole concept of “the one” can really mess you up if you take it too seriously.

My problem was that I was basing who I thought was “the one” on how I felt about them and not how they treated me, and that’s a huge problem. When our romantic hearts decide to label someone as “the one” based on how strongly we feel about them, we’re basing our life decisions on hormones rather than proven evidence that they are good for us long term. Sure, he treated me how I wanted to be treated in the beginning. That, and a great sexual connection, made it seem like this was exactly the right person for me. WRONG.

But because I had believed this person was “the one,” I stayed for too long. I was infected by the idea that I had found that one perfect person for me, so I let them neglect my needs and treat me poorly. I also completely forgot that there could be other soulmates out there for me because I started to foolishly believe this was my only chance. I ended up putting up with more than the earlier version of myself in the relationship would have ever put up with in the name of “the one.” (Hint: Don’t do that.)

I think this is something that’s neglected in discussions about “the one.” They should be described as consistently romantic and good for you, not just a sudden whirlwind romance. “The one” should want to fulfill your needs all the time. Their love and good behavior shouldn’t come and go based on the seasons or are only there just when things are new and exciting. “The one” should want to earn your trust; “the one” shouldn’t betray or abandon you; “the one” should want to prove their love for you after years of being together. True love should be just as much about the 7,497th Tuesday in your marriage as it is about the honeymoon phase.

So in case you haven’t heard it before, we shouldn’t be holding out for “the one” to treat us like they did in the beginning if they’ve stopped doing that. It’s not fair to make someone believe you can give them what they need and then take it away. And it’s unrealistic to hope they will change when they’ve shown you they can’t be reliable.

Something I’ve realized—and is the key to moving on after you’ve lost someone who you thought was “the one”—is to understand that not only could more than one person be a compatible soulmate, but also more than one person could become “the one” based on their effort. “The one” is less of a picture of a perfectly compatible human, and more of a state of being. It is possible that the person I dated was “the one” for me for a while but couldn’t retain that title for long. “The one” isn’t a person, “the one” is the state of being the partner you need. Anyone could become, or cease to be, that person at any time.

That’s how I’ve been able to move on and let love in after losing “the one.” I’ve learned that when my heart tells me someone is “the one,” it just means it really likes where things are going, and would like them to stay that way. I’ve learned that the “multiple soulmates” theory helps make the concept of “the one” make more sense when you consider many different people could become “the one” only after continually being better than not only everyone else, but better than they were yesterday. After all, you’re only going to know if they are in for the long haul when they prove it to you.

[Image via Universal Pictures]