A lot of relationship advice hinges on the idea of “The One.” The One is a single, special person who is innately drawn to your most attractive qualities and forgiving of your less appealing ones. It’s someone with whom you have an immediate, easy banter; in short, it’s the person that you know you’re going to marry after the first date.
The One is a catch-all idea, one that basically represents the least amount of work possible on your part to have a successful, fulfilling relationship. It’s a fairy tale, but a lot of people buy into it; worse, they use it as an excuse not to date anyone.
The thinking behind this attitude is simple: “If somebody is The One, they’ll show up no matter what I do!” But as anyone with any significant time spent in the dating pool can attest, great partners usually don’t just spring unbidden from the ground like tomato plants.
Holding out for The One isn’t a good idea; in fact, by doing so, you’re almost guaranteeing that you’re going to miss your opportunity to meet them.
A lot of people treat dating as if it’s about the destination: finding the right person for them and settling down. But more than that, dating is about the journey. Knowing exactly what you want in a partner is good, but just as important is knowing what you don’t want in a partner.
For example, you may think “My ideal partner needs to love When Harry Met Sally as much as I do,” or “The One will accompany me to Universal Studios and cosplay as Harry Potter characters!” And sure, those might be fun activities, but shared interests don’t necessarily make a great partner.
By the same token, you might be passing on dates with people who don’t fit your preconceived notion of who The One is, but those dates can often help you recalibrate your expectations. Let’s say you’re certain that The One has blonde hair, but a redhead asks you out. You might turn down the date and miss out on a potentially perfect partner for you.
Conversely, let’s say a blonde asks you out, and you say yes only to realize that, come to think of it, blonde hair isn’t as important as, say, intellectual curiosity. All of a sudden, your criteria has changed, and it wouldn’t have if you’d just waited for the perfect-seeming person to come along.
That’s the thing about bad dating experiences: even when they’re shitty, you still learn from them. I’m allergic to cats, but I gave dating someone who owned cats a chance because hey: you never know. (My whole body broke out in hives, and also she was incredibly mean.)
Sure, that ended poorly, but I still learned from it: don’t date women with cats if you have a cat allergy.
Not only that, but your tastes inevitably change over time. If you’re 30 now, think back to what was really important to you when you were 22. Odds are, the stuff you loved at 22 isn’t really that important to you now; if it is, it’s almost certainly less important than it used to be. We evolve, and so does our ideal partner.
The One is like the Manic Pixie Dream Girl: they’re a great plot device in movies and books, but more often than not, their only use is to teach the main character (i.e., you) an important lesson about themselves. If you’re holding out for a fairy-tale romance, you’re probably going to be waiting for a while.
That’s why it’s so important to date as much as you can. With enough dating experience, you can know exactly what to look for in a potential partner, which means that any relationship you enter is likely to be that much stronger and more fulfilling. It’s kind of like buying a car, in a way: how do you know what to look for if you’ve never driven a car before?
It’s a paradox, but the more bad dates you have, the better your odds of actually finding someone with whom you’ll have a fulfilling, lifelong relationship. Those bad dates teach you more about what you’re looking for than you’ll ever hope to learn by sitting back and waiting for your idea of The One to materialize out of nowhere.
Obviously, I’m not saying you need to abandon all your standards and date every weirdo that pops up on Tinder, but you do need to look beyond the people who seem like a perfect fit. By only going for those people, you’re 1) saddling them with unrealistic expectations, and 2) closing yourself off to the possibility of an (unexpected) perfect partner making their way into your life.
So next time you’re debating whether or not to go on a date with someone, take a chance. You might find yourself getting closer to The One than you think.