The Dating Game: One Isn't The Loneliest Number

Megan Carpentier
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There is no such thing as The One.

There, I said it. No fairy godmother is going to come down and give you fancy One-seeking slippers, there's not some higher-power-created other half of you waiting equally wistfully for you to walk into his or her life, and there's no ultimate, perfect person out there that, if you make one mistake or break one undefined rule, you'll fuck it up with and thereby end up alone.

What there is out there is a bunch of equally imperfect individuals, many of whom are also interested in finding someone with whom they are compatible. And what every successful relationship you see out there has in common is not the mark of the hand of an unseen power, but work, commitment and the desire to be a couple.

It's less fancy and awe-inspiring, I know, and it's far less easy than living out a fantasy in which the clouds part and some stranger next to you at a bar turns out to be the person you'll wake up next to every morning knowing you were designed for one another. But realizing that is also a good thing—because it frees you from staying in a dysfunctional relationship with someone regardless of all the feelings and meant-to-be vibes you get (or used to get) from your partner just because he or she is supposedly The One.

It frees you from making the perfect (The mythical One) the enemy of the really, really good. It frees you from seeking emotions you're told you ought to feel for your One and allows you to focus on the emotions you have for the people you are dating, and what those emotions mean to you, about your relationship and for your future. And, even better, it frees you from having to believe that your One might not like you or love you if, in his or her absence, you didn't abide by certain rules you didn't know existed or didn't think were right.

Those "rules"—you know, the ones that say you'll never find love if you have too much sex or if you have too little, that The One won't notice you if you don't wear enough make-up or if you don't make yourself over to be someone that your One will like, or, basically, that you'll miss your sole opportunity to connect with The One if you don't live every moment of your single life waiting for your Knight or Knightley in shining armor to ride up and rescue you from your terrible singlehoodity—aren't designed to help you find someone who will love you for the person you are. They're designed to make you think there's only one way to find and experience love, and only one person with whom you can really have it, and (in a lot of cases) to simply validate the experiences and relationships of the people making the rules

Look, not having rules is harder than having them, it's true. There's no path, there's less certainty and, annoying, while society still defines marriage and lifetime partnership with one person as the ultimate end goal, not having the road map for how to arrive there leaves many people confused and frustrated. The answer, however, isn't to turn around and run back to the safety of patriarchal structures that lay out the steps to Perfect Happiness—even if you want to grant that everyone was actually happy when they had to follow those rules (which we all know they weren't). The answer is to figure out what kind of relationship works for you, which people in your life make you happy and fulfilled and how to listen to your own needs in any given situation. Maybe what works for you is one other person, maybe it's a succession of people, maybe it's a bunch of people at once—and maybe The One is just you. But whomever it is, the important part is that they like you for who you actually are.

[Image via adrien/salvi on Flickr, Creative Commons licensed]

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12 Comments Have Been Posted

Thank you so much for

Thank you so much for sharing, that was a very well-written article. It's so easy to be focused on rules and the idea of The One...

Amen to that.

Amen to that.

So well put. Thank you, I

So well put. Thank you, I needed to read this. I'm on day three in break up land.
It's hard to break up with someone even if it's crystal clear that person is not your 'ONE'. I want to be okay with the idea that I may not have a special someone...and that's just fine.

Thank you also - not just

Thank you also - not just for helping those out there who are actively looking for a partner, but for not attacking those who DO have a partner. It's good/refreshing to see neither 'state' maligned.

Oh. My. God.

Thank you, Thank you, THANK YOU! And.....testify! :) I've been thinking about this very thing for the past few years when I was reminded that I am indeed happy being single. I came to this realization when I took a 12 day trip alone and had one of the most amazing times in my life. I love being single and know now that there is nothing weird about that.

I also have tried to discuss this very thing with others and have noticed that a lot of people find this concept threatening.

Thank you for this. a well

Thank you for this. a well written and deceptively simple piece. I certainly agree that the idea of a destined "one" is pretty silly. we shouldn't take a fatalistic approach that there is an ideal "one" we're meant for. but also it's not simply an arbitrary choice who we love. It's rather that there is a multiplicity of options, springing from the plenitudinous nature of love. Or, if you will, there is no one, but many ones can become our one.

I never wanted the one; just

I never wanted the one; just wanted to share time with a person who is kind, likes to read (a lot) and enjoys wearing argyle occasionally. Turns out a lot of people fit that description and it's been fun dating them!

While I'm partnered monogamously, I still believe that each relationship has value, taking the form of what is needed at the time, even if it doesn't last forever. Being single is nice; being partnered is nice too. I haven't experienced either being more nice than the other. They're nice for different reasons and I'm fine with either.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Came to mind...
"How To Be Alone" by Tanya Davis

If you are at first lonely, be patient.

If you’ve not been alone much, or if when you were, you weren’t okay with it, then just wait. You’ll find its fine to be alone once you’re embracing it.

We can start with the acceptable places, the bathroom, the coffee shop, the library, where you can stall and read the paper, where you can get your caffeine fix and sit and stay there. Where you can browse the stacks and smell the books, you’re not supposed to talk much anyway so its safe there.

There is also the gym, if your shy, you can hang out with yourself and mirrors, you can put headphones in.

Then there’s public transportation, because we all gotta go places.

And there’s prayer and mediation, no one will think less if your hanging with your breath seeking peace and salvation.

Start simple. Things you may have previously avoided based on your avoid being alone principles.

The lunch counter, where you will be surrounded by “chow downers”, employees who only have an hour and their spouses work across town, and they, like you, will be alone.

Resist the urge to hang out with your cell phone.

When you are comfortable with “eat lunch and run”, take yourself out for dinner; a restaurant with linen and silver wear. You’re no less an intriguing a person when you are eating solo desert and cleaning the whip cream from the dish with your finger. In fact, some people at full tables will wish they were where you were.

Go to the movies. Where it’s dark and soothing, alone in your seat amidst a fleeting community.

And then take yourself out dancing, to a club where no one knows you, stand on the outside of the floor until the lights convince you more and more and the music shows you. Dance like no ones watching because they’re probably not. And if they are, assume it is with best human intentions. The way bodies move genuinely to beats, is after-all, gorgeous and affecting. Dance until you’re sweating. And beads of perspiration remind you of life’s best things. Down your back, like a book of blessings.

Go to the woods alone, and the trees and squirrels will watch for you. Go to an unfamiliar city, roam the streets, they are always statues to talk to, and benches made for sitting gives strangers a shared existence if only for a minute, and these moments can be so uplifting and the conversation you get in by sitting alone on benches, might of never happened had you not been there by yourself.

Society is afraid of alone though. Like lonely hearts are wasting away in basements. Like people must have problems if after awhile nobody is dating them.

But lonely is a freedom that breaths easy and weightless, and lonely is healing if you make it.

You can stand swaffed by groups and mobs or hands with your partner, look both further and farther in the endless quest for company.

But no one is in your head. And by the time you translate your thoughts an essence of them maybe lost or perhaps it is just kept. Perhaps in the interest of loving oneself, perhaps all those sappy slogans from pre-school over to high school groaning, we’re tokens for holding the lonely at bay.

Cause if you’re happy in your head, then solitude is blessed, and alone is okay.

It’s okay if no one believes like you, all experiences unique, no one has the same synapses, can’t think like you, for this be relived, keeps things interesting, life’s magic brings much, and it doesn’t mean you aren’t connected, and the community is not present, just take the perspective you get from being one person in one head and feel the effects of it.

Take silence and respect it.

If you have an art that needs a practice, stop neglecting it, if your family doesn’t get you or a religious sect is not meant for you, don’t obsess about it.

You could be in an instant surrounded if you need it.

If your heart is bleeding, make the best of it.

There is heat in freezing, be a testament.


"and maybe The One is just you."

THANK you!


I know solitude,

a soloist knows what it is to be alone,

icy 14,000 ft peaks as the sun sets, all alone with nothing but the icy wind, thats solitude

you all talk about being alone in a movie, in the city, please stop kidding yourself

the feeling of someone really seeing who you are and willing to stand by you is gold

and if you have it I'd suggest working fucking hard on your soul to keep it

cause its a shame when its gone

and when you lost it,,

you know

Hey, thanks for the article.

Hey, thanks for the article. I am wading through thoughts on singledom, "the one", fate, monogamy and many other subjects right now, and this is very helpful in articulating some of the things that I have been feeling. Thumbs up.

<3 <3 <3 to you!

<3 <3 <3 to you!

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