**Quick disclaimer: I identify as queer female and mostly date men. While certain parts of this article more deeply speak to heteronormative females, the concepts discussed are applicable to all relationship dynamics.
I am a sex coach and relationship therapist. As such, it’s awkward to admit that it took me 18 long years to understand and successfully navigate the dating world. Armed with all the stories, knowledge, and tools I’ve acquired working with clients in my private practice, one might think I would have it all figured out sooner. The truth is, for more years than I would like to admit, I twisted, snaked, and contorted myself in all directions looking for love. Coming up short over and over again: alone and frustrated.
With 18 years of dating experiences under my belt, I’ve “been there and done that.” Oh, and I’ve done that, too. And yes, I tried that also. Over the last 10 years I’ve also explored the territory of love with single and coupled folks as my profession. I’ve literally heard, seen and witnessed love in all of its struggles and its glory.
I’d like to share the insights I’ve gained in the process with those out there looking for love. Fellow love warrior – I am writing this article for you! I’m long on credentials with the accompanying on-the-ground experience, and I finally found my ‘One.’ You know, that One and Only person in your life that makes your heart melt and the sun rise.
I’ve got a path for you… to your One. I believe that if you follow this path, it will lead you directly to the gates of love.
My foremost goal is to help you save you precious time and energy as you navigate the choppy waters of dating and relationships. I simplified my knowledge into a 5-Step Guide.
A little background before we launch into this complicated and also not so complicated matter. If you’re thinking, “I could care less,” skip ahead to the start of the 5-Step Guide to Finding the One.
After years of tirelessly searching for my One, there was not a single person on my radar that felt remotely close to a good fit. I was beyond the state of exhaustion.
I stood exactly where you are right now, wondering: What is wrong with me? What is wrong with everyone else? And perhaps like you, I have felt the desperation of thinking, “There is no one out there for me. I am going to die alone. Should I just buy some cats and call it?”
It’s easier to fall into this trap more than we’d like to admit. Yet, while I have come to see these hopeless reflections as 100% normal for this situation, this type of thinking will not help you accomplish anything. Except feeling sorry for yourself.
Instead of getting trapped in a negative mindset and losing hope, let’s get started with something useful.
For me, the journey to finding the One started with admitting the following:
- Nothing I was doing was working.
- It can’t just be ‘them’ all the time. Which means, it has to be me at least some of the time.
It is not true that there were no “good ones” left, that there are no great guys on dating sites and the city I live in is not inherently flawed with “bad guys.” And contrary to one of my most popular beliefs, not everyone is emotionally flawed, or whatever other excuse I (we) tell ourselves.
My approach to finding my One had been unattuned. The values and beliefs I carried needed sorting.
I got real with myself and reflected on the unhealthy patterns I was bringing into these connections. I had been helping clients with this for years and it was working for many people who I had counseled. It was time to cut the bull-shit and acutally take my own advice. Like a hair stylist with a bad haircut, I needed to look in the mirror and really dig into my own shit.
Once I got real with myself, I found my One. (Cue the celebration noises, fireworks and balloons.)
You know, the One – like the One I have been longing, looking and wanting for years. The person who is as crazy about me as I am about them. Who gets me, who wants me, who fits like a glove into my world and vice versa. Who gets my family and my friends and who they adore in turn. Whose quirks and strange tastes seem to compliment my own. He is kind, honest, truthful, funny and a good person overall. And the sex…. yeah, when you have a connection like ours, the sex makes you understand the true meaning of “desire.” Not just lust, I mean, the stuff poets, writers, and philosophers have spoken about for ages. We actually call ourselves “desire worshippers.”
And no, I didn’t find my One by lowering my expectations. In fact, I changed and dramatically raised them.
Grab a notebook and write down your responses to these questions:
- What will being in a relationship give you?
- What do you expect or need from a long term relationship?
- What can you live with but cannot live without?
- Who are your dating/relationship models and are they based in reality?
For many of us, our answers are quite simple when fleshed out. We want One special person that will desire and love us, whom we can fully love in return. Someone we can be ourselves with.
This is a beautiful want. Yet, trouble arises when we fall into the false belief that finding someone to love us, or to love, will fix everything in our lives.
This belief that “love will fix us and make our lives whole,” is something society thrusts in our faces from the moments we’re born. We get bombarded with messages from an array of outlets that we better find a mate or we are doomed to a life of misery.
If we follow this delusional thinking, it leads to the idea that a mate will make us whole (because you’re not whole when single) and then life will be “happily ever after.” Your partner is supposed to be your best friend and make you happy all the time. If you love each other, you are supposed to be in perfect harmony and want to have sex everyday. And during this sex you will both orgasm consistently and effortlessly together.
To add insult to injury, with the invention of social media, you should also be Instagramming all your perfect relationship moments with #relationshipgoals.
There are many external and internal pressures to find your One and it would be difficult to even map out and categorize all the influences.
I want to make sure I clarify something here: I am for love. I am all for love. I believe love is the healing ointment that allows our pains to heal. But, the fantasies and unrealistic expectations that are often attached to romantic relationships are harmful for relationships themselves. Killing the relationship before it can even get started.
The advice below is quite blunt. I do not speak this directly to my clients or even my friends. For the sake of saving you a lot of time and condensing this material, I’m just going to give it to you straight.
Without further ado, here is The 5-Step Guide to Meeting The One:
1. When it’s right, you will know. This is typically the easiest of the 5 steps to follow.
Right away, you will feel in your body that something is different. You’ll feel at ease from the inside out. There will be no worries about when they’ll text or call, or if you’ll see them again. Your one will show up for you in a way that will help your nervous system chill out.
Some folks might call this ‘love at first sight,” or they’ll say, “I just knew on the first date.”
I did not have either of those moments. But, when I met my One, I finally stopped worrying when the next text would come or when the next date would be. I had a deep internal knowing, rooted in my body, that everything was going to work out the way it was meant to. I felt a calmness around our connection. The interactions that I was experiencing with this human, regardless of what our relationship might look like in the long run, carried deep meaning for my life. Our interactions immediately felt life-changing and paradigm shifting. I was inspired in a way I had never been. There was a gratitude mixed with being entranced. I felt beautifully, wildly affected by this human.
So often, people are trying to make something fit that doesn’t. I know I did. I would worry, stress and strategize about how to get more attention and feel more secure. The analogy of trying to get a round peg into a square hole seems appropriate here. You create a story to control and protect yourself, but deep down you know something is off.
For instance, have you ever found yourself every saying as you jump into bed with someone, “I don’t want to just be a one night stand.” These types of phrases are just one of the ways you might be getting stuck in trying to make something fit.
I have used phrases like this for various reasons, depending on the year and what else was going on in my internal world. I might sometimes say it because I was ashamed that I needed or wanted sex. Or, I would say this because I wanted more with the guy and I was testing him to see how he responded – did he also want more? Or, I was in my head and not connected to my body and saying things that seemed like the “thing you are supposed to say.” One of my most common mistakes was not making enough space to listen to my body. I would go on autopilot and try to figure out what the other person wanted.
Although, phrases like these, if they are true for you, are great to hold as an overall intention for yourself. But when you say this to a new lover, you are now putting pressure on this new system unnecessarily.
The good news, your One will not create this internal tension inside of you. You’ll have the butterflies and most likely feel vulnerable, but you will not feel angst about how to get their attention. They will simply show you with their actions that they are here, together, in this with you.
Now let’s say you feel all this for someone, but the feeling is not mutual. This is where you need a tattoo on your body that reads: just because someone doesn’t choose you, does not mean that you are unchooseable.
This is just not your person. Pack up and move on.
I want to repeat this, JUST BECAUSE SOMEONE DOESN’T CHOOSE YOU DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE UNCHOOSEABLE.
I see so many people get down on themselves around this point. I spent way too much time feeling sorry for myself that someone I liked didn’t like me back. It sucks, yes. Feel it: cry, sceam, whatever you need to do to get it out. Then move on. Do not get stuck here.
I once had a friend say, “People worth investing your time with are the ones who make you feel like you’re worth a million dollars. Like you are wearing a suit made of gold.” If someone you are dating or trying to date is not making you feel as though you are one of the most precious things on earth, if they make you second guess yourself and guess about their next move, they are definitely not your One.
Summary: you will know it in your body when you meet the One. Trust your gut and heart.
I’ll add in here that the first time I met my love, I did not know he was the One. Rather, it was on our second meeting when we shared a more intimate encounter. In our first meeting, I felt open, but not necessarily assured of anything other than “that was an interesting conversation.”
We met through mutual friends who were not trying to set us up. Our friends thought we would have some interesting conversations, but didn’t imagine it would blossom into a romantic connection.
They were right about interesting conversations, at least.
2. Stop following advice from other people (ahem).
I really wish I had learned this years ago.
In particular, stop following advice from people who are in relationships that you do not admire. Or people who are not in a romantic relationship at all.
People LOVE to give advice (ahem – again). It often comes from a good place inside of them. People want and think they are being helpful.
Really, most people have no idea what they are talking about, especially when it comes to romance and intimacy. Even more concerning, they often suggest that you do things they themselves would never do. They may even advise things they wish they had done, living vicariously through you. The psychology term for this is projecting.
Remember, this is not anyone else’s life but your own. You need to own your life.
In the end, this all comes down to trusting yourself.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you trust yourself?
- Do you trust your body and inner guide to direct you well?
- Do you lean towards what feels right in your heart, even when it is vulnerable and scary?
If the answer is not a resounding “yes,” start working to cultivate trust within yourself.
If I had a penny for every time I took someone else’s advice on my dating life, I would have at least $40 now. Stay, leave, call, text, do this, say that, this means this… on and on. I was muffling my own signals and not finding out for myself what I needed and wanted. Playing out other people’s games with the romantic interests in my life lead me up streams that I did not want to be in.
The underlying problem was simple: I did not trust myself. For years, I would hear the faint whispers of my gut chiming in with an opinion. Those whispers were dimmed under my deep seated sense that others must have a better idea of what is right for me than I do for myself.
No one can live your life for you. Only you know the next best choice for you.
Stop taking others’ advice and listen to yourself. Find your truth and trust your gut.
**I want to make a clear caveat here, and for those of you who need to hear this, please listen up: If your friends are trying to get you out of an abusive relationship, they are correct in offering this advice. If you are being emotionally or physically harmed by another individual who claims to love you, this is abuse, and abuse is NOT love. It never was and never will be. If you have not left, there are some crossed networks in your brain that need some rewiring. The rewiring may take some time. You do not need to stay in the abuse while the connections are rebuilt. Trust your friends and leave.
3. Learn who you are. Love who you are. Accept who you are.
Learn who you are.
Take time to understand what is important to you.
For years, I kept hoping to find a partner that would help guide the direction of my life. I used to think, “if I could only hitch my wagon to another person, things would be easier.”
Well, whenever I hitched myself up, I hated the direction the wagon was going. The wagon wasn’t going fast enough, it was going in the wrong direction, or the whole expedition was way off.
I didn’t want to face the fact that I needed to take control of my own life. To confront my true nature and let it take me where I was meant to travel. I was resisting stepping fully into the very thing I was put on earth to do: help others find more pleasure and freedom in their sexual worlds.
Once I finally realized that I needed to step into my path vs avoid it, bam! Just like magic, a person appeared out of thin air. I say magic because this person’s skill sets linked up perfectly with the direction I was going.
To better understand what’s important to you, take a moment and imagine that you have the perfect life:
- How do you like to spend your weekends or time off?
- Where do you take vacations? What will your vacations look like?
- What is the most important thing in the world to you?
If you are not living a life that is in alignment with how you answered those three questions, what adjustments can you make starting this week that will help get closer to them?
You will also want to have a clear understanding of:
- Where do you imagine a partner fitting into your life? And where do you imagine fitting into theirs?
- What activities in your life would you like to include them in? What activities do you want to be just yours alone?
Learning who you are means getting grounded with reality and figuring out what you want. It is not trying to figure out what others want, but what you want.
Love who you are.
You hear people say it all the time and I admit, it sounds cliche. You must love yourself first.
Meaning, if you have a shit self-image, others will sense this.
As a society, we do a terrible job of talking about things that we cannot see. This inability to understand what we can’t see can make it difficult to find the language to discuss what we “sense” or energetically feel.
When someone dislikes themselves, others will sense this. Even if they are not able to find the words to express what they are noticing, something inside of them notices. Those who are familiar with the energy of “I am unlovable” will be attracted to someone else that feels unlovable. Those who do not harbor an ‘I’m unlovable’ energy, will not not be attracted.
If you are running around with the “I am pretending to love myself because someone said this is how I get a partner” mask, you are probably still attracting those who are familiar with this unlovable energy. Two people who do not really love themselves in a relationship will most certainly be a disaster.
I made this mistake for many years. One relationship after another ended in disasters of ego-driven identities and selfish choices.
When we love ourselves fully, our whole being shifts. There is an overflow of love from the inside. There is generosity and kindness oozing out of your fingertips. This internal fullness of love allows for a relationship to form differently. Difficulties are resolved through conversations about differences instead of angry arguments with one winner and one loser.
Learning to love oneself is not as easy as flipping a switch. Allowing yourself to fully love your own body, mind, soul, quirks and strengths is a long and arduous journey. And there’s no better time to start than right at this moment.
Accept who you are.
Acceptance is about figuring out who you are and accepting this without judgement. Acceptance is beyond the superficial, ego-driven question of is this good or bad. It is about letting what is simply be.
Sometimes, there is confusion between acceptance and complacency. It is important to understand these are two wholly different states of being. It’s tricky because complacency can look similar to self acceptance.
Complacency is giving up. It is saying, “I am not worth it, there is no point in trying any longer.” But, complacency is a false sense of self. Complacency can be an easy slip because it is easier and faster to give up than examining ourselves thoroughly.
Learning to accept yourself does not mean you don’t make improvements or work on becoming a better version of yourself. Buddhist master, Chögyam Trungpa has been known to say: “You’re perfect just the way you are, and you could use a little work.” Meaning, learn to accept your true nature, but work on your defense strategies to become a more open version of yourself.
For instance, let’s say you laugh in a way that you believe is not sexy or attractive. Is this something you can change? I do not believe you can. You were born with the vocal cords and lungs that make this sound come out. The healthy solution is to accept your quirky laugh. Continuing to hate this about yourself and wanting it to change will keep you in the same negative and disconnected loop.
Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach is one of the best resources available for this topic, hence the topic title. It cannot stress the importance of releasing the fear, shame and negativity that has been holding you back. Learning to accept yourself, just as you are, has the potential to change everything about the way you view the world.
Another major difference between complacency and acceptance is the core motivation. The motivation behind complacency is loss of hope. The motivation behind acceptance, on the other hand, is moving forward with kindness for who you are.
If we go back to the quirky laugh example, if someone were to take a complacent stance, they may try to stop laughing in public and stifle themselves from joyous expressions. It is painful to imagine someone trying to stop their own expression of joy. It’s much healthier to accept this joyful laughter for what it is, and move forward with kindness for your uniqueness.
4. Stop blaming everyone else and look in the mirror.
This was the most difficult step for me. I imagine it is for many people. It was only out of sheer frustration that I took the leap into deeply examining and reflecting on myself.
I was in the mind space of: I’ve got great friends, people generally like me, so why do I need to look in the mirror? It is all these men I keep meeting that are the problem.
Well, not so fast, ego!
What does it mean to look into the mirror? Essentially, it is owning how you are contributing to loss of connection. How are you making it difficult for people to be in a relationship with you?
These hard looks in the mirror allow us to highlight our blind spots and bring new updated awareness to our personalities. This might sound easy, and if it is, you’re not looking at the right blide spots. Hypothetically, looking into a mirror and asking yourself, “What is keeping me from the love that I deeply desire?” usually means having to admit some pretty unpleasant aspects about yourself.
The best option for this reflection is to start working with a good therapist who’s experienced with Attachment Theory. Most likely, the antics that are keeping you from finding love are rooted in your first intimate relationships, the ones with your parents.
If you want to speed up the process of reflection, a mature friend can be a blessing for this step. Ask a very close friend for feedback about what makes you difficult to be in a relationship with.
Make sure your friend knows that you want honest, but loving feedback. It is possible to enlighten others about the ways they need to grow with loving kindness, and leaving their egos unbruised. Any harsh and judgemental criticism will most likely turn you off from trusting their suggestions.
On the other hand, remember that you are asking for their help. When they give you advice, deeply reflect on what they share, even if it’s not easy to take in. If it was easy to take in, you would have probably fixed this blind spot by now.
In working with many clients over the years, I have seen many strategies that keep people from meeting their One.
Below are some areas of growth that I most often see people need to work on. Notice if you see yourself in any of these:
- Giving over power too easily and losing your own strength and sense of self:
- Forgetting your needs, acting as if you are not important.
- Not listening or trusting yourself.
- Losing touch with what is ok and not ok.
- Fear of intimacy:
- Pushing people away once the relationship becomes real.
- Setting unrealistic goals for another person.
- Lack of mindfulness and how you are affecting others around you.
- Unable to really listen to what another person is saying.
- Disconnected from your own feelings.
- Not knowing your own preciousness and value:
- Letting people take advantage of you.
- Allowing partners to do things that hurt you on an ongoing basis.
- Causing fights or often having something to “talk about” or “work on.”
- Creating tests – subconsciously or consciously – for the other person to pass so you feel more secure about the relationship.
- Taking yourself too seriously:
- Unable to have fun and relax.
- Lack of empathy and how you are impacting others.
- Relationally unconscious.
- Inability to accept feedback.
This is by no means a complete list of areas for growth. This is just the most common emotional blind spots I see with clients.
I also want to add that seeing ourselves clearly is one of the most difficult things we may ever do. At first, we may not like what we find. Yet, the path to your One takes being a warrior and confronting your shadow! I believe in you and your ability to be that warrior!
5. Allow life to flow.
In other words, stop trying to boss your life around.
Letting life flow is as much about letting go, as it is about learning to be present with all experiences.
We cannot control who comes into our lives. We have no control whatsoever over this. But, we can make ourselves the best, most available, badass, open, real versions of ourselves. So when we meet the soul who is meant to be our One, we can actually recognize them and not let the opportunity slip past.
If you are pushing, forcing, ignoring, hiding, or bossing, you cannot feel the subtleties of life or those small arrows that are gently guiding you to a more loving place.
Before my beloved mentor, John Welwood passed away, he shared that he often thought life would have big signs pointing him in the direction he was supposed to go. He was shocked to get to the end of his life and learn that there are no big, blinking signs with arrows saying **this way**.
The takeaway is that we must learn to listen to ourselves as deeply as we can and make choices based on our hearts. Stop looking outside of ourselves for huge blinking neon lights or external cues, and begin to follow and allow life to move with you.
If you stop and reflect for a moment, you realize that the most amazing things in your life seem to have happened by fate. For whatever reason, you were at the right place at the right time.
When I met my One, it felt fated. It was a bit complex seeing as we lived on different continents. Yet, from the beginning, I let the experience flow. I did not try to hide and I stayed with what was happening directly in front of me. I followed what my body wanted. I let the tenderness of my heart be seen, and I allowed the animal of desire to show and hide as she needed.
As the days turned into months, we fell into an incredible dance of intimacy. Nothing was forced. It was a gathering of puzzle pieces being put together. As we prepare for our next steps of commitment, marriage, we both consciously make an effort to reflect on how we are allowing flow to be alive or not.
Stop thinking life has to happen according to a plan that was set up by society.
I was 32 when I met my One. Nearing the end of my 20s, as all my friends were getting married, I was convinced that I must be damaged goods and that’s why I haven’t met someone.
Give yourself a break around this idea of “my time has passed” bullshit. Work on yourself, be a better version of who you are daily. Do some things that scare you and help you grow. Make deeper friendships. Let go of trying to meet society’s impossible standards.
When you hold on to these preconceived notions like “my time has passed”, it results in graspy and desperate energy. This type of energy can make you do all sorts of strange things that are not actually in alignment with your authentic self.
When we are in full alignment with who we are, our wiser and more patient self can make decisions. When we are grasping, scared, and worried, our self that is muddled in these emotions starts to run the show. We want the the wise-self making decisions, not the scared-self. Especially when it comes to choices on love.
A wise person once said, “It is wise to be prepared, but it is smart to be flexible.”
Prepare yourself the best you can. Be the most incredible you that you can be. And then, ride the flow of life and accept what is meant to be.
No one can predict when they will meet their One. Maybe it is written in the stars, or maybe life has other plans. Regardless of your faith around why life happens the way it does, you cannot force the process of meeting the One.
For me, I had decided that I was no longer going to get involved with people who didn’t meet the criteria I wanted in a partner. I made a pact with my body that I would not settle if someone did not feel like they were right for me. If I never met this human, I was going to be better off waiting and holding out hope than being in another wrong relationship.
I do not regret any of my dating experiences. All the crazy dating encounters and love traumas I’ve lived through allow me to relate more fully to every person that I come into contact with.
Just the other day, a friend called because she needed some support around a painful dating experience and I got it, because I had also done something similar years ago. I shared my experience as a way to show her that she was not alone. She didn’t need to feel shame about what happened. In today’s Western society, we’re carrying around way too much shame, no one needs more piled on.
As soon as you can, let go of any shame you might be holding around your dating catastrophes. If you’ve lived it, there is a VERY good chance that others have had similar, if not the same experiences.
Shame will hold us hostage, making us feel like we are the only ones who have ever experienced this terrible thing. Shame is also tied in with the ego – when we let go of preconceived ideas around what we “should” be and experiences we “should” or “shouldn’t” have had or where we “should” be in life already, we also let go of shame around those experiences.
Living is full of complex twists and turns. As long as you allow yourself to learn from your mistakes, you’re on the path to being better and to something better.
You have all of the tools you need to follow this guide on your own terms and at your own pace. I know this because I am living proof. These are the steps I took to meet my person. I’d say I also got relatively lucky. I got working on these steps and in a little over a year my One was in my life. I was not necessarily looking for him, but I was open to what might come in. I followed what my body wanted to do. I know you can empower your life this way.
Here are those rules again:
- When it’s right, you will know.
- Stop following advice from other people.
- Learn who you are. Love who you are. Accept who you are.
- Stop blaming everyone else and look in the mirror.
- Allow life to flow.
Finding your One is not about hacking some imaginary dating code. There is no code to break. If there is one thing in particular I hope you take away from this article it is: This is your life and is to be lived the way you desire.
You deserve to enjoy, delight, and bask in the love of a lover. Take the risk to get real with yourself. Dive in deep, let go, love more freely and find what opening yourself really means.
Finally, I’d like to share one of my favorite poems with you:
I Will Not Die an Unlived Life
I will not die an unlived life
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.
Here’s to being a love warrior!
Thumbnail image via WeHeartIt