Sure, I’ve googled it before in desperation. Who hasn’t? We live in an age where Google has all the answers. At what temperature should I bake a salmon filet? How much will it cost me to get a flight to Miami? What are the real lyrics to that song that seems to be saying “We’re all made of brie”?*
Is he the one?
In short: If you’re asking, he’s not.
At least that’s my experience. And I answered that question many times between the ages of 18 and 32, so I’m pretty good at it.
Before I met my husband, when I was still “looking,” there was one phrase I despised. Whenever anyone said it, my stomach would involuntarily contract, and I’d feel a barely resistible urge to stab the offending person in the face. That phrase was “You’ll just know.”
Really? I’ll just know? Please, hand me another useless dollop of dog shit that completely patronizes me and reduces the most important decision of my life to a mere platitude.
OK, here goes: I won’t be offended if you throw up and then feel the urge to stab me in my stupid, happily-married face, but sadly, the well-worn phrase is right.
You just know.
I didn’t believe in “just knowing.” I didn’t think it was ever possible to silence doubt long enough to commit to a lifelong partnership. And that’s because I’d never experienced a relationship that deserved to be taken to the next level. Not being a person of faith, I assumed that because I’d never felt sure about marrying any of my boyfriends, it wasn’t possible to feel sure.
Feeling “sure,” I eventually learned, isn’t about some esoteric message from the universe. It’s the opposite: It’s grounded in the deepest reality there is, the body. Before dating the man who would become my husband, I constantly felt anxiety in my relationships, and I did everything I could to squelch it. If I believed I should be in a relationship, I stayed in it, even if I was a sleepless basket case who had to take more anti-anxiety meds than Carter took liver pills. Aaaaand…I just officially turned into my mother. Anyway. I stayed in relationships even when I had to change who I was, even when I had to alienate my family and friends. This “reason is king” mentality was why I believed I could enter precise terms in a search engine and be magically rewarded, via dating site, the ideal partner.
That didn’t work.
Love isn’t a science, and deciding to commit to someone for life is a decision that lies beyond the realm of reason. It’s a decision you have to feel.
Here’s what you do. Go somewhere quiet. Close your eyes for five full minutes, and clear your mind. Listen. Whatever your heart tells you is the truth. I used to ask, “How can I know?” My heart and brain were notorious for being at odds with one another. I saw my heart as the “bad” one—the id-driven one who’d always get me into trouble—and I trusted my brain to be the informed, responsible one. To lead me in the right direction.
There is no heart-brain dichotomy. There is, however, a dichotomy between what we want to do and what we think we should do. For my entire twenties, I couldn’t tell the difference. What other people wanted me to do, or what a “good” person should do, was what I thought I wanted.
Good women don’t leave loyal boyfriends, even if they’re really more like friends. Good women get married and have babies at a certain age whether they’ve met “the right one” or not. And most important—good women never, ever hurt anyone.
When you sit quietly and let your feelings float to the surface, you’re bypassing these constructs, these unspoken rules that are guiding your behavior, perhaps quite unconsciously.
Your family and friends will still love you if you leave a long-term relationship with a “perfectly good” guy, or if you turn down a marriage proposal they expected you to accept. And leaving doesn’t mean you’ve lost your last chance, even if you don’t have faith that someone else is out there for you. I’ll have the faith for you: There is.
If this all sounds scary, that’s because it is. Connecting with another person—being willing to experience that dizzying merger of the self with another—is about giving up control. It really is that simple. To some extent, you have to let yourself be an animal being. Sniff another animal and wait for a stirring in the loins.
As my great-grandfather said, “You love whoever you love. If your love falls in a pile of shit, that’s where you lay.” I’m not suggesting that somebody stay in a destructive or abusive relationship. What I’m saying is that there’s integrity—literally, wholeness—in being still, letting all your “I shoulds” fall away, and listening to your deepest self. And if you’re at peace—if you have no desire to google “Is he the one?”—maybe he is.
*”We’re all made of greed,” apparently, which makes so much more sense.