dating

"You'll just know when you meet the one." The worst dating advice I've ever received.

"I just knew." 

It’s the dating advice we hear all the time from loved-up friends. It usually comes with other statements like, "They’re my soulmate" and "I loved them at first sight." 

While I’m happy for these people who have had such a profoundly certain experience when it comes to finding love, I also know now that I’ll never be someone who just "knows" anything, especially with matters of the heart.

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For a long time, I thought I was defective. All these people around me were having these revelatory moments where they went on one date with their partner and saw their entire future line up. Clearly, I was meant to hold out for a moment like that, someone I was so certain about that all doubt blew away in the wind.

But I have struggled with anxiety my entire life. As someone who has never been sure about anything (thanks to a near-constant state of mental "what if"), why was I pressuring myself to be certain when it came to love?

After all, if we look at relationships as ordained (whether by fate or God) versus not ordained, which is kinda what we do when we talk about 'just knowing' and so on, then how do we explain the myriad of 'Ones' that fizzle?

I’ve noticed more recently that we’re shifting away from this mentality and toward something way healthier, in my opinion. Instagram and TikTok accounts like Anxious Love Coach Esther Perel and Your Diagnonsense are popping up everywhere, preaching a more level-headed approach to romantic partnership. 

Instead of a focus on instant chemistry, they’re talking about building trust and intimacy. It’s a move away from real love being defined as something that happens to you, a by-chance moment you may or may not be lucky enough to experience, toward real love being an experience you cultivate with actions and words.

Yes, I still believe in a spark. I think you have to, right? We don’t just meet people we enjoy being around while also wanting to jump their bones every day. 

There is still something magical about going on a date, or spotting someone at a party, or ending up in a conversation where you feel drawn in.

There is something incredibly special and sure, even magical, about connecting with another person and you think, "Wow, there’s just something about them."

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But that’s not always something that happens from the outset. For every couple that apparently "knows" instantaneously that they’re meant to be, there’s a couple who hated each other, or were platonic friends until they realised they had deeper feelings for one another. 

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For every "soulmate" partnership that blossoms, there’s one that doesn’t. 

Basically, I don’t believe we can slap a label on the path to love and say that’s how it works for everyone. One person’s "I just knew" is another person’s "I had to build trust in my decisions, and now I have confidence that my relationship is right for me."

There are some things we can "just know", though. We can know that we have a generally good time with this person. We can know how they make us feel. We can know if our needs are being met and if we feel supported and respected. We can know if we feel loved, and if we make them feel loved. We can know if we’re bored or enjoying our time with them. 

This isn’t a green light to continue in a relationship that adds nothing to your life. We shouldn’t have astronomically high expectations of our relationships, and it’s good to acknowledge that some nights you’ll sit on your phones together in silence, while other nights you’ll have deep and meaningful conversations. But if the boredom outweighs the enjoyment, you might need to reassess if this is a healthy relationship for you.

What I’m more saying is that some people won’t "know" it’s right. It’s just how our brains are chemically made up. It makes complete sense that an anxious worrier will anxiously worry about one of the most important relationships in their life. Certainty is impossible to attain, anyway – even if you do truly feel you know in your soul you’re with The One, you actually can’t be sure of your future with them.

This isn’t meant to be a depressing concept – uncertainty is what makes life so exciting. Enjoying today, how you feel, and the choices you’re making right now, is why life is rich and filled with hope. We don’t know what the future holds, but we have a hand in defining it for ourselves, and we always will, to some degree.

So for anyone else out there who has never felt sure, and questions their loving, supportive and fulfilling relationship because they don’t have this innate knowledge that person is The One, this is your sign that you actually don’t have to have that. 

You have something great, and you get to choose it.

Melissa Mason is a freelance writer. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter.

Feature Image: Instagram @melissamason_.

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