“Stay single until you find a man who ____.” “Stay single until you find a woman like ____.” “Wait for a relationship that ____.” “Don’t settle unless ____.” “Be alone until ____.” It’s exhausting.
We give ourselves so many rules, so many boundaries. We tell ourselves to wait, to hold out, to never settle, to keep searching until we find the person who feels right, who makes sense, who is exactly what we’ve been searching for.
But sometimes I think we’ve got it all wrong.
We’re so determined to find the ‘right one,’ the ‘perfect one,’ THE one that we have it in our heads that getting close to anyone else is wasting our time. We firmly believe we’re settling for less unless the person we choose to let in is absolutely everything that we wanted.
But love doesn’t work like that, does it?
There’s a wonderful premise behind the idea of waiting for the right person to come along or ‘staying single until you find what’s right’ — but isn’t that perspective also limiting?
Because how the hell will you know who’s ‘right’ for you unless you fall into relationships that don’t work? Into people who are imperfect? Until you’ve made some mistakes?
How will you know you’ve found ‘real love’ until you’ve lost it along the way? How will you know you’ve met your forever person until you date some crazies? Until you go through hell with someone standing by your side? Until you choose to accept someone else’s imperfections? Until you learn and grow alongside another person, even if the relationship crashes and burns?
Love isn’t linear. There isn’t this straight path to follow that leads to eventual, perfect happiness. There are bumps and broken hearts, failed connections and moments of defeat. There are times you fall in love with the wrong people; there are times you hurt the one closest to you.
Love isn’t perfect. And it’s about time we stop expecting it to be.
There’s something to be said for searching for the right person, for knowing when you’re settling or unhappy and finding your way out. There’s something to be said for not giving your entire heart to someone who isn’t giving you theirs, or learning what you deserve and not being afraid to stand your ground.
There’s something to be said for guarding your heart when you’re broken and not letting any random person come barreling in. There’s something to be said for waiting for the right person, for not entering a relationship until you’re 100% sure.
But there’s something to be said for making mistakes, too.
There’s nothing wrong with dating people, with falling into relationships that don’t always make sense but make you feel something. There’s nothing wrong with giving your heart to someone who sets your soul on fire. There’s nothing wrong with believing in impossible love.
We have to stop limiting ourselves by thinking we can’t find the ‘real deal’ until we’re with this perfect, wonderful, flawless person. We have to stop telling ourselves that we’ll we meet the man/woman who does and says and acts a certain way — because as lovely as that is, he/she doesn’t exist.
We must, instead, search for the person who doesn’t always say or do the right things, but makes our hearts beat both wildly and calmly. We must, instead, search for the person who’s willing to grow with us, learn with us, fight with us, fight for us.
It’s not about finding a perfect person, it’s about finding something real.
And it’s not about staying single until the right person comes along, it’s about dating, falling in love, growing, becoming, and eventually meeting that person somewhere along the way.
It’s about making mistakes.
So don’t hold yourself back. Don’t tell yourself that you must be alone if you’re not in a relationship with the ‘right one.’ Don’t tell yourself that there’s this flawless person out there because there’s not, and you’re not either. (Thankfully, right?)
Don’t give yourself rules and guidelines and instructions for how to feel.
Just love. Just trust. Just fall into people and experiences and memories and laughter and don’t waste away your life, wishing you could have something or someone else.
Don’t spend so much time analyzing love that you forget how to care for someone.
Being single is okay. Falling for the wrong person is okay. Not having found your ‘forever love’ just yet is okay. Making mistakes is okay. This is love, there’s no how-to manual. Just let your connections build, your emotions run wild, and your heart beat freely.
The ‘right,’ flawed, imperfect, wonderful person you’re supposed to spend forever with will one day cross your path. And in the meantime, let your little heart be fearless.
Marisa Donnelly is a poet and author of Somewhere on a Highway.