Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“I Think I’ve Found ‘The One’ and It Scares Me”

Love 2

I am almost 32 and have been dating a great guy for about five months. We have a wonderful relationship, I love him, he loves me, and we are supportive of one another. I see a future with him, but sometimes I freak out. It is so overwhelming — this feeling of love. I want things to work out so badly that I get anxious sometimes. I’m pretty good at not showing him this, but sometimes it leaks out and he is always so reassuring.

When you were dating Drew, did you experience this? That you feel you have met the right person and you get so nervous thinking what if it doesn’t work out? I know deep down that, if it doesn’t, I’ll be OK, but I’ve been dating people for the past seven years and I definitely know a good thing when I feel it. And I feel it now. And I don’t want it to go away. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. — Feeling Anxious

I’m going to answer your letter with the same exact response I gave someone with a similar question who wrote into me a year ago because it’s a response worth repeating. Your question is a common one and hopefully my answer will resonate with you, as well as others grappling with the same anxiety. Here it is:

I’m not going to tell you “I just knew” because I didn’t. There was never a moment when “I just knew.” Hell, even when Drew proposed and I said yes, I didn’t “just know” it was meant to be or that we were going to be happy forever and ever. I did think those things, but I was not 100 percent, positively certain we were going to be well-matched and happy together forever. You can never be totally sure about anything in life. Everything is a risk — even marrying someone you love with your whole heart and want very much to spend your life with. There’s always a risk you’ll fall out of love or that problems outside your relationship or with your children will negatively impact you. There’s a risk that one or both of you will change so much that you’ll no longer share the connection you had when you said, “I do.” Life can throw so much shit on you and there’s no guarantee that you or your partner or your relationship is going to handle it with enough grace to pull you through the other side unscathed and still intact.

There was never a point I knew for sure that Drew was “the one” for me because I don’t believe in “the one.” I believe there are lots of potential “ones,” and timing, dumb luck, and open-mindedness are the three key factors in determining which “one” you end up with. Drew and I came into each other’s lives at the right time. We were both single and looking for love. A mutual friend who had a random thought that we might like each other put us in touch over the phone. I happened to be going to New York for a weekend trip and Drew was open to taking me out while I was there. Timing + dumb luck + open mindedness.

We had a wonderful date and spent most of the weekend together, laughing and sharing stories and having a great time. Then I went back to Chicago and Drew and I proceeded to long-distance date for a while. Every couple of weeks, one of us flew to the other for a long weekend. We talked on the phone every day — usually multiple times a day. We texted and emailed. We talked about the future.

After about six months of this, I decided it couldn’t work out between us and I broke up with him on one of my visits to New York. I decided that the risks were too great. I knew he wasn’t open to moving to Chicago, so that meant I’d have to move to New York if we were ever actually going to be together-together, and the idea of leaving my friends and my life behind was too sad and scary to fully embrace. Even for Drew. So I told him I couldn’t do this anymore, and I cried and cried.

I cried so hard that, when I got to the airport, I was so distracted by my grief that I missed my plane. I was sitting right there at the gate just thinking about how fucking sad I was, and one second the gate was full of fellow passengers-in-waiting and the next minute everyone was gone and so was the plane. I had been so lost in my grief that I’d missed my boarding call and last plane out to Chicago, and I had to spend another night in New York.

Heading back to Drew’s place on the bus, I had a sudden feeling. It wasn’t exactly “just knowing,” but more like the absence of knowing we weren’t meant to be. For months, I’d been trying to talk myself out of loving Drew because loving him and investing in a future with him meant taking some risks I wasn’t yet open or willing to take. I convinced myself — and tried to convince him — that we weren’t really meant to be in the long run. I said things like, “Isn’t this a fun summer fling!”

But summer came and went and soon it was October and staying with him meant being more than a fling and I wasn’t sure that that’s what I wanted, so I broke up with him. But on the bus to his place after I missed my flight home, I realized that not being together was a bad idea and that I’d made a mistake walking away from him.

I told him so as soon as I saw him, and, luckily, he welcomed me back with open arms. That night we wandered the streets of Manhattan and I felt like the luckiest girl around. I wasn’t going to take what we had for granted anymore. How long had I been looking for exactly what was right in front of me?

In past relationships, I’d had a nagging feeling in my gut that I was with the wrong guy. With Drew, I didn’t have that. It took me a few months, but finally I realized that THAT’s how I knew he was right for me. It wasn’t a “just knowing” he was the one that hit me over the head and knocked the breath out of me or anything dramatic like that; it was simply the absence of knowing he wasn’t. It was subtle and I almost didn’t notice it.

So, my advice for anyone trying to figure out if the person you’re with is the right long-term match for you is to check in with your gut. Is there a nagging feeling that things are off? If so, are those things that can be fixed without changing who either of you is? Are there circumstances muddying up your perspective that you have the power and willingness to change? If so, change them and then see how you feel. If things are still off, then maybe you aren’t meant to be. Or maybe you simply aren’t ready to decide your future yet, which is fine, too (unless one of you is in a rush, in which case, this may be an issue of your timing being off and there’s probably another “one” for you down the road when timing, dumb luck, and open mindedness are lined up better).

If you check in with your gut and there’s NO nagging feeling that things are off, then congratulations; there’s a good chance you’ve found a match.

***************

You can follow me on Facebook here and sign up for my weekly newsletter here.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

20 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Taylor August 15, 2013, 1:18 pm

    Love this answer =)

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  • avatar

    Callifax August 15, 2013, 1:41 pm

    I have never thought of it in this way before, but this makes a whole ton of sense to me.

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  • avatar

    GatorGirl August 15, 2013, 1:50 pm

    Yeah, WWS. Trust your gut.

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    lets_be_honest August 15, 2013, 1:53 pm

    “Everything is a risk — even marrying someone you love with your whole heart and want very much to spend your life with.”

    Ah, see LW, this is why its best to just hide in bed in your whole life. Much easier.

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    • avatar

      lets_be_honest August 15, 2013, 1:54 pm

      Or you could get a magic 8 ball.

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  • veritek33

    veritek33 August 15, 2013, 2:20 pm

    Such a beautiful answer. Life is about risk.

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  • avatar

    TeacherNerd August 15, 2013, 2:39 pm

    This is a little bit why “S/he is my soulmate!” and similar comments irk me. I don’t believe in soulmates; I believe that one might be better suited to someone specifically.

    I did know that my husband was “the one,” though, before we even met in person. (We had known each other online for some time prior to meeting, but, as it has been noted, “timing is everything!”) I may or may not have met another “one” but as far as I’m concerned, my husband is “the one” since he’s who I chose to marry and commit to. “The one” doesn’t necessarily need to be a “dangerous fantasy,” as someone else had noted, unless you attach strings or negatives. For some people, there will only be “that one.” For others, perhaps there could be more than “one.”

    As for, “You may fall out of love!” Well – that’s a crock. Love is a choice. When you marry or otherwise long-term commit to someone, you’re choosing to love that person come hell or high water. I realize that there may be times when I’m not “in love” with my husband, but I made the conscious decision when we got married that I would choose to love him, period, until death. My husband and I dated for 8 months before getting engaged; we were engaged for 10 months before we got married. (We’re Catholic – lots of marriage prep goes into this.) We were also in our mid-30s, so we had a very good idea of who we were individually, and what and for whom we were looking. Neither of us felt any of that anxiety or insecurity or unsureness that apparently is so common or normal.

    Don’t dramatize things, LW. Not everything needs to be complicated or angst-filling – don’t go looking for drama or create your own simply because things are going well. I’d question your anxiety because you think you’re supposed to feel it because “everyone else feels it.”

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    • avatar

      lets_be_honest August 15, 2013, 2:46 pm

      I think The One implies that there is only one person out there for you, and that is why its dangerous. Choosing one (lowercase) isn’t dangerous, or at least as dangerous, haha. I also do think people fall out of love. Sure, you can choose to stay with someone forever, but you’re kidding yourself if you think people don’t fall out of love every single day.

      I have to say, for someone who says don’t dramatize things, its pretty dramatic to say you know your husband was The One before you even met him!

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      • avatar

        BreezyAM August 16, 2013, 5:39 pm

        I think people choose to fall in and out of love. Maybe not consciously in that specific of a manner, but by nurturing/not nurturing conversation, sharing, connection, and emotional & physical intimacy.

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  • avatar

    John Farrier August 15, 2013, 1:48 pm

    There was never a point I knew for sure that Drew was “the one” for me because I don’t believe in “the one.” I believe there are lots of potential “ones,” and timing, dumb luck, and open-mindedness are the three key factors in determining which “one” you end up with.

    This.

    I proposed to my wife four months after meeting her and married her five months after that. In retrospect, we really didn’t know each other that well when we got married–at least not nearly as much as we do now.

    But we had the same core values and the same vision for what we wanted our lives together to be like. That foundation was sturdy enough–or has been for nine years. If we could choose, both of us would certainly do it over again.

    Was she ‘the one’? Well, she was the one that I committed myself to for life. If I hadn’t met her, I probably would have met and married someone else and she would have done the same. That’s just being realistic and it doesn’t cheapen our relationship to recognize that fact.

    The notion of ‘the one’ is a dangerous fantasy because it adds a needless, mystical complication to relationships.

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  • avatar

    AliceInDairyland August 15, 2013, 2:44 pm

    Aww, I am glad this got re-posted. I always forget that Wendy broke up with Drew (VERY temporarily) and she could have easily gotten on that flight back to Chicago. Once in Chicago there is probably a good chance she would have convinced herself that it wasn’t meant to be. Yay for crying and missing flights! Life is so strange like that sometimes.

    There is no point to that totally garbled up paragraph except for the fact that this response makes me so happy. That, and your response that talks about love being like lightening in a jar.

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  • avatar

    TECH August 15, 2013, 3:59 pm

    Well, I think the LW is asking for help coping with her anxiety more than anything. Her question is not “How do you know when you’ve found “the one”? Her question is, “How do you deal with the anxious feelings that your love will go away?”

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    • Lindsay

      Lindsay August 15, 2013, 4:26 pm

      YES. I love Wendy’s advice, and I’m sure it’s helpful to the LW, but I think that this might be another case of a misleading headline influencing the comments. I think “right person” to her means that she’s found a good guy and a good relationship. She never uses the terms “the one” or “soulmate.” So I don’t think she needs to be educated on whether a soulmate is real so much as figure out how to handle her anxiety that the relationship will end.

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    • avatar

      ktfran August 15, 2013, 4:32 pm

      But I think those anxious feelings are coming from a place of not knowing if this person is “the one.”

      So, in Wendy’s explanation of her finally deciding she wants to spend her life with Drew, she’s giving the LW a peak into her life and what felt right, which should help ease the anxious feelings.

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  • mylaray

    mylaray August 15, 2013, 4:51 pm

    Regarding the anxious feelings, my fiance and I were very anxious and scared about our relationship throughout the first year. We were scared because of the deep feelings we had for each other and that we didn’t want to lose each other as friends if we were to break up. I also felt very overwhelmed when I thought of how much I loved him. While we didn’t know that we wanted to get married, we did know within months of meeting each other that the other was a really important person in our life that we wanted to stay there. Unfortunately, that also scared both of us into being committed to each other. We broke up many times because we both would say it was better to be friends and in each other’s lives than to fall in love, only to end up breaking up. But it really stopped us from being together; we’re both perfectionists and when those anxious feelings crept up, it was easier to walk away than to deal with those scary thoughts of things not working out. We still get anxious feelings from time to time, and maybe since we both deal with it, it’s easier for the other to understand, and we make a conscious effort to choose each other, and not let our anxious and irrational thoughts override that.

    What worked for us was a few things: 1) lots of open, honest communication about our thoughts, 2) timing/waiting for the right time, 3) seeking out counseling individually for both of us to work on our issues regarding anxiety, and 4) being patient, and knowing that even if we didn’t work out, it was still better to have loved and lost, than not to have loved.

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  • avatar

    Leslie August 15, 2013, 7:02 pm

    WWS. Anxiety is a natural emotion and very common when dealing with relationship stuff. Congrats for being in love! The fear associated with losing love comes from experience. Breakups suck. Getting your heart broken sucks. All of that sucky stuff is sitting in the back of your head just eating away at the love you have currently and that’s what you have to fight. Just try to remember the present. What you have is good. It may last a short time or a long time but either way, embrace it. Learn from it. Grow your love for yourself and your boyfriend. Be the best you.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark August 16, 2013, 12:33 am

    Eh, try NOT finding “The One”… and then tell me how you feel as that is actually, you know, a REAL problem… 😉

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  • fast eddie

    fast eddie August 15, 2013, 11:45 pm

    I spent a few months sailing down the coast and was more alone then ever before in my 45 years and vowed to a passing sea gull that when I got back home I’d find someone and make a go of it no matter what it took. Fortune was on my shoulder and Onnie was available. We’d known each other for 12 years before that as casual friends. That started us on the last 25 years together come the end of this month.

    The point here is that we both wanted it to last and put in the easy effort to make it so. To paraphrase JFK: Ask not what you want out of a relationship, but what are you willing to put into it?

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  • avatar

    SasLinna August 16, 2013, 8:06 am

    An interesting question to ask yourself is if you’re more worried that something out of your control will happen and destroy your relationship or if you’re worried that you might f**k it p. If it’s the former, then the recipe is to accept that you simply can’t control everything. If it’s the latter, you need to trust yourself more that you can deal with things appropriately & that your bf will also cut you some slack if you don’t always act perfectly. If this is your “one”, it’s not like you can f**k things up with one wrong step. He’ll forgive you for some misssteps and he won’t hold it against you if you’re a little anxious. So I wouldn’t recommend to try and hide your anxiety from him . Ultimately, if you’re an anxious person, it’s always going to show a little and your “one” will be a person who can live with that.

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    • avatar

      SasLinna August 16, 2013, 8:16 am

      Personally, I got a more secure feeling after actually f**king up slightly and going through a fight, and then resolving things. And this happened about 7-8 months into the relationship. I think that’s often when the honeymoon period ends and you start noticing differences and going through some conflicts. This is a normal adjustment for many couples. So, if you’re at 5 months you may just be noticing that the “real life test” for this relationship is approaching.

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