How Do I Know if it's "The One"?: Embracing Uncertainty in Relationships
When you first start dating someone, you are most likely open-minded. You look forward to learning more about his or her interests, work, and family. You listen intently to your date’s stories and dreams. You probably find yourself imagining what the future could look like with this potential partner.
It’s easy to quickly move from that open-minded receptive space to one of making premature decisions about whether the relationship is going to work. It’s easy to be very black-and-white in evaluating the relationship too early in the getting-to-know you process. Human beings crave certainty and being without it can be stressful, so much so that it pressures you into habitual black-and-white thinking. The discomfort of uncertainty can cause you to make a decision without enough information about the potential compatibility in an unfolding relationship.
Here are three things to tune into as you evaluate a relationship.
Ask questions before making decisions
Let’s say you are a single mom. You’ve met a man who you like and he doesn’t have kids. He mentions that he really doesn’t want kids of his own either. It would be easy to draw the long-term conclusion that this man is not going to make a good step-parent (and therefore is not “the one”) because of these statements. You might quickly discard the relationship for these reasons.
Instead of drawing that conclusion with limited information, it would be beneficial to dig in deeper and learn more about both why he didn’t elect to have kids and why he doesn’t want kids of his own. Perhaps these things have to do with his own childhood, his commitment to work, or alternative visions for his life. Instead of assuming he is not a “family man” consider diving in deeper and asking questions before drawing a conclusion that despite the relationship having potential, this sticking point necessitates a break up. Try staying the course and considering other dating goals along the way to your decision about whether this partner is “the one”.
Gather data before drawing conclusions
Similar to the point above, it’s easy to base dating decisions on limited data. If you have seen your new love interest act a certain way in response to a certain situation – perhaps being short with you when he or she is stressed about work – it’s easy to decide that the relationship isn’t going to work because you don’t like the way you are treated when he or she is under stress. Premature decisions around whether or not your date is “the one” without enough information can cause you to turn away from a good relationship earlier than you should. Instead, recognize that in the early stages, partners are likely trying to impress you and may not even be responding in a natural way to their challenges. Give him or her the benefit of the doubt and don’t assume that an isolated incidence is necessarily a pattern.
Take a moment to express how his or her actions (being short with you) made you feel and ask them for what you need (not to feel like work is the top priority to the point that you feel discarded during times of stress). Give them the opportunity to respond, course-correct, and listen to how you feel. You may be surprised how much you are drawing premature conclusions based on your past relationship experiences rather than what is really unfolding in the moment. Remain open to the fact that the answers will come with time.
Listen to your intuition
So often, you rely all too much on evaluating someone based on an arbitrary list in your head, that is often based on what society thinks or your past relationship experiences. You quickly want to determine whether your date is “the one” looking for some magical fairy-tale feeling that society has portrayed since you were young.
Instead, work to stay open-minded and listen to you intuition when it comes to evaluating relationships. Tune into your inner voice or deep feelings about a situation just as much as the checklist of qualities that you may be looking for. Too often you go into a relationship with expectations that you might miss a partnership that is different and new, including qualities you have not even yet considered. Don’t be afraid to stay in a relationship based on your intuition despite your potential new partner not checking some select boxes on your list. Tune into how you feel on the deepest of levels and let that be your inner compass.
While this blog article addresses embracing uncertainty in the context of relationships, it applies also to friendships or relationships with your family members. Embracing uncertainty and being comfortable in a place of not-knowing is a powerful practice that our team of therapists can help you embrace. Contact us for a free consultation if you are struggling with this dynamic or other relationships challenges.