I have a real difficulty with the subject of 'The One' at the moment because I am hearing the phrase mentioned daily yet I think it really has got out of control. I think we are mostly guilty of secretly setting our sights on the perfect person for a relationship and acknowledging anything at all resembling second-best as simply not acceptable at all. In fact we probably discount most people we meet without a second glance. No chemistry! Well not acceptable for us anyway - that's because we are special. The trouble with this contemporary outlook is that it is based on a completely unrealistic set of expectations with goalposts that move by the day (or second - Ed.!).
Let is say that you are 30 and you have had two or three relationships previously. You have a semi decent career that is providing you with a reasonable lifestyle. You have a good set of friends, certain financial independence and a wide and varied set of ideals and tastes that are sophisticated and intelligent. You know what you are about and you know where you may be going. Okay great. So the problem is that you are looking for 'The One'. You are looking for the person who will compliment your lifestyle, your outlook, will be able to bring something to your already hectic lifestyle but will never ever ask you to compromise.
You are in charge of your own destiny and you don't need to compromise so why should you. After all if he is The One, it will all fall into place perfectly. Well you are in for a nasty shock my friends. Life isn't perfect, just switch on the news and look. Marriage isn't perfect as anyone married 40 years+ will happily relate. Everything in life needs working at, and everything in life comes with catches and hitches. There are a couple of key words I will come back to - 'compliment' and 'compromise'.
The problem is our current generations are growing up with expectations that are far exceeding availability. You are looking for the perfect man or woman, you are looking for that 'one' special person and yet amazingly it appears that those who are so selective appear to have heavily overvalued their own 'relationship wealth'. Who says that they have so much to offer. Who says that they are truly nice people who deserve someone. I constantly encounter the word 'compliment' on the profiles of my own dating sites. Women in particular are adept at stating that they are very choosey, that they can be difficult, that they don't suffer fools gladly and that they are very specific as to who they are looking for.
Ask people to describe their perfect mate and they struggle. I have seen a lot of pseudo-spiritual comments lately particularly from women when describing their ideal partner. Think of phrases such as "soul mate" and how often they are used (see below). Its almost like there is a cerebral match that is not defined in physical terms that allows some form of 'communion' or 'union' between 'two souls' at an intellectual and emotional level. Many women friends have said that there needs to be a deep 'connection' or 'chemistry' between them and their partner. Nothing definite there then.
I asked a friend how she defined "The One' and this is what she said:
"The one is a meeting of two minds, bodies and souls, whereby both persons find themselves drawn to each others auras. We want to find the text book mate - everlasting love - our spiritual ideal. As women, we can be easily kneaded like dough and can be moulded as we still have this feminine desire to be needed and loved. We love men's eyes because eyes are the gateway to your soul, piercing yet intuitive."
This statement is extremely interesting not only because of the spiritual notions expressed in a woman's definition of The One but also because she states that women still have a desire to be wanted by men. This leads me to think therefore that a man is still expected to act like a man.
Another girlfriend expressed this view about The One:
"mind you, we have a lot more to lose which is why we harp on about the 'one'. Well, you know about the biological clock, well we have to invest time to find out about a guy to see if he worth our while."
Ah, now things are becoming clearer. Women are looking for the perfect man to make a commitment with because they would like to start a family and don't want to risk getting it wrong. This makes much more sense. To this end I admire the search for a spiritual match and can see its fundamental existence may be critical. Well, except for one thing:
You may remember in a previous article that I tested this spiritual connection and its primary importance out. I simply registered with a well known Internet dating agency and posted my profile with my photo. My profile was genuine and kind and loving and gentle but had a lot added about soul mates and partnerships etc. I am an average to quite good looking guy and received a few matches and emails and messages along the way. After a few months I then altered the photo on the profile from my own to one of a male catalogue model. In the space of one week I had around 180 email, offers of a date and letters with some women almost throwing themselves at me. What horrified me though was that some of these women had already seen this profile with a different photo and ignored it and more importantly the women who got in touch talked about how "spiritually alike" we were and how I appeared to be "their ideal soul mate".
They didn't know me, we had never chatted to me yet they thought I was ideal. These girls had clearly read my profile but the fact was, over 180 women were simply swayed by the way I looked. It had nothing to do with my personality and outlook or any of the details about me whatsoever. Yet to them I was The One. It doesn't feel good to be found out does it! So consequently I have come to the conclusion that many women are indeed searching for "The One". They are looking for that spiritual connection - as long as you are gorgeous and handsome and have a great career.
It is not fair to be too critical of this state of play because I believe the concept of 'The One' has been borne out of a modern liberation of women where they are now able to pick and choose exactly who they want to be with. No woman has to 'make do' anymore and society has evolved and rightly so. The main contention I have is that it is as ruthlessly shallow and misguided as men have ever been accused of in the past. Women do want a good looking man who is in shape. They do want someone who is fun and sexy and a good career and they do want a man who understands commitment and responsibility. But whether they in fact find him is another matter altogether.
I am often told by girlfriends that 'I am happier single than accepting second best'. What is second best? Second best appears to be everything that isn't perfect in the eyes of the beholder. Maybe that means I am second best and if so maybe I should start to feel I have issues! One friend told me this week that she was willing to lower her sights ever so slightly as she gets older but in general she would not be lowering her standards.
Again it ties in with 'the One' who epitomizes all the characteristics of the ideal man. When setting a precedent of standards in dating, people set themselves up to be constantly let down. It is unlikely in the short term that anyone will match their checklist because however great the date has just been, there may be someone waiting who is even better, who is 'the One'. Dating is a chemical reaction. It isn't about checklists, it isn't about computer date matching, it isn't about predetermined ideas about people. It is about communication and intellect and physical chemistry and instant emotions.
The truth is, we are beginning to have a dangerously lonely generation of ThirtySomething women with few partners and absolutely no willingness to compromise. You can blame men all you like, but seeking perfection doesn't guarantee happiness either. The issue ultimately is how these maturing generations will deal with lack of children in their early 40's after leaving things too late. How will they deal with a half lifetime of being single. How will they deal with the fact that their looks are fading and their attitudes have simply left them isolated and unmarried. What we are about to get in my opinion is a potentially troubled generation of people in their 40's and 50's who are still single and who have lost their sense of reality about relationships.