How many break-ups does it take to find ‘the One’?
Recently, a friend of mine crumpled in on herself over what I thought was a fairly normal lunch. “I need to stop breaking up with people,” she said into her vegetarian chilli. “I’m too picky, I need to settle or I’ll just end up alone like Cruella de Vil.”
最近我和一位朋友享用了一份在我看来极为普通的午餐，饭桌上她一蹶不振。“我不能再分手了，”她对着素食里的辣椒说道：“我太挑三拣四了，还是要安定下来，要不然就会像库伊拉•德•维尔（Cruella de Vil）那样孤独终老了。”
It’s not the greatest example to use, because Cruella has a husband, great clothes and admirable drive – but that aside, my friend is typical of so many women I speak to. Strong, independent, excellent women who struggle because they’ve been fed this idea that we were supposed to meet our significant other as teenagers, grow up, get married and never so much have looked at another person.
My boyfriend is a good 10 years older than me, and I’ve struggled a lot with his relationship history, considering that it includes an engagement and a lot of really exciting sounding holidays (but mainly the engagement) – because it doesn’t fit the narrative I’ve been fed. The narrative that my parents had. They met at 14 and that was, it seems, that. And not in a boring way either; they’re best friends, do everything together, and are single-handedly fuelling this myth that we are all floating around looking for the One when, the fact is, there are probably lots of Ones.
This is backed up by a recent poll for the Guardian and TSB by Ipsos Mori, which showed that the average Brit will have had three long-term romantic relationships in their lifetime, instigating 2.29 break-ups themselves. If you vehemently refuse to let go of the romance, you could see this as people taking quite a few goes to get to the One. But it’s more likely that there are Ones for different stages in our lives, and one One wouldn’t necessarily still be a One even if it had worked out, because context is just as important in relationships as fancying the pants off them.
vehement /’viːəmənt,ˋviəmənt/ showing very strong feelings or opinions 感情强烈的；观点激烈的
In simpler terms, we often have to forsake the One to get a better One, and it will take nearly three break-ups to get there. Perhaps that’s because we change as we move through life. It makes sense that the person we were besotted with at 18 years old might not suit us when we’re in our 30s, after two career changes, two geographical overhauls and a new fringe.
I like to think that my boyfriend and I would have been together, had we been a similar age, whatever had happened, but that’s the fairytale narrative talking. We both met at a specific time, when we were single and needing specific things. As well as this, he has been fully in love with someone else. I have been fully in love with someone else. We might, in the future, fall in love with other people. And this isn’t as negative, or upsetting, as it sounds, because surely it’s better than flogging a dead relationship horse?
I told my friend – the instigator of so many break-ups (four) – a quote I came across after a fairly gruelling break-up of my own: “it’s better to be single than in the wrong relationship”. I repeat this to everyone I meet. We’re often frightened of being single because of this fantasy that the One exists, and what if the person we are with is the One, even though it doesn’t feel right? We will ignore red flags. We will forgive too much. We will pretend everything is fine just because it all seems fine, and ignore everything that doesn’t fit that easy, comforting box. Worse, we will see the relationship as perfect, and blame ourselves when it falls apart, forgetting that it always takes two people for a situation to crumble. It takes two to lose communication, two to lose intimacy. And, most importantly, a relationship that has ended, for whatever reason, was a relationship that you’re better out of.
We want the One so much that we will stay in situations long past their sell-by-date, and shame ourselves for acting like logical, rational people when we do initiate the beginning of the end. My friend recently ended a six-month relationship that didn’t feel right. Just like she would move on from a job or switch banks if it wasn’t working out. Relationships are more emotional, unless you really love banks, but it’s the same principle, and we need to stop feeling guilty, or that we’ve failed somehow. We don’t feel bad for leaving three jobs in our lifetime – if anything it shows focus and drive – so why should relationships be any different?
It’s so much easier to sound wise when you’ve made the mistakes yourself. I was in a bad relationship. There was cheating, lying, hot rage outside a noodle cafe down the road and, worse, a quiet disconnect I couldn’t verbalise that had crept into the spaces between the fights. Once I knew this, I promptly stayed with him for four years. Why? Because, along with the narrative of the One, we’re also told that relationships are up and down, that staying with someone is hard, and that sometimes you have to compromise.
verbalise /’vɜːbəlaɪz,ˋvɝbḷ͵aɪz/ to express something in words 用言语［文字］表达
Ending that relationship remains one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, because, say it with me: “it’s better to be single than in the wrong relationship.” I met someone afterwards who helped me understand that relationships don’t have to be as difficult as I’d thought, and that compromise feels very different to constant, unnoticed sacrifice. I might change, he might change, we might not work out – but, on the other hand, who knows? One thing I am certain of is that now I will have the strength to leave, if it comes to that. As we all should.
So, stop looking back on your break-ups as failures, and the people who didn’t work out as lost opportunities. You need to end things to move on and find the best person for you right now – not 10 years ago. And don’t feel bad if you find yourself single again, as hard as it sometimes feels. Because once you’ve had that much-needed cry, you can hold on to the fact that – yep, I’m saying it one last time – it’s better to be single, than in the wrong relationship. Screenshot it. Put it as your phone lock screen. Tile your bathroom with it. Just make sure you never forget it.