Don’t do it.
As a tween, my notions of love came from a handful of dubious sources: The Holiday, glimpses of my cousins’ Cosmo magazines, crushes on middle school redheads, and my parents’ half-hearted attempt to give me a purity ring.
As normal as this sounds, I will say that I fairly quickly crafted my notion of my forever person. This person was more than The One; this person had already walked through flames and ice for me.
I assumed I’d meet this person in a coffee shop or a library (my favorite places to hang). I assumed he or she would immediately know the words written (I assumed) on the outside of my heart. There would be subtlety, great flights of fancy, and a sense of knowing that This. Was. It. I’m not here to say that your forever person doesn’t exist, or that meeting them won’t happen in this fashion. I’m not a tween anymore, after all. I’m not holding up a stop sign on your search.
But if you’re hanging out in cafes looking demure over steaming soy lattes, hoping the next person who walks through the door will redefine everything you’ve ever thought about love — this one’s for you.
1. It doesn’t stop at forever.
Every time I start dating someone new, my mom will practically yell into the phone: “But is he The One?” I appreciate my mom’s care about my love life (kind of). But this kind of care presumes that meeting your forever person, knowing you have met them, is the end goal. All roads point to Her or Him.
This was a crucial part of my growing-up fantasy — meeting the Love of All Loves, I believed, would validate everything that came before, immediately erase the longing and the searching, instantly preclude any need for anything else. The fated meeting is not where this all stops. It is, actually, where it all begins. A forever person is a forever person because both of you has what it takes for such a commitment. (Keeping one may be half the battle).
If you’re dreaming of The One, dream of the entire road, not just the first gate.
2. Forever may not happen.
I love easily and hungrily. Sometimes this has been a good thing; sometimes, it has run me into some fairly severe corners.
What I’ve learned about my capacity to love is just that — my immense capacity to love. I’ve fallen in love many times. I’ve felt soulful connections to people that, due to time and passing journeys, last only days or weeks. These connections have been bright, powerful things. I will never forget them. I’ll always dream of them. They have a kind of infinity that no other relationships have (in my mind).
While I’ve stayed with some partners longer, I’ve learned that time is no true assessor of companionship. Your forever person, in this sense, may not be forever. Circumstance may only unite you for mere minutes.
This distinction should not trouble you; it should excite you. It also means that if you choose to wait around for someone to plan for retirement with, to speak every syllable of your language, you may miss out on the other Forevers just waiting to savor your beauty and your heart.
3. You need to keep your eyes open to what is present.
Keeping your eyes trained on the café door may mean you never get to lock gazes with the cutie behind the counter. It may also dissuade others from trying to meet your gaze itself; we’re all fairly good at identifying the people who have their attention on something (or someone) else.
Lingering in the present (rather than the shadowy future) will coax you to sense all possibility around you. You may even learn to appreciate the different ways your heart can tug and lean; I became vastly aware of the nuances of my own love the moment I surrendered my expectations of The One’s arrival.
Staying in the present is also a common theme in many self-care methods designed to ease stress and promote awareness, such as meditation and deep breathing. Wouldn’t you rather meet your forever person fully aware and grounded? I know I would!
4. Your forever person will love you for learning their language.
The language of love will always fascinate us. As humans, we’ve been studying it for centuries. Limiting your current scope of loving limits your exposure to the infinite complexities of this wondrous, timeless language.
Opening yourself to other possibilities of love, exploring your heart’s longings, learning more about the way you love — all of this is an experience. This experience may be ugly. It may be a strange shade of neon; it may look like something else when you first experience it. It can also be painful, and kind, and confusing. It will all, however, be the experience of learning your future lover’s language. And your forever person will be grateful for this. You’ll be able to communicate more easily—you may even have the same memories.
5. Your forever person is likely not waiting for you.
Well, they may be, on some subconscious level. But they are doing everything you are doing right now: staying present, dropping the impatience, walking in and out of bars and cafes and libraries.
Trust that the real waiting happens when you are experiencing. And then when you do meet, it will never fail to meet your expectations.