I’m speaking from experience.
For years, I searched for ‘The One’. I waited for that moment when I would just know that I’d met the man I would spend the rest of my life with. I held out for the guy who would tick all or most of my boxes. I dated a lot but nobody matched up.
I longed for my perfect ending - the one I’d imagined for myself as a child. I would meet a high-achieving and ambitious man - a lawyer, doctor or a globetrotting journalist like me - marry him and have gorgeous children.
It didn’t quite work out like that. But the ending is just as beautiful.
I was 43 by the time I fell in love with a man to whom I could commit and who would commit to me. We got engaged when I was 46. My fiancé is nothing like the prince I’d pictured in my fairy tale but he is exactly the partner I need.
When we first met, my head tried to convince me that he was wrong for me. Despite a strong attraction that wouldn’t go away, he didn’t fit the mould of my imagined Mr Right. I decided he wasn’t ambitious or driven enough. He wasn’t educated enough. He hadn’t had an international career like me. He wasn’t a high flyer. How would he get on with the friends I’d met at Oxford University or my former colleagues at Reuters?
Fortunately, I matured. Thanks to therapy and personal development work, I finally understood that I would find fault with every man I met and I’d continue to hold out for a Mr Perfect who didn’t exist because I was scared of love and terrified of getting hurt. The little girl inside me equated love with loss because the first man I loved - my dad - broke my heart when he moved out.
Naturally, then, I put obstacles in the way of love, avoiding committed relationships as much as possible, primarily by dating unavailable types. Even when I was in a relationship, I was looking over my shoulder for a different Knight in Shining Armour. I judged every man as not good enough. There had to be someone else.
Eventually, I came to terms with my own fear of commitment and found the courage to walk through that fear. I learned to accept and love myself so I could accept and love another. And I understood that the man I thought I wanted wasn’t the man I needed. I didn’t need a male version of myself. I needed someone stable, steady, gentle and kind. I needed an oak.
I also realised that my concerns about his compatibility with certain friends (unfounded, of course) didn’t matter. Ultimately, what mattered was what was in my heart - how I felt when I was in his presence.
I felt good.
As a relationships coach, I come across women and men like my younger self all the time - busy, high-achieving professionals with a fixed idea of the person they want to end up with. He or she has to be a certain type. But by clinging on to our fairy tale ending and waiting for a Prince or Princess Charming who doesn’t exist, we lose out on other opportunities and potential dates.
This might be a convenient ruse. If we keep waiting and searching for someone else, we never have to risk our hearts. We never have to expose ourselves to potential hurt.
I’m delighted I took the time to explore what was standing in the way of love and to challenge my own fear of commitment. I’m delighted I let go of my fixed ideas about the man I should end up with. And I’m delighted that I learned to open my heart.
My wedding will be a much simpler affair than the royal one, but I have found my match, just as Harry has found his.
You can read more about my approach to love in my book, How to Fall in Love - A 10-Step Journey to the Heart