Last night I went for what was supposed to be a quick dinner with my friend, but turned into a three hour conversation around his relationship with his long term girlfriend.
They've been living together since the start of this year and have started talking about marriage, but like so many couples, he's not sure if she's the one. In his words 'I've just found someone that is OK and I will mold her into what I want over the years.'
Is it just me or does that sound desperately tragic? Perhaps I'm just a hopeless romantic, I think my parents are partly to blame as they have been together for 28 years and are still madly in love.
But surely comments like the ones my friend made are the reason why we have stats like '50% of marriages end in divorce.' If people are aware well before they marry someone that they're not 'the one' then it's no surprise those relationships end in divorce.
Which got me thinking, why do so many people settle in relationships and ultimately marriage? What makes them stop looking for that person that they connect with in a way they can't with anyone else?
I whittled down the reasons to these:
• People are scared: - of the alternative of breaking up with our current partner - of being alone - for some reason we have this perception that being by yourself is some terrifying, horrible experience that can perfectly justify staying with someone that is just 'ok.'
• People are conscious of time:- especially women, we all have that biological ticking clock as we enter our 30's and witness most of our friends getting married and having children; we are filled with fear that we will 'miss out.' So we settle, for someone we know isn't quite right, but at least we will no longer be the only singleton at weddings.
• People are in denial:- we justify the differences and issues between ourselves and our partners in our heads and reassure ourselves that all is better than it seems.
• People look to family/friends for reference: - often, but by no means always, we look at the relationships closest to us: parents, siblings, friends and if they don't appear to be happy, we internalise the idea that its almost expected to be with someone that isn't necessarily right for you, but you get along with well enough.
• The notion of marriage being 'forever' is a thing of the past: - as proved by the growing number of divorce rates, it is becoming more acceptable to marry two, three, four times.
• People are hopeful: - that we will 'grow' with our partners. We hope that the more years we spend with our partners, the more they would mold and shape into the person we wanted.
• People become complacent:- in the way many do with jobs, dreams and other facets in life, we lose the drive to find something better and accept our situation for what it is.
• It would be too messy:- we've bought a house, we have a dog, we've had two kids. It would be too much of a hassle to upheave all that and start again.
• People are willing to keep looking:- again, something mentioned by my colleague yesterday. Despite being in a long term, serious relationship, he always keeps his third eye on the look out for the next best thing.
For the first time in a long time after that conversation, I walked away grateful that I was single and not stuck in a miserable relationship that I was too scared to leave.
I by no means believe in 'the one' there are 7 billion people in this world, we probably have about 1 million 'the ones', but at least I can continue through life with the reassurance in myself that I won't ever settle. I will wait for the one that I can say, without a moment's hesitation, they are who I'm meant to be with.