This weekend I met up with five of my good friends from childhood.  Four of them have been married for many years and only two of us are divorced.  It was the type of gathering with great energy that allowed us to talk about everything. We covered many topics – life projects, work, restaurants, travel, relationships, love…

It was interesting to hear about some of the things that were said about love and relationships – especially when it was coming from those friends who got married young, and have made their marriage work against all odds because, as we all know, marriages and relationships have their ups and downs, and involve a lot of work.

Also, we all define love differently, based on our own experiences, and what we all feel is so personal, that it is hard to believe there’d be one universal definition we can all share.

Robert Sternberg, a well-known psychologist, developed a conception of love known as The Triangular Theory of Love.

According to Sternberg, any variation of love contains three components:  Intimacy, passion, and commitment.  A “perfect” relationship in Sternberg’s view should contain all three components, but the different combinations of these psychological aspects of love create eight separate permutations that cover almost all relationships.

The holy grail of relationships according to Sternberg’s permutations of love is consummate love, the ideal relationship which most people strive for. This is the love associated with the term “perfect couple”.  According to Sternberg, it is harder to maintain a consummate love than to achieve it, making its permanence uncertain.

One of my friends (divorced and single) was saying how she knows right off the bat if she’d be able to date someone or not.  She shared the outcome of her last relationship and how, even though she decided to break up, she was cool with her decision because she felt that staying longer in the relationship wouldn’t have changed the way she felt about the aspects of it that had bothered her since the beginning.

Another friend (married for more than 20 years) raised an interesting point.  She said that it is easier to keep a solid marriage if you marry the guy next door.  By this, she meant that it is easier to stay in a marriage if you marry someone who understands where you come from and shares the same values and culture.

After my last relationship and, at least based on my past experiences, I can agree with her point to a great extent.

This discussion led me to reflect on an interesting and thought-provoking topic.

“The One”. 

Does “the one” really exist or is it just a myth?  Is “the one” really the perfect partner or just a fantasy of that partner we are projecting on the person we are dating?  Doesn’t this myth give people an unrealistic idea of what a relationship should be?

If you ask me to describe a perfect partner, I’d say that it is a fun, smart and kind person with whom I can be myself with, able to fulfill many aspects of my life – social, emotional, intellectual, sexual – and who is also unconditionally willing to share a life project with me.

As we get older, our expectations of relationships are set at a higher bar and we become a little obsessed with ticking boxes.  This may lead us to scratch a potentially good partner off the list who might be the right one for us.

I am not saying that my friend was wrong in breaking up with her boyfriend – I did not get to meet him or see them together.  She is a very smart and successful woman and seems to be clear about the kind of person she wants to be in a relationship with.

But, isn’t it true that sometimes we rush to make decisions related to relationships based on emotional impulses, the thought that the grass is always greener on the other side or because we think we have no time to waste?

There is also the idea that we might not suffer that much if we stay less time in a relationship, so we might as well end it early if we are not 100% sure.

In the “honeymoon” phase of relationships, we see everything perfect.  It is after three months or so when our judgment is not impaired anymore by oxytocin and we start to see and experience the real deal.

Then the hard work begins.  

This is why Sternberg affirms that it is harder to maintain a “perfect” relationship than to start one.

Luck and timing play an important role in this as well – meeting someone that could be the right one for us at a time when we are not willing to settle down or commit can be a challenge and a strong enough reason to break up a relationship.

What we want or expect from a relationship can change and evolve as we get older.  It also gets harder to meet people we actually want to date because as we age we carry more baggage, but the important thing is to be able to define what you’d want to get out of a relationship at all the different points in your life.

My friends got married young and with Colombian men, so they probably did not have time to date that much or live abroad prior to getting married.  I am sure their marriages have suffered difficult periods throughout the years, but I commend them for succeeding at making them work.

I love my friends very much and I am so happy to see them in good marriages.

I am not saying that marrying within one’s culture guarantees an everlasting bulletproof marriage.  Many of my married friends have intercultural marriages.

The point I want to make is that it is hard enough to find someone we want to date and, even if you do meet someone you like, the chances of the relationship ending in the first six months are pretty high.  Throwing different cultures into something already complicated would only make things tougher.

There is no magic formula, exact science or instructions handbook we can follow to be in that “perfect” scenario in the relationship world.  That would take away all the fun out of dating.

As helpful and accurate love theories and psychological conceptions are, love is such a subjective and complex sentiment that the love permutation that makes a person happy does not necessarily make another one happy.

My good friend Courtney always says: “It is a jungle out there” when talking about dating and meeting men, and she might be right about that.

Jokes aside, we have to accept there’ll be more than one “one”, especially after divorce and singlehood in the 40s.

I grew up believing in «the one» myth.  Even if my life experiences have shown me differently, as a traditionalist, romantic and serial monogamist, the most difficult part to stomach is that there are many “ones” out there.

I will try to not worry about ticking boxes or follow a strict timeline, and will take it easy – enjoy moments with my friends, travel, meet new people, date and get to know the person well and, most importantly, have some well deserved fun before thinking hard about whether or not it is the person I want to be in a “perfect” relationship with.