Healthy lives for young people
Relationships

Looking for ‘The One’: Em’s Story

Em, 22, tells us how their consumption of romance-based films and TV from an early age led to an unhelpful obsession with finding ‘The One’. They share how learning to fall out of love with love has improved their relationship with themself.

Who doesn’t love a good rom-com or a romantic song that makes your insides melt like butter? I sure did. Growing up I was obsessed with anything romantic.

The love that was sung to me or acted out on my TV screen was always shown within heterosexual and gender-binary boundaries. It didn’t occur to me this was at all problematic until a lot later in life. I also failed to realise that my obsession with the romance genre would lead to a lot of hurt throughout my life.

The more I consumed about relationships, the more I began to convince myself that my sole purpose in life was to find ‘The One’. I felt I was born into this world to be the star in my own rom-com.

I thought I would find that one person and the moment I did we would know that we were destined to spend the rest of our lives together. So, at 13, I ran head first into the world of dating and relationships with my one main goal: to find ‘The One’.

My first relationship was with a family friend, and it was neither bad nor good. As far as first relationships go, it was pretty standard. 4 months in and I decided that this person wasn’t ‘The One’ so I ended things. However, I had finally dipped my toes into the vast lake of being in a relationship and wanted more. My rom-com had finally started. Unfortunately, this film wouldn’t have been much fun to watch as every scene would have had the same plot line. I’d like someone, find out that they liked me, we’d date for a bit, things would get intense way too quickly, then I would end things, or we’d come to a mutual agreement that things weren’t really going anywhere.

It was an endless and repetitive cycle that I couldn’t break free of. Being in a relationship, no matter how short term, became addictive. It wasn’t only a cycle I couldn’t break free of; it was a cycle I didn’t want to break free of.

The longest relationship I have been in, to this day, has been 10 months. I was 14-15 at the time. It was during this relationship that I came out as bisexual, but continued to exclusively date men throughout most of my youth. I didn’t feel like the ‘The One’ could exist outside of a straight-passing relationship and began to repress my queerness.

I acted confident about my sexuality but couldn’t figure out how to let myself explore it due to the heteronormative love stories I was desperate to model my life on. My mission to find ‘The One’ caused me to completely repress a side of myself I longed to explore and wanted to love.

At 17, I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), and my past relationship patterns began to make a lot more sense. I finally understood the root cause of my feelings going from 100% to 0% very quickly within my romantic relationships. I thought BPD and this newfound understanding would be the end of my unhealthy relationship with relationships. But during this time I was in an incredibly toxic relationship; with someone I truly did believe was ‘The One’. I had never felt such intense emotions towards someone. He would compare me to his ex, accuse me of not loving him if I didn’t want to be sexual, he mocked my clothing, my hair choices and even my original degree choice. The list of red flags went on, and on, and on.

I let him tear me down and told myself that love was meant to hurt. It wasn’t until over a year after our relationship ended that I realised how abusive he had been. I had dismissed his treatment of me because of my eagerness to find ‘The One’.

I’m now a lot better at recognising when it’s me who wants to be in a relationship, or if my BPD is craving external validation and wants to repeat old patterns. I have learnt that love isn’t meant to hurt and that conflicts within relationships can be resolved with good communication, building a stronger foundation. If I hadn’t watched films or read endlessly about ‘The One’, my teenage years would probably have been far more focused on myself and my wants and needs, rather than me catering myself to what I think other people want out of me. It would’ve saved me a lot of pain, tears and heartbreak.

Having to fall out of love with love has been a process and I’m still learning, but it has improved my relationships with others as well as the most important relationship in my life: the relationship I have with myself.

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