Is it possible for your first love to be "the one"?
October 6, 2011 6:29 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible for your first love to be "the one"?

I am in a perfect relationship right now. There is passion, common interests, compatible dietary habits, social habits, lifestyle etc. I am in my early 30s and feel like this is the one I have been waiting for.

The only nagging worry I have is that while I have dated before him, I have never been in love. All the guys I have been out with before were fine, but there was never this kind of connection. And I have never had my heart broken, either---it's always been "you're a nice person, I am a nice person, but this just isn't going anywhere."

I am a child of divorce and if I marry, I want to do it right. This relationship does feel right to me. It feels like what I have been searching for all this time. But is it it a potential issue, in the long term, that he's been my only 'love' in the dating game? We're at the point where we've worked through the initial anxieties over this, I think. We do have an amazing relationship right now. Logically, I know I should just go with it and stop being insecure about this.

But...I just need some validation, I guess, that it really is possible for the first love to be the right love. It's not like I am 16 here. I know what my goals in life are, as does he. It's going SO well. So should I stop worrying about this?
posted by JoannaC to Human Relations (37 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Of course it is. It's also possible that he's "the one" for this stage in your life and that down the road, for whatever reason, there will be another "the one." Life is not all-or-nothing. If it's right for you now, then yes, you should stop worrying about it.
posted by headnsouth at 6:33 AM on October 6, 2011 [18 favorites]

Well, love is supposed to be unique, right? It's extremely hard to find someone you are compatible with, and now you have.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:34 AM on October 6, 2011

Just go with it. Enjoy it. Make it last.

Love and marriage is not always easy, but it is worth it. While the things that you love about your partner today are the things that will drive you crazy in 10 years, you have a choice each and every day to make it work. There will be difficult times if you stay together. Accept that as a given and work through them together. Just remember that if you can be nice to a complete stranger then save your best you for your partner. They, after all, deserve more and better of you than that stranger.

And, yes... You can find your best partner the first time you fall in love. My husband did. Like your partner, I'd dated and loved before him. Like you, my husband had dated but not loved before me. We married stupid young. In January, we'll have been married 18 years and a couple for 20. We've now been a couple longer than not. I wouldn't trade him for the world.
posted by onhazier at 6:38 AM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

There is no such thing as "the one," if by "the one" you mean "the only person I could ever love and be happy with long-term." However, if by "the one," you simply mean "a person, likely one among many, whom I could love and be happy with long-term," then yes, it is possible to meet and get into a relationship with such a person even if you've never been in love with anyone else before.
posted by decathecting at 6:38 AM on October 6, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: There's no The One out there, there really isn't, and thinking that there is this singular, mythically compatible person for you out there is clearly messing up your head with regard to this apparently awesome relationships. You can be more compatible or less compatible with someone, you can be more in love and less in love (or not in love at all!) When you meet someone, as you did, who just hits all those right buttons, take it for what it is: an awesome person, and not some sort of mystical bestowment upon your life from the incomprehensible heavens.

If this person had never come along, would you have remained single forever? If, god forbid, something terrible happens to this person, or the relationship, will you be single and alone forever, mourning every day? The answer to both those questions is "probably not." You'd get your shit together and find someone new who might be more or less compatible than this person, who you might love more or less, and with whom you will be happy with.

There are infinite opportunities out there for the people willing to take them. Don't let them get in the way of something genuinely good, like this relationship. He's here. He's awesome. Go with it.
posted by griphus at 6:39 AM on October 6, 2011 [17 favorites]

All it takes for someone to be "the one" is to possess qualities with which their partner could see themselves easily spending the rest of their lives. Even better if this goes both you can have that "the one" feeling only going one direction which often leads to a broken heart or hurt feelings down the road. But from your description here, it looks like you've got something really good going....don't worry and enjoy!
posted by samsara at 6:39 AM on October 6, 2011

Yes, stop worrying, but mostly because (and I'll channel Dan Savage here) there is no "the one", there's only "the 0.97s that round up to the one". And yes, multiple 0.97s.

If I didn't have you... someone else would do.

Just go with it.
posted by supercres at 6:40 AM on October 6, 2011 [4 favorites]

Agreeing that there's no such thing as "the one", but of course it's possible that you'll find a life partner while you're young. I married my first serious high school boyfriend - I was 16 - and we are still happy seventeen years later.
posted by something something at 6:41 AM on October 6, 2011

Is it possible for your first love to be "the one"?

You shouldn't just coast on that - relationships that work are work - but is it possible? Absolutely, yes.
posted by mhoye at 6:43 AM on October 6, 2011

You're in your thirties and have been in several relationships? Yeah, sounds like you are just scouring for any possible downside to the good thing you have now.
posted by yarly at 6:44 AM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

Thinking that there is "the one" or even "several ones" is a bad mistake.

You can't divide the world into "people with whom a relationship will forever be unicorns and rainbows" and "everyone else" - whether or not that first category is a category of one.

For a relationship to work, both parties need exactly two things - the ability and the motivation to put in the effort to make it work.

No relationship works just because some mythical authority decided that it should.
posted by emilyw at 6:48 AM on October 6, 2011

I am a child of divorce and if I marry, I want to do it right.

My parents got divorced too, and I thought the same thing when my husband and I decided to get married. 14 years later, we have changed quite a bit. We're heavier, we're more tired, we have all these small mammals that demand most of our time, we've moved on to different interests. We fight about cleaning and money and whether it's good to link chores to allowance or how we live like hoarding bears and doesn't that bother you at all for the love of jeebus???? But we're still the same people that we fell in love with, and I never want to think about life without him.

I was "in love" before when I was younger, but after the initial high of the relationship wore off, and the differences that I mentioned before, which inevitably creep up on any relationship (I assume) mattered more. I'm a firm believer in living together (or as my grandmother called it, "without the benefit of matrimony") for a year or too before tying the proverbial knot. If you still love the person, even though he insists on putting his dirty clothes beside the hamper, ever if you put the damn hamper beside his side of the goddamn bed, then it's probably love.

And if you get divorced ten years down the road, that doesn't mean you didn't love him. Life has a way of overwhelming our best intentions, but it doesn't negate the emotions that caused them.
posted by bibliowench at 6:51 AM on October 6, 2011 [11 favorites]


Besides, what are you going to do -- break up with Mr. Wonderful in the hopes that you'll fall in love with someone else, get your heart broken, and THEN you'll be ready for "the one"? Maybe in theory, if you got the exact life experiences you expected, you would have been in love before and been dumped before. But that's not what happened. You're lucky! Go with it.
posted by chickenmagazine at 6:57 AM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

There are no absolutes, but for me there is.

I knew my husband was the one as soon as I laid eyes on him. It was a very surreal moment looking at another person and knowing that I was going to marry him and that he would be the father of our eventual children. I knew it to the very core of my being. That was six years ago. He's the only person I've ever dated and I just got incredibly lucky on the first try.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 7:05 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree that there's no "the one," there are many ones, but if you have found someone who you're profoundly compatible with, you share their values and life goals, and you have a good way of working things out and are both able to make a commitment, then there's no reason not to go forward. I know a lot of people who married their first real love; it's not all that uncommon. My parents actually did and they're still together. Two of my coworkers married high school sweethearts and all are great, solid couples with decades behind them already. It's not about finding the magic pebble in a sea of rocks, it's about finding someone you believe in, and making the choice to keep it working, every day. If this is a person you are excited about doing that with, and it's mutual, you should keep going forward!
posted by Miko at 7:07 AM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

Honestly the person who you're going to stick it out with for a long time isn't necessarily going to be determined during the wild chemistry phase of the relationship. I've had a bunch of those and while the initial stages of the relationship were awesomely fun, the person I ended up marrying and living happily with for much longer than any other was the guy who stuck with me when I was at my worst, when things weren't so awesome and we found a way to make it better and come out of it stronger, when we didn't know where we were headed, but we knew that would be ok if we went there together. Our goals and priorities have grown and changed together and that's a big part of the success of our relationship.

Don't get me wrong, the initial wild chemistry part of my relationship with my husband was awesome too, but the parts when things settled down and we got into habits and routines were so much better. You don't say how long you've been dating your guy, but if you really want to be sure, maybe give it some time to get past hormones. And like others have said, life is full of changes and surprises--if you do end up getting divorced at some point, that's just part of life and a consequence of personal growth and change. Fear of failure is the worst reason to not try something! That's a path to regrets.
posted by Kimberly at 7:09 AM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

No. I'm with miko... there's no ONE, there are many, many, many potential ONES.

Doesn't really matter, though. At this stage, you are drunk with hormones and unable to make a decision clearly. Thank evolution for that sad fact. It wants you to couple and breed and fools you by clouding your vision ever so slightly... so slightly you don't recognize it and it angers you to hear it suggested. But admit it, there's a lot about him you don't know and you are filling in the blanks with hope and/or willful or unintentional ignorance.

Drunk driving will get you down the road a ways if you are lucky, and when you sober up, perhaps you'll find you are on the right road still. I hope so and wish you luck, but really, fantasies like "The One" are patent bullshit and need to get put in the same place you buried the Tooth Fairy. Given decent demographics, good health, average social skills, and intent you could find one every month or two.
posted by FauxScot at 7:27 AM on October 6, 2011

Here's the Dan Savage video. He has some good stuff to say about what makes a "successful relationship".
posted by anaelith at 7:37 AM on October 6, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks so much for your comments! To clarify, it's been about 4 months. We've so far been away for a weekend together and spent various weekends at one apartment or the other. So far, so good!
posted by JoannaC at 7:54 AM on October 6, 2011

Baby steps. Although, really, running right into it is a blast so I recommend that if you have the guts. ;)

I married in my early twenties (such a baby, looking back!) and my husband was the first guy I really fell in love with. But, I was very cautious, not really wanting to trust my emotions and deep feelings I had for him. I'd had other relationships but I knew that I was never in love with any of them and I wondered if I'd ever find love. I actually doubted I was capable of love. So silly to think that now. Everyone is capable of love, in my opinion. And everyone deserves love, even you.

And, it's okay to proceed with caution. I also tried to undermine our relationship at one point when I started freaking out about long-term commitment. But, ultimately and luckily, I realized that I'd lose him if I didn't quit playing games.

Relationships take work but a good relationship with the person you love, the work is worth it. And it shouldn't be that hard. Quit making the work so hard!
posted by amanda at 8:04 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Identify this as what it is: not a concrete worry about this actual relationship, but an abstract worry about relationships in general - and as such is very reliably something you should be actively resisting getting bogged down in. One of the few core truths about how to live your life that I am 100% confident about is that learning to quash anxieties over uncertainties of the future that you have no control over is critical to enjoying the good things in life that are actually present.

Which can be easier said than done. But you know what I think this is really about is this -

I have never had my heart broken, either

If this is the first time you've really been in love, well, the stakes are higher. You can get your heart broken now. This non-issue is just a peg to hang the basic anxiety that this could end up hurting you - and badly. Well there are no guarantees, and the deeper you go into relationship commitment, the worse it can hurt you, and there's no remedy for that, it's just the risk you accept.

I think there is one real potential pitfall of this being your first love, which is that you have to understand that there will still be huge challenges and major disappointments and it won't just keep working if you don't keep working at it. We're human beings and we fuck things up, but if too people have love and good will and are honest and trusting with each other then yes, I believe (and there is plenty of evidence to support me) that another person can indeed become "the one" for us.
posted by nanojath at 8:08 AM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm also a child of divorce, and I also put a lot of pressure on myself to "do it right" when it came to getting married. I met my husband when we were 18-yr-old college freshmen. We got married at 23 and have been married 15+ years. Neither of us had dated anyone else seriously before that. I do NOT regret that in the least. I love the fact that we have no baggage, no "what ifs" or exes or whatever. In some respects I guess we grew up together, and we're a good team. It's not very modern of us, but there it is. We're happy! Surprise!

So yeah - I firmly believe that first loves can work out.

But there is no one right way to be married. A divorce does not mean a marriage was an utter failure, and staying married does not mean it's been a success. The important thing, IMHO, is to find someone with compatible values and life goals who you can imagine living with into old age. A little zing is good, but it can't be the only thing. Family, finances, lifestyle, friends - you need some level of compatibility in all those areas to make it work.

But allowing your fear of divorce to keep you from fully participating in this relationship and believing in the potential and the promise of the person standing right in front of you will cripple you much more effectively than marrying "the wrong one." There's some really good research out there about how people in successful marriages treat each other -- go read more about it. For me, that helped a lot.
posted by hms71 at 8:21 AM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

But...I just need some validation, I guess, that it really is possible for the first love to be the right love.

I have been with my husband for 16 years. We met in the second grade and he chased me around the school yard with the class guinea pig because we had little kiddie crushes on each other. Then we dated briefly in 10th grade. Now we're married.

So yeah, it happens. :)
posted by jess at 9:03 AM on October 6, 2011

It worked for my wife. I was her first boyfriend. Which happened in college. She swears I'm the first boy to ever like her. I don't believe it but whatever...
posted by theichibun at 9:54 AM on October 6, 2011

I met my wife when we were 16. We had awesome chemistry. We dated in college, but then broke up and married other people. That never seemed to work out. About 10 years ago we got back together. We would probably have had happier lives in the middle there if we'd stayed together. So yeah, first impressions are often correct.
posted by musofire at 9:58 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

To clarify, it's been about 4 months. We've so far been away for a weekend together and spent various weekends at one apartment or the other. So far, so good!

This all sounds very positive, but like others have said, don't get hung up on 'The One'. You may move in together and find out things don't work so well, or you may be very happy co-habitees. It's very very early days and if things are going well now, enjoy them and look forward to what happens.
posted by mippy at 10:04 AM on October 6, 2011

So, if I'm reading you right, you're worried because things seem to be going too well? Like, "How is it possible that I've never been in love, and never really been hurt badly, never 'paid my dues', but somehow I got with this guy who seems amazing and compatible, and like we could have a life-long thing?" Like you're cheating 'fate' somehow?

First: of course it's possible that he is someone you'll end up in a lifelong relationship with. It may not be the *most* common thing, but I've seen it happen (4?... 6? couples that I know?). While I believe that there are a lot of important things to be learned from prior passion and heartbreak, the idea that you need to have gone through something traumatic/dramatic before having something awesome is kind of ridiculous to me. While personal experience may be effective and, well, personal, "lessons" about life and love can be learned in many ways.

But what I really want to say is: just wait. It's only been 4 (wonderful, happy) months, and I'm so glad that things are going well. But one day the honeymoon will end. I don't say this cynically -- he'll still be great, and you'll still be great. But one day, he'll do something that annoys you, that angers you, that hurts your feelings. It might be a minor annoyance (e.g., "why does he keep leaving dirty spoons on the counter?!?") or something more substantial (e.g., "Does he seriously think that legalized prostitution is a good idea??" [just an example, of course]). But you'll find that your partner is, in fact, imperfect. That there are things about him that you don't adore, or habits you actively dislike. And, the same will happen for him.

But that's ok! That's good! Obviously no one is actually perfect. Once the initial gleam wears off, you guys can see each other for all the good and the bad. You can see (in the happy scenario) that yes, he has these faults that drive you omfg-up-the-WALL, but you value and love his good traits overwhelmingly. That knowledge, plus knowing that you've both put in real work to set/keep things right, will be more reassuring, I think, than the gushy I-can't-believe-this-is-real kind of feeling. Or, in a less-happy-but-still-valuable scenario, you may find that you're not so compatible after all, and decide to part ways. Or, you know, one of you could die tomorrow (I hope not!) and render all this moot. But either way, you won't know until it happens, so just... wait.

So to sum up my 6 cents: enjoy this, be patient, and stop worrying.
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 10:04 AM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I'd love to favorite every answer. This has been a super-helpful thread. I guess my follow-up question would be how long should we be in it before we know? After one year together, if we get to that point, would it be okay to try moving in?
posted by JoannaC at 10:11 AM on October 6, 2011

Of course it's possible, but meeting the right person is only part of the equation.

A great relationship isn't guaranteed just because two correct puzzle pieces found one another, like in the movies -- it takes effort and maintenance from both partners! I wish popular culture emphasized this as much as all the One True Soul Mate crap.

That said, the day I met my husband something went "zing", but it would be years before we actually dated. Happily married 12 years now, and I truly do think it's a mix of chemistry and effort.
posted by bunji at 10:34 AM on October 6, 2011

You know, we can't tell you a time line. It really is up to you two. Generally, people will advise you to see where you are in 6 months before you make a decision such as moving in together. However, live can be unexpected and you can't force yourselves to stick to some pre-defined time line.

You're a grown up now and so is he. If, in 4 more months, it seems right for the two of you to move in together, then do it and be happy. If, in 4 months, there's a proposal and someone says "Yes!" then do it and be happy.

I know it is all so new and exciting for you. Don't over think this and try to time box everything. Trust in yourself and communicate openly.

As another data point, I have a former coworker who married 5 weeks after she and her husband met. They've been married for over 30 years and are still mad for each other.
posted by onhazier at 10:44 AM on October 6, 2011

gaaah... Life can be unexpected.
posted by onhazier at 10:44 AM on October 6, 2011

It's okay to try moving in whenever you feel like it. You can always move out again.
posted by corvine at 10:46 AM on October 6, 2011

When I met my husband, I knew he was the guy at 3 months. At 1 year we moved in; at 2 years we bought a house. At seven we got married. Next month it will be sixteen. he is not a perfect man, but he is the perfect man for me.
posted by KathrynT at 11:27 AM on October 6, 2011

I strongly believe emilyw's statement "for a relationship to work, both parties need exactly two things - the ability and the motivation to put in the effort to make it work" is the best possible answer to this thread.

That being said, here's a couple anecdotes:

My parents were high school sweethearts. They parted ways to go to different colleges. My father dated extensively while in college, my mother dated a little here and there. They saw each other again purely by chance while they were each driving somewhere in Bethlehem and hit it off beautifully once again. They moved in together pretty soon after that, went to grad school together, and are now five mostly-grown children and almost thirty years into their marriage and still going strong.

My mother has always believed that there was a certain Spark there, and says that she knew she was going to marry him the first time she saw him lifeguarding at the community pool. My dad says their marriage was a product of sexual and life-goal compatibility and sheer hard work. My mother says that kind of outlook was why she married him in the first place.

There's many ways to describe it, but I definitely describe my current relationship (a seemingly improbable matchup between a single 22-year-old and a divorced 43-year-old with 50/50 custody of his children) in a similar vein as my father does his. I strongly believe we are going to get married, and we moved in together after 8 months dating. We started talking about successful relationships at a bar one night, and he asked my criteria. I said I'd have to live with someone for a while before discussing engagement. He said he would want to be asked to get married instead of doing the asking. About three weeks later, he called me asking if I wanted to look at an apartment with him. A year into the relationship, we have kind of a standing agreement that someday long in the future, I'm going to pop the question.

Move in whenever you feel like it's time. Ask him to marry you if you feel like it's time and the right thing to do. There isn't a set timescale for it. If you can talk out the "when" stuff easily, it's a sign that the relationship is going well. If it's more difficult to be open with your SO, tread carefully.
posted by skyl1n3 at 11:30 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I met my husband when we were both 13 and we've been together ever since... So yes :)
posted by Cygnet at 3:38 PM on October 6, 2011

I like how so many posters are disregarding your actual post, and talking about their high school sweethearts (as nice as those stories are).

You've dated before. You're in your early 30s. It's not like you have no experience and are totally deluding yourself due to youthful naivete. Perhaps it would be best for you to turn away from outside validation and milestones (such as ideas about "the one," timelines for moving in, etcetera) and consider your own feelings, observations, and experience.

Does this relationship feel right? Does this love make you happy? Are there any lingering incompatibilities and tensions that you think need to be addressed? How does the thought of investing long-term time and effort feel to you? Good? Scary? Boring? Awesome?

If you're worried about rushing things, then don't. If you think that rushing sounds okay and like it'll work out, then go for it. Yes, there might be things you could be overlooking, and perhaps you need to consider practical issues before running out and getting married or anything, but: you have experience. You sound reasoned. Maybe if you turn inward and consider your feelings, your partner's feelings, and the relationship itself, you'll be able to find your answer on your own.
posted by vivid postcard at 4:31 PM on October 6, 2011

You know when you know. I know that's a vague answer, but it's really the best I can give you.
posted by theichibun at 4:05 AM on October 7, 2011

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