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Opinion – why we should all stop looking for ‘the one’

As Gen Z continues to challenge the established status quo toward finances, sexuality, and capitalism, why are we still so fixated on the age-old concept of ‘finding the one’?

We often hear that Gen-Z is the generation of individualism.

While they’re often criticised for this heightened sense of self, it could be argued that Gen-Z is the first generation to spend time thinking about what they really want. In fact, Gen-Z has become so politically and digitally empowered that they regularly challenge the status quo with rigid confidence.

Gen-Z has strayed so far away from tradition and what they were bought up to believe, that they’re redefining everything from their careers to their future goals and finances.

Why is it, then, that societal ideals about relationships feel like they’re lagging behind?

Millennials and Gen-Z have shown a greater acceptance for fluid relationship dynamics, such as polyamory, pansexualism, and even thruples. While these conversations on structures and sexuality are thriving, many of us are still feeling pressured by the lifelong quest to find the ‘one’.

In fact, in a survey conducted by the dating app Happn, 32% of millennials and Gen-Z said they were looking for marriage in 2022.

It wasn’t until the beginning of this year that I realised my own search for the ‘one’ had been a subconscious motivation for all my relationships, whether casual, serious, or sexual.

When my last relationship ended, I started dating like it was my full-time job. If any date fell short of amazing, I went back to the drawing board and moved straight onto the next potential suitor, a futile effort to seek out an idealised, perfect person who could be the ‘one’.

I describe looking for the ‘one’ as futile because, put simply, it doesn’t exist. It was only when others pointed it out to me that I was fully able to understand and realise where I was going wrong.

Dolly Alderton’s writing first prompted me to reconsider the way I, and our entire generation, think about relationships. Specifically, her novels Everything I Know About Love and Ghosts taught me that if you spend your whole life searching, you stop noticing the things that are already there.

Many of us are already surrounded by love in the form of deep and powerful friendships, but we’re so transfixed by searching for the ‘one’ that we overlook these meaningful connections.

Flo Perry delves into this topic further in her book How to Have Feminist Sex, stating that, ‘you don’t have to do something just because the society you grow up in expects it of you… Value your non-romantic relationships as much as your romantic ones.’

Alderton’s writing also helped me understand that modern dating is broken.

Gen-Z’s stronger sense of self has greatly affected the way we treat each other, which is further fuelled by the idea that there’s always something better around the corner. Knowing exactly what we want may very well have caused us to develop unrealistic standards for romantic partners.

With that being said, if Gen-Z really is the generation of individualism, then we all should have learnt by now that it’s nigh impossible to find someone that you’re physically, politically, financially, and intellectually (the list goes on) compatible with.

While it’s true that the younger generations are more sexually liberated, experimental, and open-minded, it still feels like finding the one and settling down is still the end goal.

Look at shows like Love is Blind, for example, where the eventual prize is marriage and settling down in a conventional, heterosexual partnership. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with aiming for these things if that’s what you really want, but why are we all still being taught that this is the ultimate?

In an interview with the founder of MakeLoveNotPorn, Cindy Gallop (@CindyGallop) declared that ‘women are sold the concept of love as self-sacrifice.’

After hearing this, it occurred to me that the idea of finding the ‘one’ was a feminist issue. Perry describes marriage as ‘a way of controlling women, a way for fathers to sell of their daughters to another man who provides for her in exchange for sex and babies.’

Meanwhile, single women are pitied and told to ‘hang in there’, all while being quietly judged as people try and work out what’s wrong with them.

Millennials and Gen-Z were raised on Disney films, Friends, and other media that reinforces the idea that you’re only half a person until you find the ‘one’.

We were taught from a young age that finding the ‘one’ is our destiny and that little else matters. Today, Gen-Z seems to have shaken off so much old-fashioned thinking that you can be as sexually free and liberated as you like – but paradoxically still be haunted by the pressure of finding and ending up with the one.

Gallop further describes this quest of looking for the one as ‘deeply unfortunate, because what this means is, every social event you go to (you think) ‘will he be there?’ Naturally, this almost always leads to disappointment.

Gallop explains that in her early thirties she decided to stop wasting time looking for the one and she hasn’t looked back since. I would argue that this is one of the most powerful and liberating decisions Gen-Z has left to make.

As I said, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to get married, buy a house and have children, but we need to stop assuming and internalising these things as the ultimate end goal.

In the same way that Gen-Z has challenged traditional relationship structures, it’s now time to challenge the purpose of our relationships. Not everyone we’re involved with sexually or romantically needs to be the ‘one’.

Post-pandemic life is hard enough without us internalising yet another pressure on ourselves. We don’t need to find the ‘one’ if we don’t want to, as we can be complete and fully realised people without conforming to an ancient, traditional stereotype of heterosexual love.


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