What I found to be true in my own life is that the person God calls us to be with is often the one who brings out the best in us and brings us closer to God. The one who challenges us to be all that God calls us to be, and the saint God made us to be. This was the message of my toast to my beloved sister and her now husband on their wedding day, but it is also my reply to all my single friends, directees, young adults and all those I minister to who ask me, “How do I know if he/she is ‘the one’?” It is a question that seeks to move beyond the warm, fuzzy, butterflies-in-your-stomach, floating on cloud 9 feeling of mutual attraction and on to the heart of the matter- am I dating with purpose? Am I preparing myself to find a lifelong partner who will stand by my side in sickness and in health? ...Or am I being misled by my fear of being alone?
This is what I see gripping the very souls of many who yearn to be in a committed, faithful and fruitful marriage. Whether it is of rejection, the thought of potentially losing who “might” be the one, suffering humiliation and heartbreak, anxiety over if the one even exists or other distressing concerns, fear is the underlying motivator that prevents countless singles from finding their future spouse. I know, because I was one of them.
As most girls I knew, I grew up watching magical, romantic fairy tale classics like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and The Little Mermaid. As a teen, I frequented fashion and beauty magazines like Seventeen, Vogue, and Cosmopolitan with headlines such as “How to Get the Man of Your Dreams” and “What to Wear to Make His Head Turn”. When I learned to drive, I passed numerous bus advertisements, billboards, storefronts, banners and the like promoting ways to make women more attractive so as to entice their man. How much did I learn from all of this? Too much and at the same time, very little.
They all elevated immediate physical attraction as the telltale sign of one’s future soulmate, and they perpetuated the erroneous idea that happy endings only come once you find “the one.” By just observing the numerous marriages and divorces of Hollywood Stars, however, we come to find out that marriage is more than just mutual attraction and that happy endings come to those who are willing to put the work in no matter what suffering comes their way. Marriage entails sacrifice, honesty, shared values, compromise, faithfulness, patience, forgiveness, love and above all, God. In consequence, “the one” can only ever be the person who strives to love you as God loves you- faithfully, fruitfully, freely and completely (Humanae Vitae 9).
Is the person you are with faithful to you and only you as Christ is with us, His Church, actively addressing and working on any struggles of lust and remaining by your side even when you both experience conflict and hardships?
Is the person you are with open to life, seeing children as a gift of marriage and to society?
Does the person you are with honor your dignity, allowing you to freely be in relationship with them without pressure, manipulation or coercion?
Does the person you are with accept you for who you are and as you are right now, loving you completely and giving of themselves completely to you? Do you share each other’s core values and actively strive to live them out?
Last but certainly not the least, does the person you are with bring out the best in you and draws you closer to God?
I knew that my husband was who God was calling me to be with, because he truly exemplified it all. By all means, he was not perfect and just to be clear, I am far from perfection myself. What I saw in him during the many years we dated, though, was someone who earnestly strove to work on his imperfections so as to better our relationship. He never tried to change me, but he continued to challenge me to move beyond myself, helping me become more selfless, more merciful, and more loving. Whenever I wanted to go to daily mass or confession, he would come with me. Whenever I was afraid, he reminded me to trust in God. Whenever we conflicted with each other, he respected my opinions and helped us come to a compromise. He has never pressured me to do something that I was against, and his compassion for others inspired me. He inspired me and continues to do so this very day!
Did I know all of this as soon as I met him? No. Did I experience any doubt that he was the one? Yes! We dated for five years until we got married, because we were still learning about each other- our likes and dislikes, our values, our pet peeves, the way we wish to be loved, the brokenness both of us carried, our hopes, our dreams, and more. We also needed to grow in trust and prepare our hearts to receive the Sacrament of Marriage.
Many singles fear that they may never find “the one”, but at the end of the day, “the one” is the person you choose to love. It is not a ready made soul mate as it is so often depicted in movies, but a partner that works with you to keep the relationship strong, healthy and God centered. Most often than not you will know the person you are with is “the one” when you have learned and observed enough about him/her to confidently answer the above questions with a resounding yes! When you recognize that even in conflict, your beloved challenges you to grow in love, in mercy, and in your relationship with God. When your beloved brings out the best in you and draws you closer to Christ!
May you be at peace that God knows your every heart’s desire and that He will provide! You and your future spouse will be in my prayers!