The Relationship Theory About ‘The One after THE ONE’ That Changes Everything
You don’t have to be a fan of Keeping Up With The Kardashians to know all about Kourtney Kardashian’s recent engagement to Travis Barker. It’s EVERYWHERE. Mostly because everyone was convinced she would FINALLY end up with Scott Disick.
ICYMI (where have you been?), the pair shared a rocky as hell relationship for years, and have three kids together.
She was single; he was single – eventually they would get back together and work it all out. No?
Instead, the eldest Kardashian left the back-and-forth relationship with Disick and found Barker – to whom she is now engaged.
And according to experts, this kind of roadmap is actually quite common in relationships.
Couples counsellor Lissy Abrahams said that these days we’re becoming more aware than ever of what we want (and expect) from a relationship.
“The ‘one after the one’ occurs when we believed that we were with the person we’d spend the rest of our lives with, and made a declaration to ourselves, our partner, and others,” explains Abrahams.
“Over time, we realised that they’re not actually ‘the one’. A separation occurs, and then we meet someone else, who we now declare is ‘the one’.”
By tapping into how we feel with our partner, and being aware of the emotional experiences we want to have in our relationship, Abrahams said this means we are less likely to stay with what doesn’t actually feel right enough.
“Many of us work hard to get the relationship on track and we take our commitment seriously, however, if it isn’t working to meet enough of our needs, we’re more able to let it go these days instead of settling.”
But in order to understand the different factors underlying the one after ‘the one’, we need to first understand why we create ‘the one’ in the first place.
According to Abrahams, most people create a ‘specialness fantasy’ about their prospective partner at the beginning of their relationship – and it’s during this time that we tend to offer up the best of ourselves.
“We are considerate, well-groomed, interesting, intelligent, and funny. We want them to view us positively and to continue to find us special. We do our best so they consider us worthy of being their ‘one’,” said Abrahams.
“When we have an inkling that we may be with ‘the one’ we often assess their qualities rather glowingly. However, we also ignore, dismiss, or downplay information that may not quite fit with the narrative of our prospective partner’s wonderfulness and specialness.”
“We both do this as we want to get this relationship over the line. The whole future of the relationship depends on this, as no one wants to commit to a ‘normal’ or ‘ordinary’ relationship.”
Abrahams said that often the ‘specialness fantasy’ fades, allowing you to become more aware of the emotional experiences that might be lacking.
“We thought the lingering looks, acrobatic sex, and interesting discussions would last longer. The life we thought we’d have together isn’t quite transpiring. We may feel bored, unseen, undesirable. We may sometimes feel some niggles, or even dread. And these may be communicated to our partner via resentment or criticism.”
When this happens, people will then usually end their relationship because it isn’t honouring what is most important to them in a committed relationship.
“Then we meet someone else, and they become special in our eyes. We create another specialness fantasy as, once again, we don’t want to commit to someone ordinary and we need to create long-term care and safety with them.”
Once we’re able to find if we’re in a healthy, reliable relationship with this person, Abraham said we are able to “commit to ‘the one after the one’.”
So, does this mean we need to experience relationships that don’t work for us to understand what we actually want and desire?
Here, we asked three women who ended up with the one after ‘the one’ to share their stories.
“After years of casual dating through the apps, I met *Ezra in broad daylight in person, which at the time I put down to “fate”. He played me hot and cold for months, keeping me at arm’s length then love bombing me, and I was addicted to the drama of it.
He brought out a side of me that made me passionate and furious and desperate for his love, and I honestly thought he was the one for me because love meant you had to struggle this hard, and in the end, they would be worth it – I’d have earned him. This kind of love was supposed to be fiery and addictive, right? I thought he was like the unavailable “Big” to my “Carrie” and we were destined to keep doing this until we settled down.
He kept saying we were supposed to be together and that he loved me more than any woman he’d ever dated; that I was different and together we were different – he would stop with his previous behaviour and be better for me.
I eventually discovered that he’d cheated on me with multiple women and cut all ties with him, which was so painful at first, mostly because it was losing something I’d worked so hard for… but ultimately really empowering, even all these years later. Only a month after that I jumped back on the [dating] apps and met *Joel.
In Joel’s company I was the opposite of what I was with Ezra – calm and at ease, confident with myself rather than anxious about not being a version of me he wanted. Everything was effortless. I never had to question his feelings, or that we were doing this “at the right time” for either of us. After a month we said “I love you” (and meant it), and within a year we were engaged.
I’m engaged, and my fiance was definitely the one after who I thought was the one! I dated this guy all the way through high school and uni – we made it to my final year, doing the long-distance thing and travelling between each other’s universities (which were on opposite sides of England) every couple of weeks.
We were together until I was 21 when I found out he’d been cheating on me the whole time (I would now not recommend long-distance university relationships!). We broke up, I graduated, moved in with my parents for a bit then relocated to London to get a job.
I moved into a flat with four strangers and eventually ended up going out with one of the guys! We moved into a flat of our own in London, moved to Sydney together in 2017, got engaged in the middle of COVID at the end of last year and (as long as the world stops going mad) will now be getting married in July 2023.
Luke and I started dating when we were in high school – he was my first ‘proper’ boyfriend. We shared a lot of the same friends, and after school, we remained in quite a tight-knit group. We dated for almost 10 years before I realised it was no longer the relationship for me.
He really wanted to settle down, and for me – it just didn’t feel right. I was still young and wanted to have fun. We went on a break and ended up going our separate ways – which was hard as we would often still see each other at group events.
I ended up meeting Aaron a few months after we broke up – and it just felt really right. For me, he was definitely the one after ‘the one’. Within a year, we had a baby and got engaged – it all just happened so naturally, and everything kind of fell into place. We’ve now been married for five years and have two kids.
How to tell if you’re with ‘the one’
Wo-woa-woah! Before you go breaking hearts, read this.
If you think you might be with ‘the one’ before the one, Abrahams recommends following these six tips…
Listen to yourself
“Imagine dropping a microphone inside your mind and turning the volume up to what your voice is really telling you. How happy are you? How unhappy are you? Is this too far away from what you thought the relationship would be like? How often do the niggles or even dread about the relationship appear?”
“Be honest with yourself. The voice in your head is your ego, and it can harm your couple relationship. Before making the decision to exit, just make sure that your ego is not the cause of your unhappiness.”
Understand the origins
How much of it is about your partner and your relationship? Abraham said we’re often shaped by previous relationships with parents and other experiences, which shape our expectations and beliefs.
“Some of these experiences remain unhealed or unresolved inside us, and we see the problem as emanating from our partner, not ourselves. This is linked to our ego. Our ego can cause us to project inadequacy onto our partner, and see their faults and limitations, whilst making ourselves faultless.”
“If you find any of this is familiar, get help from a therapist to sort this out before you decide to leave your partner. Your ego will remain unchecked, and the unhealed parts will seep into your next relationship. What we don’t know about ourselves can hurt us and our relationship.”
See it as a vehicle for development
“Think of this as a mirror to explore what this is in yourself. It’s as if our partner’s words, behaviour, or actions have tugged at a vulnerable or sensitive part of us. Be curious about this inside of yourself.”
Locate your fears
Fear can hold us in a relationship that we know isn’t quite right for us.
Whether it’s the fear of a breakup, fear of being alone, fear of feeling shame or humiliation of the relationship ‘failing’, Abrahams said to be honest with yourself and ask yourself if you can solve them another way.
“How much of your fear is a story of fear, as opposed to reality? It can be very helpful to speak to wise people you know in your community or seek help with a therapist to work through your fears and where they come from,” she advises.
Be aware of feeling like you’re not getting a return on your investment
According to Abrahams, many people will stay in the relationship purely because they want a return on their investment.
“We have put our heart and soul into making this work. We’ve invested financially, years of our lives, our minds, and our love, shared friends and family. We may believe that walking away doesn’t give us the return on our investment as we wanted.”
“This could be a future together, children, a family unit, a home, financial stability, or the extended family and friends we now have together. There can be much to lose that can hold us in our relationship.”
Don’t be afraid to disturb the status quo
“Many commit to ‘the one before the one’ anyway, as they decide to stay in the relationship rather than disturb the status quo. For many this is a calculation of pros and cons, weighing fears, and also their age and stage of life.”
“Some may be fine with this decision, yet others can’t fully reconcile this decision and create a fantasy of ‘the one’ they’d like to be with. This could be a figment of their imagination or someone at work or even online.”
Typically, Abrahams said this imaginary ‘one’ is different from their partner.
“Despite their decision to remain, they live with the gnawing feeling that they made a mistake by settling.”
Want to find out how your ego can impact your relationship? Abrahams has a free e-book available here.