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Men I’ve Loved Before: Demystifying “The One”

I was recently reminded of the concept of “The One” when I found an old, long-forgotten list I had titled “Things I Worry About When I Think of My Upcoming Nuptials”. Right there, at Number 6, I’d written: “I’ll never meet The One, ever. It’s over. This is it. Boo hoo hoo.”

I was recently reminded of the concept of “The One” when I found an old, long-forgotten list I had titled “Things I Worry About When I Think of My Upcoming Nuptials”. Right there, at Number 6, I’d written: “I’ll never meet The One, ever. It’s over. This is it. Boo hoo hoo.”

That wedding was eventually called off (you can read about that here) and since I had nothing to worry about later when I was ultimately getting married, I never revisited that list. In fact, I forgot all about its existence until I stumbled on it a few days ago. As I looked at that item I found myself asking, what is this “The One” thing, really? I realized I now had only a vague memory of a concept that apparently was once so important to me, so I dug out my old journals and sure enough I found some interesting things.

In her book, “Men I’ve Loved Before”, Adele Parks tells the story of Nat, a young woman who was certain she was married to The One. However, when cracks started to show in their marriage, she began to wonder if her husband Neil was the man of her dreams, or if someone from her past was actually The One. And so began her journey through her little black book, filled with names and addresses of previous lovers. After seeing each and every one of them again, she found what she was looking for.

In the journal I kept in my late teens and early twenties, I found one entry in particular that caught and held my attention. My younger self had just started dating a great guy, and had never been so happy with a man. She wrote, ‘if he’s not The One, then I don’t know what God is trying to do. He loves Julia Roberts and Sean Connery, sings to me, wants 2 daughters, sleeps with the music on, and says things to me like “I love you with all my heart and every ounce of my being” and “I adore you, cherish you and desire you so much it hurts.”’

Of course I rolled my eyes in the present and thought, really? That’s how we’re supposed to tell who The One is? I did truly love him, and we’re still friendly to this day, but we found out in the course of the relationship that we were terribly incompatible. Even now, when it comes to the things that really matter, our values and priorities, and most importantly our definition of success and fulfilment, we don’t see eye to eye. And yet he thrilled my heart so, and what heart-warming memories we made!

The more I read my old journals, and looked back at men I’ve loved before, the more I realised some important things. Love isn’t really what the romance paperbacks say it is, and The One isn’t who they made him out to be either. Real life is much more different from the movies. The “The One” of the romance world is more that person who seems to just “get” us, who knows what to say and what not to say, who instinctively knows what to do and how to please us.

One wife says of a man she dated before she met her husband, “He and I used to finish each other’s sentences. Our conversations would last five hours at a time. I had never felt so alive or stimulated. But life wouldn’t have worked with him…he was not someone I could rely on.”

I’ve learnt that when it comes down to it, that’s what finding The One is really about – finding someone who is truly a partner in the journey of life, someone who will have your back come hell or high water, when things are going great and when they’re not going so well, from morning sickness and diapers to birthdays and graduation ceremonies, before and after the stretch marks. The One is someone who is committed to loving you and standing by you forever; committed being the operative word.

Many of us have been with people who seemed to understand us right away, old flames with whom we were more sexually compatible, lovers who loved us the way we always wanted to be loved. Sadly, divorce rates testify to the fact that love is not enough. Passion, attraction and an intense connection that transcends the mundane definitely add great enjoyment to any marriage, but these things do not make a person The One. It is not enough to “hit it off right away” creating delicious intimacy; intimacy must be sustained.

The heart is the most deceitful thing there is, and many times it misguides us. How many couples have married under the illusion of being “in love” only to find out that they’ve made a grave mistake? And how many more have had the real deal right in front of them and decided that for some romance novel or dating literature-induced reason, this person couldn’t possibly be The One?

I’m just sharing what I’ve learnt. I’m by no means a relationship counsellor, just a student of life. Indeed, I would rather not give you a prescriptive list on “How to Tell if He or She is The One”; the internet is already awash with those. And while I can’t tell you how Nat’s journey ended without “spoiling” the book, I can tell you this: just because it’s not what you were expecting, doesn’t mean it’s not everything you’ve been waiting for.


About the Writer: Joy Ehonwa is a writer specialising in documentary scripts.  She is passionate about self-development and relationships. You can read her blog at, send her an email at and follow her on Twitter @anafricandiva

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Joy Ehonwa

Joy Ehonwa is an editor and a writer who is passionate about relationships and personal development. She runs Pinpoint Creatives, a proofreading, editing, transcription and ghostwriting service. Email: pinpointcreatives [at]



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