How Do You Know If He or She Is ‘The One’?by HowAboutWe on February 14, 2013
The following is an excerpt from Fall in Love For Life: Inspiration From a 73-Year Marriage, by Barbara “Cutie” Cooper. All images of Barbara and Harry are courtesy of Chronicle Books.
The relationship question that people ask me more than any other is, “How did you know that Harry was the right guy for you?” (And then, sometimes, they also want to know if we went to bed together before we got married.)
I understand their interest. It’s both the hardest and the easiest thing in the world to meet the right person and start a life together. I think it’s instinctive, that you know when you are comfortable with somebody. When it’s the right person, he brings out the best in you, and you do the same for him.
With Harry, I felt comfortable right away, and as I got to know him better, I felt even more comfortable.
I am fortunate, because my instincts are very strong. All my life, when meeting people, I have immediately responded to an inner quality in them that I either like or I don’t. If I like a person, I like him or her deeply, but if not, the person is automatically eliminated. It is an unspoken connection, very powerful, very clear. This is true of friends as well as romantic partners–and it is perhaps even more important to have this talent for picking good friends. A good friend, who is a kind and decent person who shares your values, will help you steer your life in the best direction should you ever be confused about which way to turn. Pick good friends, and everything else that’s good will follow–including love. A friend who knows you well might recognize that someone is a great match for you even before you do, or see warning signs in a beau who is truly “too good to be true.” A friend with good instincts is a fine person to keep around when you’re weighing your romantic options, but, of course, the final decision about a partner must be your own.
Even if you don’t feel as in touch with your intuition as I do, the truth is that in love and in friendships, your heart will tell you–if you will just let it. So many people today don’t know how to hear their own hearts speaking to them. They get confused and overstimulated. They don’t give their intuition the respect it deserves. If this describes you, my advice is to go someplace quiet and beautiful on a day when you don’t have to be anywhere else, and to clear your mind. It might not happen right away, but don’t be discouraged. Walk around, with no destination. As you get calmer, let yourself think about your relationship objectively, as something that exists in a world outside of your role in it. Examine it from all sides, and let yourself feel the feelings that come up as your explore. Are there parts that make you anxious or afraid? Are you truly interested in looking at the relationship, today and for the rest of your life? The answers will help develop your emotional intelligence, and to hear your heart when it speaks to you.
When you meet a person, and are attracted to him or her, there are so many things happening all at once. If a person makes a good impression, you might think that he or she seems like such a good match “on paper” that you ought to want to be his or her partner–even if your intuition is telling you that something’s not quite right about the situation. If you are attracted physically to somebody, that can be overwhelming, but there are other types of attraction that can throw your intuition out of whack. It is just as important that you know yourself as it is to know your partner.
And to truly succeed in a love match, you must get to know your partner intimately. Not sexually, but intimately. Observe them in their daily life, and see how they respond to stress and aggravation. Are they gracious, or impatient? Do they make that extra effort to help other people feel safe and respected? Are they lazy, or grumpy, or irritable? People can be successful, attractive, and great conversationalists, but if they’re not at home in their own skin, I promise you, they will find a way to make you feel as miserable as they do.
What’s attractive is all so personal; I expect what turns me off would have been very agreeable to someone else. But those little things that set your teeth on edge are important to recognize. If it grates, the person is not for you. When people ask me how they can find the person who is right for them, I tell them that they must first understand who they are, and what it is that they are looking for.
There are things that can be brushed off. You learn to live with small imperfections. And as it happens, throughout his life, Harry said the word library as if it were spelled liberry, and I could not have cared less. In fact, I grew to love it, as I loved many of his quirks, because they were the quirks of my sweetheart. Had we not been so much in love, I can easily imagine liberry seeming like the most irritating sound in the world.
Of course, people have different qualities that they hope to find in their ideal partner. I am a firm believer in making lists, and I think that a wonderful use of the time when you are not in a relationship is making a very specific list of the values and characteristics that make up the person you would like to spend your life with. Drawing up such a list when you are dating is dangerous, because you will inevitably give more credence to the characteristics of your current flame. You want to make a list that is true to your inner values and not the flavor of the day. And remember that it’s important not to be too critical. Nobody is perfect, and if your list of requirements is too strict, you can easily overlook a person who would be very happy with you, and you with him or her. You cannot fall in love with blue eyes and perfect teeth. You have to fall in love with the character of the person.
With Harry, I saw a simple generous person. He was truly a gentleman, and that is what I admired most about him. Everybody loved Harry. He was polite, neat, and he was always clean. He treated my family respectfully. I would not have accepted anything else. I wouldn’t have liked a guy who was critical of my family or contentious with his attitude. Although he had not received much schooling, I found Harry to be surprisingly well educated, in a natural way. He was intelligent and thoughtful, and he enjoyed reading to expand his horizons. I was attracted by how well spoken Harry was. Perhaps I was a snob, but I could not have been with somebody who used “dese,” “dem,” and “dose” like the brusque-talking New Yorkers I met before Harry….
Sometimes, you think you have been in love, and you meet somebody else and realize–wait! No! That wasn’t love at all, but this certainly is. All of a sudden, you find that there is someone else in the world other than the person you thought you were with, and you stop short and make a very clear evaluation of your previous associations and what this new one has to offer you. That is what happened to me when Harry showed up, and as a girl who thought I had my life all sewed up, it was a real eye-opener.
Oftentimes, people will ask me if I believe in the concept of “soul mates” and if I think that Harry was mine. Certainly, I think it is remarkable that a baby born in Pennsylvania could find and fall in love with a girl born in Cairo, Egypt, after encountering one another thousands of miles away from where they started. But I also think that when we met, we were both good people who were looking for a sweet partner to fall in love with. Happily, Harry found me, but I cannot believe that if we had missed each other, we both should have been destined to live lonely lives. This is simply how our cooking crumbled, and it was a wonderful cookie.