I’m not sure if my partner is ‘the one’

13 May 2024

"I think I love my girlfriend, we’ve been together just over a year and she’s funny, intelligent and kind. But how do I know if we should spend our lives together, or if she’s simply an amazing person destined to be an ex?

She is talking about moving in together but I don’t want to intertwine our lives further if we’re going to have to unravel them down the line. I’ve had two serious girlfriends previously and I had the same worries in those relationships too.

Paul, 31

Wouldn’t it be great if life, and love, came with guarantees? I’m afraid there is no such thing: it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been together, nor the strength of your love, or, indeed, if you’re married, there’s never a cast iron promise.

I wonder whether your head is so busy trying to analyse your relationship because you want to protect your heart? On some level, I wonder if you felt scared of falling deeply in love with previous girlfriends, so pre-emptively broke up with them – and now you find yourself in that state of questioning again. The problem with guarding your heart – so you’re safe from the pain of heartbreak – is that it removes any potential of the bliss of deep love.

I’d recommend that you explore your emotions surrounding relationships: does love leave you feeling overwhelmed? Or does receiving love feel so good that you become scared it might be taken away, so you end it first? I respect how you worry about hurting others and I wonder how much fear you have about being hurt or abandoned yourself – and how much your experience with your parents’ divorce has affected your need for safety?


Your letter struck a chord in me: I used to be scared of career success and would change career before “making it big” for fear of then losing it and not having it in me to pull myself together and starting again. I’d experienced everything being pulled from me when I was a refugee fleeing from Uganda and I was scared that if I built something, and that too was taken away, it would destroy me.

Forgive me if I’m projecting, but I wonder if your early encounter of heartbreak, as you lived through your parents’ divorce, has understandably left you reluctant to ever experience similar grief again.

Many men I’ve worked with are good at showing love and enjoy a wonderful connection with partners, but fear truly receiving love because of the risks and vulnerabilities they know it brings. When we give love, we still have an element of control, while receiving love we relinquish control. It feels as if maintaining control is a protective strategy for you: it can feel incredibly fearful to let your guard down and let love in.

I’m not going to say you’ll just know whether your girlfriend is “the one”: of course you don’t know; you’re currently so cautious that I doubt you feel very much. But I would recommend dropping your barriers, so you can feel whether she’s the one for you.


Why not write a comprehensive list of everything you want in a woman – beyond funny, intelligent and kind – and then focus on being those things yourself, rather than looking for them outside of yourself? You’ll attract like-minded people, which may well include your girlfriend. If you’re looking to start a family in future then consider whether your girlfriend is someone with whom you can see yourself raising a happy, healthy family. Why not write another list of how you wish to be living, on a day-to-day level, in three, five and 10 years? Consider your individual and shared needs, your values and what brings you joy? I suggest you give more energy to what you want, less to what you fear.


Logic will only take you so far, though: it’s limited to bringing you what you’ve already previously had, so it’s time to throw the gates of your heart open and feel whether your relationship is one of love rather than thinking whether you love her. Shake things up: sport, art, singing, dancing, spending quiet time in nature, anything to get you out of your head and thinking brain, and engage with your body and your creative spirit right here and now.

Become aware of your fears and limiting beliefs that might have built up during childhood, including what you might have witnessed and felt as a child during your parents’ divorce. If you can, consciously let go of control around those you most trust, by being who you are, not who you feel you should be. Breathe into your body and feel the presence of your heart. This isn’t about the past and future, but being present to notice what life is providing you and what’s true for you.


It’s important you speak to your girlfriend about how you are both feeling: she may well be interpreting your reticence at moving in as a rejection. In order to have a loving relationship with her, or indeed anyone else, you’ll need to truly let them in so you can share life’s journey. Whether you decide to physically move in together or not, you need to emotionally move in, rather than having a busy mind that isn’t allowing space for love to grow.

Life involves bliss, grief and every emotion in between. Deep love within partnerships is forgiving, kind and ultimately a choice. That makes it far more romantic: you get to decide every morning that you want to be with that person and they get to choose to be with you. Some great relationships are fleeting, some last till death. If you want a “till death do us part” relationship, you both get to whole-heartedly make that choice every day for the rest of your life. Whether with your girlfriend or someone else, I hope you take a chance on love and living a fulfilling life.


One other thing I want to be open about: while in fairytales falling in love is the ending, in life it’s just the beginning. As time goes on, you’ll have the chance to navigate misunderstandings, face up to the past coming to haunt you, and lower hidden barriers together. It’s terrifying, brave and beautiful. I can’t promise you won’t get hurt. I can promise, though, that by embracing love with a quiet mind, an open heart and your feet firmly on the ground, you’re opening yourself to the best that life offers. That way, you’ll find out whether your girlfriend and you are going to choose each other every day.