You Need Help: Is She “The One”?


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In February 2015, Autostraddle launched The Ultimate Lesbian Sex Survey, open to all “lady-types who sleep with lady-types.” We garnered over 8,566 complete responses (89% of which were from people between the ages of 18 and 36) and now we’re sharing the results with you, bit by bit. In this series of posts, entitled “You Need Help (In Bed),” I’ll be answering questions left in the open-response box that asked, “What is the biggest question you have about sex or relationships?” Because we’re kicking off with a question that isn’t directly sex related, the title of this post remains “You Need Help.”


Is this “the one”?

Is she “the one”?

How do you know when you have found “the one”?

Are we right together?

Where is this going? What are we doing?

Can it last forever?

Can it last?

Is this love?

Will this last?

Is this it?


In my opinion, the idea of “the one” is garbage. There is no one person for you; there are multiple people for everyone, sometimes simultaneously. You also can’t spin around in a crowded room, land on someone and freeze just like that forever. No one is perfect for anyone, though people (again, multiple people) can seem the most perfect for each other. Someone perfect for you right now might have been terrible for you five years ago, or be terrible for you five years from now. People change. You will change. Will you find someone who can change with you? Who can say?

The real answer is that there are two answers, and there are no answers. The first is easy. Think about this:

What do you want out of the whole of your life, when it comes down to it? What are your goals and dreams and hopes? (Write them down.) What do you want the biggest aspects of your life to look like? What do you want to work toward?

What do they want out of the whole of their life, when it comes down to it? What are their goals and dreams and hopes? What do they want the biggest aspects of their life to look like? What do they want to work toward?

Do these things align? Do you find it easy, or at least possible, to talk about the ways in which they align, and the ways in which they don’t? Do you want to talk about these things with this person, together? Do you want to listen to what they have to say?

What do you want out of the smallness of life, when it comes down to it? What do you want from your every day? What do you need in the morning, in the evening, in the quiet hours and in the loud ones, to feel happy or fulfilled or safe or at peace?

What do they want out of the smallness of life, when it comes down to it? What do they want from their every day? What do they need in the morning, in the evening, in the quiet hours and in the loud ones, to feel happy or fulfilled or safe or at peace?

Do these things align? Do you find it easy, or at least possible, to talk about the ways in which they align, and the ways in which they don’t? Do you want to talk about these things with this person, together? Do you want to listen to what they have to say?

Can you agree on what falls into each category?

The largeness and smallness of life might mean different things to both of you, and that can be revealing, too. Work, sex, family, money, health, relationship style, toothpaste dispensing style, turning off the lights when you leave a room, whether to try to have a cat, whether to try to have a kid, whether to try to have an orgy, whether to try to have a backyard someday, whether to try to move to your dream city or cities or countrysides or boats or Mars or where ever your heart is pulling you, and all the other places your heart might pull you, can all show you whether someone is right for you or not.

These things are easy, though. You can write them down and stare at them and know whether or not they line up and whether or not they’re true and whether or not you’re going to do something about it. The second part is harder, but you will also know the answer the second you read it even if you won’t let yourself know the answer:

Do you want to be with them?

Do you want to work every day to be together? Even when it sucks? Even when things are going really wrong or really well? Even when you have everything or nothing you ever dreamed of? Does taking this whole other person into your hands and putting yourself in theirs and trusting each other, over and over again, feel right? Do they just feel right?

The answer doesn’t have to be unequivocal. Some days it doesn’t have to be “yes” at all. But the only way to answer this question is to look within yourself and know it. (If you don’t know, that too is an answer.)

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Ryan Yates

Ryan Yates was the NSFW Editor (2013–2018) and Literary Editor for, with bylines in Nylon, Refinery29, The Toast, Bitch, The Daily Beast, Jezebel, and elsewhere. They live in Los Angeles and also on twitter and instagram.

Ryan has written 1142 articles for us.


    • Well, that’s a lie. Clearly I was interested enough to click through. But yes. I like this a lot. <3

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you! It sometimes feels like nobody I talk to feels this same way. I am the opposite of a hopeless romantic and often feel like that is a bad thing, so thank you for writing this!

  2. Oh man, I literally just broke up with my partner and doubts were starting to creep in, but this helped me realize that the breakup was the right choice. Thank you. I’m saving this.

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you. For the simultaneous calm grounding and ecstatic lift I needed today. For helping me cast my eyes to tomorrow.

  4. The smallness of life. That’s huge. I really like this way of talking about compatibility.

    So often the smallest things, the ones that seem like nothing when everything is fine, turn out to be emblematic of so much more. I wouldn’t have predicted how much I’d hate the loudness in all things, and hate the shushing I was doing. The way the noise smothered the quiet I so desperately needed. It was an incompatibility in our fundamental ways of being, and I had no idea how significant that would be when things were fine no more and we no longer had the shelter of the Shared Big Things.

  5. This made me cry because it’s beautiful and because all I could think about was my current partner while reading it and hearing “yes. Yes. Yes.” over and over in my mind. Carolyn, I love reading about your immigration/marriage journey and what you have to say about sex/relationships because it’s just so on point/sometimes too on-point.

  6. I was just like, “I wonder what Carolyn’s wise advice is to this common question? I will click,” but I didn’t think it’d move me or be something that made me feel vulnerable. But damn. YES. Yes to all of the above.

  7. This is beautiful, thank you. Especially the perspective of the small every-day and how it overlaps with the big things.

    This opened to me a whole new perspective, of life, of love, of relationship/s and… the world, or the universe, somehow. Rare.

  8. This is startlingly timely in addition to just being damned fine writing.

    It settled some thoughts on my ex (the answer to the important question is certainly “no”) and soothed my thoughts on my so new it’s still shiny relationship (yes, a no hesitation yes.)

  9. “If you don’t know, that too is an answer.” <– Just summed up every reason I had for ending my last relationship. Two years later, I can say that yes, unequivocally, not knowing can truly be the most telling feeling.

    • I feel like not knowing has been a thing for me in like every relationship I’ve had (which I guess is why I’m single?)… Will I ever meet someone and know they are “one of the ones” without a doubt?! Or at least more not-doubt than doubt? I think maybe I just haven’t had luck in finding the types of ladies I go for and can work out with in the end.

  10. I agree that this is very possibly the best answer in an advice column I’ve ever read (and autostraddle sets the bar really high).

  11. This is one of the best articulations of the question I’ve seen in a while. Finding alignment in the biggest and smallest of things is a great indicator of whether or not there will be a good fit.

    That said, there are a couple of things missing. First, if you ask the question: ” Does taking this whole other person into your hands and putting yourself in theirs and trusting each other, over and over again, feel right? Do they just feel right?” during the first few months of a relationship is possibly going to not give you the right answer, because of a brain phenomenon called limerence. Limerence is a brain state – it’s that “falling in love” state, early on in a relationship. It is because your brain is pumping out Oxytocin and endogenous opiates, and you are literally high on lust. You can’t answer that question rationally.

    It’s important to spend time assessing the other person, before that happens, which is where the looking at the biggest and smallest things fits in really well.

    The second thing is that two people, even if in line with each other on the biggest and smallest things, are going to have differences to navigate. And navigating those differences takes really good communication skills, and both people need to have them – to communicate self-responsibly, without criticism, blame or defensiveness. That’s key – if you’re asking if she’s “the one” or “a one” – does she have these skills? And do you?

    • “…to communicate self-responsibly, without criticism, blame or defensiveness.” –love this. So, so key.

  12. Gah. So good. So good.

    Im always left pretty speechless when I get asked this about Christine and I. All I know/knew is that I want to be with her whether happy or sad or whatever.

    I think personally Ive known that about us for a really long time, even before dating. Its so hard to give answer because no one in the world will ever know what kind of future we’ll have.

    And change is something I think we always kind of forget about. I mean 5 years ago you might not have even wanted to use a strap on and now you do.

  13. follow-up: how long do you stay in the relationship even though you know the answer to the above questions is “no, our visions for our futures don’t line up”? how do you know when to end something that is making you happy and working well for the present, but might be getting in the way of finding someone to be with longer-term, if that’s what you want? is it a matter of age, or of waiting for something else about the relationship to crack, or what? it’s like this tiny occasional itch– i’m happy and i love my current partner but i know that someday i wanna get married/i wanna be with somebody forever and that somebody needs to have certain qualities and i’m too young to worry about it but are you ever too young to worry about it? etc etc. gah!

    • As long as you both want! In my experience, things are only issues once you make them issues – if you don’t want to worry about being married right now, then it’s okay to not worry about it right now, and also okay to know that you will worry about it at some point in the future. There are all kinds of valid relationships besides ones you think/hope will last forever, and something ending (or knowing that something) does not make it any less valid or loving or true. If you’re happy and your partner is happy and things are working well, it’s okay to stay until that itch becomes too much.

      • super mega like! I’ve had so many successful and valid relationships that have ended or transitioned into something else. Good luck rachelmonster at figuring out what feels right in each moment.

  14. I love this so, so hard. I’m trying to understand the whole, “Maybe it’s not time right now” thought process. Maybe it means that I have outdated, naive ideas about What Love Is, but I’ve always thought if you don’t fight like hell to make it work at that moment, you’re giving up and you don’t want it. But someone I want more than anything said it wouldn’t work out right now because of timing, and I’m trying to understand that. I don’t want to give myself false hope by trying to grasp that idea (because maybe it is just a cowardly excuse), but it goes against everything I’ve believed up till now.

  15. “some days it doesn’t have to be yes at all”

    Thanks for that. As someone who’s dealing with something like this (Friday, I want to get married, by the middle of next week, I want to break up, nearly ever week) hearing this from somebody is greatly appreciated.

    I just don’t know.

  16. This is one of those things that are so hard to remember when you’re deeply involved in something or with someone. Good lord, i should print this and read it each time i’m going through a breakup. It’s super shitty to remember that you’re not gonna die nor gonna love again and that you can probably find someone way more suitable for you than the person you’re crying for.

    Thanks for the reminder as I’m getting out of a crazy ass lesbian drama filled relationship with someone I thought was my “soul mate”


  17. Thank you for all of this, Carolyn — especially pointing out there can be multiple “ones”, across your lifetime or simultaneously, etc.

    And I’m delighted to find that my heart is saying yes to all of these things with my current partner, in so many ways…. my heart is so full!

  18. Fantastic piece of writing! It kinda of leaves me asking more questions and maybe leaves me a little more confused…which is the worst place to be actually….confused. I mean if u know yourself well enough, you should know what u want. But what if you don’t know what u want….what if you only know what u don’t want… then what.

    I’m a hopeless romantic at heart… I like the little things…such a girl!! Ha! So I’ve always wanted that crazy in love,float on clouds, do anything to be with you kind of love. But I don’t think I’ve ever let someone get there. My walls are pretty high…lol. how can I tell if I should?

    Am I making any sense?

    • I would work on knowing yourself and examining your walls and your hopes and fears and all of that stuff. There may not be any absolute certainty in life, we don’t control everything and there is always room for a little mystery or surprise. But we can increase our odds of getting what we want, and making wise, lucid, happiness-making decisions. Also, it’s okay to have an adventure, or make a mistake, or experiment and live in the not knowingness of the moment, and just find out where it takes you. There’s no way to make or unmake what happens, only ways to savor or get over, and learn from each experience.

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