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If anything is for sure, it’s that we will encounter the dating world in our lifetime, in search of the ‘one.’ And while we’d all love to marry the first person we date, the truth is, there will be a few different passersby on your road to meeting to one, with each teaching us a unique lesson.

According to one theory, we each will meet and encounter three loves before we find our soulmate. And while there may be a few exceptions to this, most of us can look back at our dating history and find that this theory matches the reality of our past encounters.

The three loves begin with our first love. Our first love happens in the early stages of our life, and is often intense, teaching us about the boundaries of love, as well as its limits. Because we are new to love, we usually fall head over heels the first time. We act dramatic, dabble with romance, and believe it will be our be all end all in terms of relationships. In our mind, it could never end, and we sacrifice ourselves for the other person to great lengths.

Oftentimes, our own beliefs and goals fall to the backburner, because we become so consumed with the other person. However, in most cases, this love doesn’t last, and we grow apart and experience our first heartbreak. While it hurts, and it may make us feel as though our world has broken in two, it teaches us an important lesson. We learn important lessons from this heartbreak and begin to understand a lot more about ourselves and relationships.

Our second love proves to be more difficult, and with it, we find out about the heartache that comes with love. The first one taught us lessons about ourselves, but the second is more about hoping and wishing that the person was right, only to find out they were the exact opposite. And while we hope, dream and pray for them to end up being the one, after we fight and fight for this relationship, eventually we realize it just wasn’t right.

And then, emerges the third love, or the love we never expected. Most often than not, the third love happens when we’ve decided we aren’t looking to date anymore. We may have decided to do our own thing, after dealing with various trial and error dates that resulted in us pulling back. It may be an old friend, or perhaps someone we met by chance. But, no matter what we expected to find or didn’t, this person just feels right.

The connection we forge with them is beyond anything else. We become friends with them and love them with all we have. We learn that we can be ourselves around someone and still have them accept us for who we are. For once, we are accepted for who we are, and over time, we develop an unconditional love for them.

And while we still may look back into our past, thinking about the heartache and turmoil associated with our past two loves, we know deep in our heart that those heartaches, those lessons, and all of those frustrations taught us about ourselves, taught us how to love, and taught us how to be loved. Of course, you can’t undo the past, but you can decide to realize that while life can be painful at times, the universe has a way of paving the future for the life and love that we truly wish to have. Everything happens for a reason.