You’re supposed to have met ‘the one’ by 25. But what if you haven’t?

We asked a relationship expert


It’s normal to be paranoid about your love life. It’s normal to lie awake in a cold sweat wondering who you’re going to spend the rest of your life with and when you’re going to find them. Meeting “the one” is the subplot to every single rom-com ever produced, and right now you’re enduring the disappointing scenes before Mr Darcy or Bridget walk in.

A study released by Match.com this week argues that girls should have met their ‘special someone’ by the time they’re 25. Men have a few years longer – they’re not expected to settle down until they’re 28. This is a sobering thought for a Friday.

These stats chime with the frenzied relationship gold-rush that begins in your late twenties. Biological clocks are ticking – or so you’re told – and men have to find someone to love them before their hair goes AWOL. We asked relationship expert Susan Quilliam about the numbers game, how to meet “the one” and what to do if it’s too late.

Hi Susan. So the latest stats say women should meet their future husband at 25. Men by 28. In your experience is this accurate?

That’s average, but it’s about right. If you’re in education for longer then it’ll be older. If you’re based in your hometown and still hanging out with people you grew up with then it’ll be lower. For people who have done a degree and are now working in London it’s accurate.

Which one is 'the one'?

Which one is ‘the one’?

Why is it higher for men?

Men tend to mature and settle down later than women. I don’t mean the lads are still lads when they’re 40, but women mature physically and emotionally earlier – and they want to nest sooner. In society it’s still more acceptable for a man to be slightly older.

Does your career have an impact too?

Yes – you’re not going to think seriously about moving in with somebody until you can afford a place of your own. This won’t be until your mid to late twenties at least.

After leaving university and getting into a job, you start to see yourself of an independent person who is capable of settling down with somebody. You’ve probably been in two or three relationships, maybe more. You get an idea of what you want.

Is there really a goldrush to find someone when you hit the milestone age ?

If people in your age group are settling down and finding the one, you’re likely to do it too. You move onto a different life stage and learn from your mates what it’s all about. This causes some bad decisions, but also some good ones because it helps to bump you forward into wanting to live with someone.

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This is a big question: how do you find the one?

It’s down to numbers. There’s always more than one “one” for you. Another person will come along within the parameters you’re looking for. Particularly in London when you’re working hard, you’ll be hanging out with the same people all the time. You have to break out of this to find a different set of people.

What about using Tinder or Happn?

It’s not always a bad idea, many of my clients have found long term partners on Tinder. But if you’re fishing in the wrong pool then you’ll find people with different agendas. If you’re looking for a hookup, which a lot of people on Tinder are, then you generally aren’t interested it a long-term relationship. It can work because everybody is looking for love, but people want different things and have different agendas.

If you haven’t met somebody by the age of 25, should you panic?

No not at all. You need to look at whether your life situation is making it difficult, like have you only just stopped studying or are you working all the time or moving jobs a lot? Are you yourself blocking finding the one? Are you being too picky, like specifying he’s got to be 6″3 with blue eyes and a great salary? That’s great for a hookup but not necessarily someone you can make babies with.

Not every date goes well

Not every date goes well

And what if you’re already in a relationship but not sure if they’re the right person?

If you’ve been together a few years then you should have found out. Whether it’s incredibly exciting but they’re not reliable or you don’t really care for them. We tend to focus on what a partner is doing for us – and for “the one” there has to be a motivation to do something for them. If you realise you let them down sometimes then they’re probably not the one for you.

The the news this week there was a crazy story about a couple who met on Instagram, finally met in person and then got married instantly. What do you make of this?

I don’t want to say this never works, because it sometimes does – look at arranged marriages. When thoughtfully done they can work extremely well. I’m not sure if Instagram could give them enough information long-term to make the right decision though. I wouldn’t recommend it, unless you’re prepared to wake up two years later, realise it’s not working and then say fine, let’s call it a day.

Plenty to be worried about, then.

Susan Quilliam’s book How to Choose a Partner is out now.