Is there a “One”? Is there one true romantic partner, a specific someone you’re supposed to meet? There is a nuanced difference between this and the question of whether you believe in love at first sight.
What if there is a “One” but you’re only able to recognize it over a long period of time?
What if love at first sight is real but it can happen with multiple people?
What if both are true, we’ll know our One True Love at First Sight, and we should thus be celibate until that lightning-bolt moment?
What if neither are true, and the only way to be happy with a love is to be casual friends first?
What if one or another of these modalities is true for some people but not others?
These questions are something like wondering about the afterlife, if there is one, because both determine our outlook and behavior to an extent. I think it’s something of a moot point whether there’s an afterlife or not, because wouldn’t you want to be a good person and get the maximum out of life no matter what? What are the arguments in favor of unkindness or playing small?
Our beliefs about romance, though, very much impact what kind of partners we choose. Who are we noticing? Are we open to certain approaches and not others? Is what we’re asking for really what will ultimately make us happy?
Soulmates. There’s a concept for you. It always seemed so restrictive and unimaginative. Why would there only be one soulmate? Why would it only be a romantic partner? What if there really was a karmic relationship between two people, but it was meant to be teacher/student or artist/muse or parent/child or neighbor/neighbor? Why not business partners? This kissy-kissy thing can only go so far.
The trouble with this idea of the One True Love is that it’s a fixed mindset concept. There’s you, and there’s this other person, and you meet, and sparkles shoot out, and you live happily ever after. Nobody ever has a bad day or a headache or food poisoning, and nobody ever leaves dishes in the sink or gets snappy or has any annoying relatives. Theeee End.
Look, real love takes effort, just like real friendship. Human frailty! The hidden flaw in the idea of the One True Love is that there’s this person who will love me as I am, think of me as delightful and perfect, and yet somehow never do any of the exact same annoying things that I do on my worst days. I’m supposed to be able to behave like a one or two, you’re supposed to love that kind of treatment at an eight or nine, and your own behavior should always, always be a ten.
The main value of a romantic partner is that you have someone to call you on your BS. Unlike family members, your lover is with you by choice, and hopefully has more affection and desire for your company. This person will eventually know you better than you know yourself, and can thus step in as an advisor in ways that nobody else can. This is the fast track to personal growth. It’s not that your partner loves you as you are, but that they see both your best and worst self.
Understanding your craving for revenge, but coaxing you not to waste time indulging it. Sympathizing with the keen terror you feel at applying for that promotion, while knowing you’ll be great and that you’ll never forgive yourself if you don’t go for it. Hearing you out while you vent about your friends or family, and then talking you through some better boundaries. Being your mirror, seeing you the way you see yourself, yet also seeing more.
It’s being well loved that teaches you how to love better. It takes realistic expectations, a strong sense of humor, the ability to generously blow off the occasional bad day, knowing how to forgive and how to give a precise apology. It takes a backbone. Love takes strength and courage as much as it takes softness and tenderness.
The idea of a One True Love is bad writing that encourages laziness. It also kills a lot of opportunities, when what could have been great love stories never get started because they don’t look cute and they don’t fit some checklist of perfection. On the other hand, the idea of One True Love is great when you gradually realize that you feel that way about your long-term partner.
Speaking from experience, the person who feels like the Love of Your Life doesn’t start out that way. At least, if it does for some people, it didn’t for me. We were both still flinching from rotten divorces, and we were cynical about the prospect of dating, much less marriage. We were both obese, in debt, and not having all that much fun. Our general crankiness helped us bond as lunch buddies. When we realized we were becoming real friends, we were both surprised, but not as surprised as we were when those romantic feelings started bubbling up. We argued about it. We still don’t agree about whether there’s such a thing as a soulmate or not.
Yeah, I believe there’s a One. At least, there’s one in my life now. After twelve years with one person, there’s really no one else who could compare. That hypothetical person would have to have more intrinsically great traits, be in a better situation in life, AND somehow have so many positives that it more than made up for the twelve years of trust, memories, and inside jokes that I have with my husband. Having met thousands of people in my life, there’s just no way that an ordinary human being would ever be “worth” blowing up my life and throwing over my best friend. The point is that what makes that One True Love is the buildup over time.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.