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Does "The One" Really Exist?

Riley enjoys sharing advice about physical intimacy and romance.

The idea of "The One" is an idea heavily embedded in our culture. Popularized by cheesy romance movies and reality shows, the premise of this idea is that each person has a perfect match somewhere out there in the world, and they are meant to find each other, fall in love, and spend their lives together. The key to this philosophy is that there is only one person out there that you are perfectly compatible with, and until you find him or her, you will never be able to find true love. Personally, however, I disagree with this idea for many reasons. Below, I will elaborate on exactly why I think the idea of "The One" is fiction and is an ideology that is damaging to relationships.

Fairy Tales and Nicholas Spark's Books

The whole philosophy of "The One" has been largely built by the fictional romance genre of both books and Hollywood. As a result, the idea is largely tied to the concept of true love. While there are many variations to what "true love" means to different people, the basic idea is this. True love is a special, unique, and, well, perfect form of love. It is the most pure, the most desirable, and the most rare. When you fall into the grips of true love, you know it immediately. True love is reciprocated, meaning that for it to be "true love," the other party must fall in love with you to. Once a pair is united in true love, they never want to be separated. If a couple breaks up or divorces, then it wasn't true love.

From general concept of true love outline above, we can see clearly why the idea of "the one" is so closely associated with true love. True love seems too perfect, too unique, and too special for it to be possible with just anyone. The ideas are so intertwined, in fact, that "my true love" is a euphemism for "the one."


1 in 7 Billion?

To start off with, the numbers are just staggering. With a population of 7 billion, our world is an enormous place. Now, I'm not saying that your odds of finding your perfect match are 1 out of 7 billion. Of course most people fall in love with someone of similar age, national origin, and background. But even with the parameters narrowed so much, there still is just a ridiculous amount of people to choose from. Even considering the possible matches in your hometown or even your current neighborhood is simply overwhelming. Now compare this number to Glamour magazine's study that found that women had, on average, 15 relationships before marriage. Now, of course marriage is no guarantee of true love. Many people that are married are unhappy, which conflicts with the traditional idea of true love. My point is this. With so many potential "Ones" in your day to day life, the probability of you at some point meeting is exceedingly tiny.

Finding "The One" Twice

Proponents of the idea of a single true love must also come up with an explanation for why some people seem to have their "one" twice. Many people have been happily married once, then tragically lost their spouse, and later found happiness later through another marriage. Again, it must be understood that marriage does not necessarily equal true love or "the one". Still, these circumstances call into question the idea that there is only one singular person out there that a person can be happy with. Additionally, in a study done by the University of Wisconsin Madison, 1 in about 15 women reported that, although they believed that they were as happy as can be in their current relationship, they still believed that there was at least one other person in their past that they loved just as much. In other words, a small percentage of the women surveyed believed that they had found potential "true love" twice or more. One out of 15 women is certainly not a large percentage, but still, it points towards the fact that there is more than one person that you can fall in love with.


Excuses, Excuses

The main problem with the idea of passionate love as portrayed by the world is how starkly it differs from real love. Real love is difficult. Real love takes time to develop, and real love takes work and dedication to work. Evidence of this comes from the numerous studies of Jonathan Haidt, who is a psychologist at Penn State University.

Haidt has postulated that there are two kinds of love, and to find find true happiness with someone you must work through both stages. The first stage is passionate love. This is the butterflies in your stomach, the obsession you have when you first meet someone or start a new relationship. The second type of love is compassionate love. This is the type of love that keeps people together for decades and decades. Compassionate love takes time to grow. To compassionately love someone, you must deeply understand and care for them. The thing about passionate love is that it doesn't last forever.

This is why so many relationships don't last past the first couple weeks or even months. One day, one person wakes up and is suddenly stripped of the rose colored glasses that they have been wearing due to passionate love. They haven't given compassionate love a chance to blossom yet, so just like that, it's over. People rationalize their break ups by simply determining that it wasn't true love. After all, if it was true love it wouldn't have ended. Unfortunately, the sad truth was that they just didn't understand what true love really is, and never gave compassionate love a chance to grow. This is where I believe the notion of "the one" is dangerous.

I'm not saying that you don't have to search far and wide for Mr. or Mrs. Right, because it truly is difficult to find someone compatible with you. But don't expect to be passionately in love forever. You might lose the one.