Do You Believe In The One?
“The partner truly best suited to us, is not the one who miraculously happens to share every taste, but the one who can negotiate differences in taste with intelligence and good grace, It is the capacity to tolerate dissimilarity that is the true marker of the ‘right’ person”.
Our main man Alain de Botton discusses this idea of letting go of the idea of ‘The One’ and realising everyone is a bit wrong from close up. But it’s one thing to read it – and another to believe it. When you are several relationships deep, or never quite seem to ‘click’, or are waiting for that feeling - the idea of a When Harry Met Sally soulmate is an attractive proposition that we think a lot of us still entertain.
So we asked six of our readers - where do you sit on the spectrum? Do you believe in the one? Where does the elusive ‘spark’ come into it? And what do you believe is necessary to make a relationship work?
“I think that in modern society we are not necessarily sold the idea that there is ‘The One’ or a ‘soul mate’ but definitely sold the idea that you will eventually find someone that you will be with for the rest of your life. Generally in the lives of people around me that has played out, but honestly, I guess you don’t know - could my mum have been happier, or even as happy with someone else? My grandparents? Any one of my married friends? I think so, probably. It’s a notion that doesn’t seem that romantic but I think actually it is, more so than a ‘soul mate’. The idea that knowing there is potentially someone or something out there that might be “better” but choosing your partner? Loving them every day and that outweighing the possibilities of whoever’s next to swipe on tinder or meet at the grocery store?
Me and my boyfriend often talk about how when we met we knew we had that ‘spark’ or that instant connection, and for me, that’s always been enough, and I believe that’s probably what keeps you going. It’s not the sense of being ‘The One’, it’s the love, connection and intimacy that you already have built on together. When shit hits the fan, when your ugly and your crazy comes out, that connection and that base line of love and affection is what gets you through it.
I don’t think it’s ever about meeting ‘The One’, human beings are far too complex and intricate to only be complementary to one other person; you will meet so many people in your life and make so many decisions that bring you into contact with different people who give you different things. If soul mates existed, I think life would be boring and out of our control. You have to work really hard at love and choose your partner; destiny doesn’t do it for us.”
“I come from a family of people who have found ‘The One’. My grandparents met on a blind date and have been married for 60 years and my parents were flatmates and have been married for 26. I definitely grew up thinking that divine intervention and fate would be how I’d find my person in life. My ideas about ‘The One’ were so at odds with my reality. I found myself drawn to lots of people for seemingly different reasons and yet they all felt special and important and at one time or another like ‘The One’. I have come to believe that there isn’t just one person out there for everybody. In a world so big and with people being so ever-changing and complex that just cannot be true.
I do believe in spark. It’s that unfathomable reaction to someone that you cannot explain. Even if it’s making eye contact with someone on the bus or having that one amazing conversation at a party – the spark is that rush of blood to the head, where everything feels exciting and electric. I feel like I have mini sparks quite often (it doesn’t take much, you just have to be a chatty barista) but it’s when you know that you both feel it and you dig a little deeper that it can really turn into a flame.
But there is a difference between getting on really well with someone and actually being completely and utterly yourself in front of them and allowing them to see your flaws fully. I think in hindsight that if you try to cover up those parts of yourself that are crazy or ugly or complex then the spark can never be all the way there because it’s not real life.
I’ve had both ends of the spectrum, relationships with no spark that were fun but comfortable, and thrilling relationships full of spark where I was never fully myself. If I’m honest with myself I think the idea of ‘The One’ that I still hold a little bit in the back of my head is that person I can be myself in front of and who shares that spark. I don’t think that moment happens instantly in the classic ‘eyes across the dance floor’ way, sometimes those two things take work. I also don’t think it can only happen once for someone, but I do think the key to making a relationship work is the combination of both of those things.”
“In my life so far there have been thousands of times when the romance of believing in eternal destiny has swept me off my feet. I am the master of reading into anything and assigning cosmic significance. I could fill books with it.
But believing that there’s one sole person out there who is my soulmate is a dangerous game because it robs me of arguably the most important thing I can bring to a relationship - my choice to be in it. Love might be a feeling but more realistically it’s a choosing. When I buy in to the lie that one person could be my everything I sell out to myself and my agency. I’m not doing that anymore.”
“As a boy, I remember seeing what my future would look like as a twenty-five year old. I was married. I didn’t know what she looked like, but I knew we were perfect for each other. I can’t recall why I thought like this or when it started, it just was what I thought. I must’ve seen it in television adverts and movies watched on VHS tapes every Friday night with the family when I was young. I guess a fish doesn’t know it’s wet. It didn’t occur to me that the process for finding that person might be a little complex - that hard choices and compromises might need to be made.
In any event, that’s what I thought of love and relationship. There was no plural of the word ‘relationship’ for me as a boy, because I was always going to find that right girl for me. First time, right off the bat. The reality of coming of age in this area can make us jaded and cynical because it at times so badly misses our expectations. It needn’t. I think if you scratch a little deeper, you realise that some of those expectations were right - they just look different. Instead of the ‘Colgate’ smile, there’s the look of someone concentrating and listening: wanting to know you. Instead of the right sounding, charming words, there’s the clumsy, yet sincere words: words with meaning.
It makes me think that once you have that indecipherable attraction, perhaps even magnetism, between a couple, what you need in a relationship is quite simple. Kindness. Kindness is the fuel that relationships run on. Throw in good communication and a humble desire to grow together and you might end up with what you imagined as a kid.”
“In my last relationship I tried being deliberate. I had just come out of my first big break-up and I ‘decided’ that I had been through enough heartbreak (lol) and this would be the one I end up with. And how wrong I was! And how wrong it would have been. I think, especially if you are already quite empathetic, you can definitely choose to love someone - but the act of choosing comes later on. He wasn’t ‘The One’, but I stayed with him much longer than I should have, maybe out of fear that this was as good as it was going to get. Because of this, I am uncharacteristically pragmatic when it comes to love now. I don’t have it in me to fall hard and fast, and even though I feel by nature, when it comes to love my brain seems to rule over my heart. I am too aware that upbringing, attachment systems, personality types, mental health, hell even your hormone cycle are all factors – it’s seems a miracle when people fall, and I mean properly fall, in love.
I struggle to ascertain that a cosmic force draws you towards ‘The One’. I have had different ‘ones’: one where it was all spark, one where it was intimate but painful, one where it was a deep, knowing friendship. In saying that, I’ve told people (and been told) that something is missing - although I do believe the state of yourself largely attributes to who you have ‘spark’ with. Maybe we are just pulled towards people who have a common lack, a wound shaped a bit like ours. So the elusive ‘feeling’ does exist, but I think it almost always has a lot more to do with whatever is going on in your own soul.
I think to some extent we do end up with the ‘wrong’ person – how can we not? Merging lives and identities together... which feels a bit fatalistic. But I’m lucky enough to have enough friends in healthy relationships, some now twenty years into their marriages, and they all say kindness and open-heartedness always wins out. So if pop my brain aside... I do want ‘The One’. Not the guy I catch eyes with on the street with whom everything just magically slips into place, but someone who has the capacity to love and be loved, who is flawed but open, where we will oscillate between spark and friendship, excitement and choice (romantic realism foreveeeer).”