Too many people approach dating with the idea that it’s all about finding “the one.” That there is this one person out there who is right for you and finding them is the entire point of the plot.
Once you find that person, you’re done. You’ve won. Because this person is perfect. Not truly perfect — we all know that nobody is perfect — but this person is perfect for you, just as you are perfect for them. They are your “soul mate.” And because of this “match made in heaven,” once you do find each other, everything will work out perfectly. The hard work is finding each other; once you find them, the relationship will be easy, because it’s a perfect fit. You’ll get married and never have conflict and always make each other happy.
I’m here to tell you this is a fairy tale. It’s a myth. In fact, the term soul mate is literally from a myth: the concept comes from an ancient story that claimed humans originally had four arms, four legs, and two faces. In this story, the mythical god Zeus cut each person in half, creating the two-legged men and women we know today — but each with only half a soul. Since each person was only one half of a whole, they were literally incomplete unless or until they found the one person on earth who was their other half — their “soulmate” who had the other half of their soul.
If you’re looking for your “soul mate,” or “the one,” or your “twin flame,” or whatever you want to call it, and you define that as being the one person on the planet who is perfect for you — you’ll never find them. They don’t exist. They’re off riding unicorns with Bigfoot.
You should be thankful for this. Although it may seem less magical or romantic, it is more hopeful. Finding “the one” can feel like a desperately difficult search — because it is.
One NASA scientist ran the numbers and determined that, if “soul mates” were real, only one person out of ten thousand would find their mate over the course of a lifetime. And that was using the most optimistic assumptions. That’s the reality of trying to find “the one.” But, there isn’t just one.
Instead, there are many “ones” available who would make a great mate for you. If you know how and where to look, the odds of finding one of the many are quite high.
Overlooking Good Options
One problem with looking for “the one” is that it can keep you single far longer than you need to be — maybe forever.
Obviously, if you’re looking for someone who doesn’t exist, you’re going to have a really hard time finding them. And when you do meet someone, even a great someone who could make a wonderful spouse, any tiny flaw or minor difference of opinion may be seen as proof that they’re not “the one” for you.
The fact is, you’ve almost certainly met multiple people who could have been a wonderful match for you, but you never gave them a chance because you were looking for mystical sign that will never come — or, if it did come, would not be trustworthy.
Ignoring Red Flags
Besides keeping you out of a relationship, the idea of “the one” can also keep you in the wrong relationship too long.
This happens whenever you become convinced you have found “the one” and start dating them. Because you think they are “the one,” the relationship likely becomes very serious very quickly. But then red flags start to appear. Maybe this person has vastly different beliefs than you do. Maybe they push you to go too far physically, or they cheat on you with someone else. Maybe they even become abusive (although you refuse to call it that). If you believe from the start that they are “the one,” the only one, the person you are destined to be with for life, then you are vastly more likely to overlook such things.
You’ll ignore your friends and family when they all say that your boyfriend or girlfriend is no good for you and you should break up with them. After all, how can you break up if you’re meant to be together? And if you leave the only one for you, doesn’t that mean there would be no one left? If you say goodbye to “the one,” doesn’t that mean you’ll now be single forever?
The real answer to those questions, of course, is that there is no magical “one,” and so you are free to break up with (and should break up with) anyone you are dating who proves they would not make a good spouse.
But believing in this “soul mate” fairy tale can keep you stuck in some very bad dating relationships and lead to a very un-fairy- tale ending. In those situations, the best-case scenario is that you do eventually come to your senses and choose to break up (or get broken up with), but at the cost of lost time, pain, disappointment, and likely some other consequences as well.
Setting Unrealistic Expectations
The idea of “the one” can also cause you to be unhappy in a good relationship due to the unrealistic expectations it creates. There’s been research about this problem, based on the effects of watching romantic comedies.
Psychologists found that the idea of “the one,” which is a prevalent theme in rom coms, causes people to think that relationships should be easy. For example, they found that people believed that their spouse or “soul mate” should be able to know what they were thinking without having to say it out loud.
This led to communication problems in their relationships since people basically didn’t communicate at all and then got upset when the other person couldn’t read their minds. People also believed that once they found the “right” person, a long-term relationship with them should be easy and not require ongoing work.
The impression people get is that the hard part’s over when it’s the relationship that requires sacrifice and work.
The result, then, is that people get dissatisfied with a real, lifelong relationship. When they realize their spouse isn’t perfect, marriage takes work to be successful, and the initial spark fades away, they see this as evidence that the person they married is not “the one” after all, because if they were “the one,” the relationship would be easy and exciting and perfect.
They become disillusioned and lose interest. And then, when someone new comes along and they again feel that initial excitement, they think that surely this person is “the one.” They believe they made a mistake the first time and chose the wrong person. So, they have an affair and/or get a divorce so they can pursue this new “soul mate.”
So, belief in a “soul mate” can end up ruining a relationship, because you always end up searching for something else.
And even that sad process gets romanticized by Hollywood. Just think of how many movies revolve around the concept of a girl (or occasionally a guy) who is engaged to or seriously dating one person but then leaves them for someone else because this other person is “the one.” We’ve essentially redefined cheating as “romance.”
Real romance means making a commitment and then, once you are committed, sticking to it. It takes work because all relationships take work. My relationship with my own kids takes work. Even my relationship with my truck takes work, requiring regular maintenance and the occasional major repair.
It may not be magic, but it does keep everything running smoothly.
Taken from Outdated: Find Love That Lasts When Dating Has Changed by Jonathan “JP” Pokluda (Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group) © 2021. Used by permission.
Jonathan “JP” Pokluda (IG @jpokluda) is lead pastor of Harris Creek Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, and former leader of The Porch, where he saw the ministry grow from 150 to more than 7,000 young adults. His latest book is Outdated: Find Love That Lasts When Dating Has Changed.