“There’s just one person out there for you. You’ll find him. And you’ll know.”
This was the message I received – whether spoken or unspoken – numerous times in my twenties. And, for the most part, I believed it. Add to this “soulmate” message the idea of “love at first sight” and the “you’ll just know” ideas and I was in deep. Well, half deep.
Thankfully, I was studying psychology at the time. And these are some of the things I was learning:
Every couple experiences psychological incompatibility.
Conflict is inevitable, even in the most intimate relationships. Fifty percent of 1st marriages end in divorce. The divorce rate is even higher for second and third marriages. The fundamental attribution error is alive and well. *[See below for definition!] Partner blame is common.
So the popular fairytale notion of “there’s just one right person for you” and “you’ll just know” when you find Prince Charming and Cinderella wasn’t adding up. Because if there was “The One” and we figured out who they were and married them, then we would live happily ever after. Smooth sailing ahead. Right?
So the story goes. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Tinder, Match.com, Eharmony, Christian Mingle. [Online dating sites today only perpetuate the Cinderella myth that “The Perfect One” is out there.]
Here’s the thing: at the end of the day, our assumptions about what Mr. or Mrs. Right looks like and the list of traits that “The One” will possess are irrelevant. That’s right – throw away the list!! When it comes to who will capture our attention at a Saturday night party or who will be our life partner, the list is totally inconsequential and does nothing for your dating and romance life.
Recent research indicates that we are not particularly attracted to those who match our stated ideal characteristics.
In real life encounters, it’s factors like rapport and shared humor that matter. [And let’s not discount the propinquity theory and similarity theory – nearness and shared values are important!]
Bottom line: We need to rethink how we come about finding love— and keeping it!. There is no such thing as a perfect soul mate. Any partner you chose will hurt you deeply at one point or another. And you will want to hurt them. Disconnection will happen. It will be hard. Your relationship will require work. And effort. Intentionality. Commitment. And forgiveness. At one point in a heated argument you might even think, “You’re not The One…. I guess I chose the wrong person.” It is at that point I hope you remember this: Mr. or Mrs. Right is indeed in front of you if you’re willing to be honest, recognize what you bring to the interaction, practice forgiveness, and stay committed.
**Fundamental attribution error = when explaining someone else’s behavior we emphasize internal characteristics rather than considering external factors