The most common and pervasive story line throughout human history goes something like this: boy meets girl and they spend a lifetime together.
There are so many preachers out there to convince us that some people are meant for each other, that we will instantly know when we finally meet them, and that such a meeting will change our lives—it will complete us.
As we were all born into this world devoid of any experience, and highly susceptible to being influenced by the views and truths of the people around us, none of us are immune to the proposition that life’s greatest mission and calling is for us to find another person who will love us, make us feel complete, and give us our coveted happily-ever-after.
Though the story line is sweet, simple, and may be true, it is also pregnant with a number of presumptions and subtle hints, which include:
>> An individual is not complete on his or her own, and it is everyone’s mission to find a “better half” in order to feel complete;
>> “The one” should be of the opposite sex;
>> One must find his or her perfect match within a certain age range (mid-20s to early 30s, ideally);
>> People who are supposedly meant for each other should end up taking a vow to always stay together (oftentimes, through a marriage ceremony).
To place these impositions on everyone seems to suggest that all individuals are essentially the same, which we all know is far from the truth.
Everyone is unique. Everyone has his or her own timeline, and humans are never static.
We evolve. We shrink. We get affected by what is happening in our surroundings. We grow, we digress, and we learn and re-learn until we fully come to terms with who we really are. All those truths are belied by the narrative that “the one” is another person we should all find and keep.
Hence, the story line which promises that everyone has his or her ideal and perfect match is one great, innocent lie and the source of confusion for a lot us. This is because it provides a compelling misdirection, is a hasty generalization, and gives us false hope.
The compelling misdirection springs from the fact that this lie mandates that it is everyone’s mission to find a romantic partner. Embracing such a quest could readily translate to people exerting almost all of their time, energy, focus, and motivation to that task alone, thereby neglecting to exert the same kind of dedication to the more significant duty of finding one’s self first and developing into the kind of person who is aware and able to fully harness his or her true potential.
A successful and happy adult life is largely dependent on what we do when we’re young to prepare for such a future. It is influenced by the kind of self-development pursued, the investments made, and the way we handled the cards life dealt us. While the choice of a partner may significantly influence our future, the same is not the only (or the most significant) factor that can impact our life.
Thus, we are contributing to the great disservice of our fellow humans when we thoughtlessly campaign or suggest that one can never be truly happy if not paired up in our 20s or 30s (or so on).
To suggest that there is only one special person who can complete another human is a fallacy, and a rushed oversimplification. The same is not consistent with the complex and multifaceted nature of human make-up, social interaction, and human evolution. People are social beings—we need belonging and a sense of connection, and it is simply untrue to suggest that only one person’s devotion should be the complete and exclusive answer to such needs.
There are so many possible sources of love and belonging. And people are complex beings with complicated and varied desires, needs, and wants for various stages of our lives. There is no single formula on human interaction that is applicable to all. There is no proven couple-hood recipe that can magically sweeten up everyone’s life.
“The one,” in the context of another person, creates a false and grand hope that all we need is one person (just one, in a world of seven billion people) to earn a beautiful, flourishing, and love-filled happily-ever-after. You see, such a story often comes with a promise that once you find your ideal match, everything in your life will magically fall into place and that you will be assured of an eternally blissful future.
Yes, there are great joys that can be found in finding someone we love, who will love us back, but that search is not the whole point and meaning of this life. Finding another who will share his or her lifetime with us is not the be-all, end-all of our human existence. There are other worthy aspirations that we should strive for and focus on. This truth is, there are far greater ideals than a person.
Now that we have exposed the great, innocent lie, it’s time to uncover the truth.
The truth simply suggests that “the one” is not another person—but us.
The very person that we should find and keep is with us all along, that version of ourselves that authentically represents our core. In contrast with the lie, which provides misdirection, hasty generalizations, and false hope, the truth offers mindful direction, honest generalizations, and realistic optimism.
The truth puts in proper perspective our desire to find meaning and purpose. Instead of just telling us that the essence of this life is to find one special stranger with whom we should devote our future to, the truth highlights the need to discover our own true self as our primary task. It directs us to prioritize self-discovery before we embark on other worthy endeavors, which may or may not include finding a partner.
So many of us have lost ourselves, in one way or another, as we navigate our way through this life. With or without our consent, we evolve into versions that are not entirely us, and are not reflective of our true desires, needs, aspirations, and calling. We might have dreams that reflect the unfulfilled aspirations of our parents, or embrace systems of belief only because they were endorsed by someone we value, or trap ourselves in a dull and unfulfilling life as we allow ourselves to be led on by one thoughtless decision after another.
Prior to rediscovering ourselves, it is likely that we feel lost, unhappy, unfulfilled, and anxious about the future. Contrary to what the lie is claiming, it is not the responsibility of another person to pull us out of such a state. We must take charge of our own life. And we must ensure that all aspects of our lives are aligned with our core so that we can clearly see and stay in control of where we’re headed.
The lie preaches that finding a partner is tantamount to a happily-ever-after. In contrast, the truth lays down a rough terrain ahead. It asserts that finding one’s true self is not an easy journey. It takes hard work, and it may come with sacrifices, pain, sleepless nights, rejections, bitter truths, and other challenges that will put our character to the test. It mandates that we should take responsibility for our individual journey, and that we should pave our own road to our desired destination.
The truth also offers a bright and beautiful silver lining: once we re-discover ourselves, all the pain and sacrifices will be worth it. With this knowledge, everyone embarking on the journey of finding “the one” should keep in mind that the road they are paving is a path that will lead to the best destination we can achieve.
Here’s to hoping that all of us find and always keep “the one.”