Why The Concept Of 'The One' Is Idealistic, Rom-Com Nonsense

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Woman daydreaming

It's a concept far older than you or me. It's the romantic ideal we think of as "true love." It's a comfort, isn't it, to think of The One?

Often we perceive romantic love in that made-only-for-me type of way. When the time is right, when the stars align, we're going to meet that one other person who fixes everything and makes life magic.

It sounds great, right? To me, the idea of The One definitely does. The only thing is, I don't believe in it.

Call me cynical. Considering my extremely traditional background and my evangelical beliefs, I guess people think I'm someone who feels destiny is always at play; that I'm fated for one idealistic relationship with one perfect-for-me guy.

Shocking, maybe, that it's not the case. Despite my certainty that God's plan will play the main role in my future love story, I'm still a realist. The One just doesn't fly with me.

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When I was younger, I thought of love as the solution that brought total happiness. But today my romantic sensibilities are certainly not wired the way they were back then. I believed I'd find The One at a relatively young age (with maybe a little effort but nothing too strenuous), and he'd bring sense to everything.

I'd understand why I needed The One to fill the gaps in my life, bringing clarity to gray areas and excitement to dull days. I'd understand why I had to wait for him. I'd understand what made love the inspiration behind fairy tales and chart-topping songs. It would be, dare I say, perfect.

The One was a beautiful idea. But as I got older, I began to analyze it.

I decided that love doesn't work that way, and we can't expect it to. The One is a flawed notion. It's problematic, and I can't call myself a believer anymore.

At some point in my early adulthood, logic set in: there are approximately seven billion people on the planet. That's six with nine zeroes. About 2.5 billion of those are males — males who populate Earth right now. Then, there are hundreds of millions of men in a date-appropriate age range for me. There are millions who speak my language and who probably have similar values and desires in life. So I'm guessing there are at least a few I could get along with, and even feel some sparks.

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It's true for everyone. There has to be more than one man or woman with whom we'd be compatible. It all depends on who you meet first, or at all, and if the time and circumstances are right.

I learned that the hard way.

A few years ago, I met a great guy at the wrong time and in the wrong context. He was agnostic; I'm a committed Christian. But we clicked. It was intense for me — electric, easy. The first time we met, I wasn't ready for a relationship. I was too full of pride and overly self-sufficient, and I pushed him away. The second time we met, he was with someone else.

Today I've accepted it was for the best. He was wrong for me. It could have never moved past early dating or the beginning stages of a relationship as things stood, because I know I need to find a man who has the same Christian background as I do. But still, it was a blow. In all his wrongness, there was something so incredibly right — something that, in my heart, was hard to get over.

But if you believe in The One, there's a lost love that's even tougher to get over. If there's only one person on the planet who can complete each of us, how do we explain the woman madly in love who loses her husband? Or the man who has to bury his wife?

Partners left behind see the years pass, battle through their grief, and grapple to find a way to move forward with their lives. Some remarry and find a second great love. In this case, The One becomes The Two.

Maybe you're thinking, but what if for me, there is only The One? Look: the minute we start putting all our faith in The One is the minute we start believing relationships are infallible. And that, my friends, is a trap.

Even the most powerful relationships can be damaged. The One is so idealized that it can cause us to gloss over a host of pitfalls in a relationship. If you think you've found the only person you could ever be with, why work at it?

A lack of effort is dangerous. It means you won't work at commitment. It means you'll stop going the extra mile for romance. It means you might lose the love that made you believe in The One to begin with. And love is what holds everything together.

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Biblically, unions aren't the result of meeting soulmates; unions are built and supported by love. Love needs to be nurtured, and love is what will get you through the trials of a relationship or marriage:

"Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins." (1 Peter 4:8)

"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." (Ephesians 5:25)

"Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." (1 Corinthians 13:7)

It's not about meeting The One. The One doesn't exist. It's about meeting someone you're in love with, so much so that you're willing to grow your love through commitment, hard work and God's help, every single day.

Yes, I'm a realist, but a romantic realist. For many of us, true love can be one of life's greatest gifts. But like anything that's true, it's not perfect. The fact that it takes some effort — that pursuit of perfection — is what keeps it real.

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Jenna Birch is a former author, journalist, & editor. She currently leads narrative and communications at a venture capital firm.