Growing up, all of my favorite stories were love stories: Guinevere and Lancelot, Romeo and Juliet, Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester, Jack DiCaprio and Rose Winslet. Stories like that make you believe in the idea of the soul mate, that perfect One, waiting for you somewhere. I have always been a deeply romantic person and, for a long time, I did believe there was One out there for me—my Lancelot, my Romeo, my Rochester.
But then life happened, as it does, and I found that transposing my idea of The One onto reality didn’t have the best results. All through high school and for a couple of years after, I was hung up on this one guy—let’s call him Eric—whom I dated on and off. Our relationship was never healthy; in fact, we never even dated long enough to have a real relationship. But we did have a connection stronger than I’d ever felt with another guy: not only could our banter rival Elizabeth and Darcy’s, I was so intensely attracted to him I could barely stand to be near him. That we couldn’t let go of each other, despite dating other people, made it seem to me that we were somehow fated to be together, that he was The One.
I believed Eric was The One, because I loved him, I was in love with him—not to the same degree I would be with others, later, but in love, nonetheless. Love is the illusion that makes believe there’s only one person out there for us. We believe it, because we already know that person, we love that person, and, if you truly, truly love someone, you can’t imagine not loving them, you can’t imagine not spending the rest of your life with them, you can’t imagine there’s someone else out there that you could love as deeply as this person you’re with. And, because you love them, because you think they’re The One, you ignore things that might indicate otherwise. Eric, for instance, hated reading, could be unpredictably cold and distant, and couldn’t really hold his own in an intellectual conversation with me. In the end it didn’t work out.
It seems logical that after that encounter with Eric, I might have learned my lesson about love and this notion of The One. But, no. In college, I fell in love again, this time while in a real relationship. I seriously believed I would spend the rest of my life with that man—as seriously as I believed, in the fifth grade, I would marry Freddie Prinze, Jr. I believed, again, that this one was The One. Eric had been a mistake. I’d been wrong. This time, I was sure, I was right.
I think you know where this is going. We broke up. I dated some other guys, one pretty seriously. I moved. I met my husband. We fell in love. We got married.
We got married because we love each other, which means, yes, we can’t imagine loving anyone else, but it isn’t all about romance. Or rather: what made him seem like someone I wanted to marry was not only that I love him terribly, but that I love him terribly and he’s brilliant and caring and supportive and a good editor and does the dishes and loves dogs and reads as much as I do and pushes me to become a better person but understands when I’m grumpy from PMS/a bad day and gives me massages when I’m sore and totally gets when I just want to be left alone to write and goes on runs with me and cries during the final season of The Office.
What I’m trying to say, I guess, is this: Love made me believe he’s The One, but my brain knew we were compatible in a longterm way. We share values and interests. We respect each other tremendously. We work well together. (Surprisingly, you can be in love and not work well together.) We see each other as equals—intellectually and otherwise. (Also surprisingly, I have not felt this way in most relationships.)
Do I think he’s The One? Of all the potential people I could possibly fall in love with, I think he’s one of the best I could ever hope to find. And, I think, that’s what people mean when they talk about The One.