Perhaps all our loves are merely hints and symbols . . . perhaps you and I are types and this sadness which sometimes falls between us springs from disappointment in our search, each straining through and beyond the other, snatching a glimpse now and then of the shadow which turns the corner always a pace or two ahead of us.

Charles makes this comment to Julia in Book 3, Chapter 4 during their final argument by the fountain. In response to Julia asking whether she, like Sebastian, could possibly be a forerunner to another love, Charles explains this theory of love that posits people fall in love with someone because they’re searching for meaning and fulfillment. This explanation aligns with Charles’s behavior throughout the novel. When he goes to Sebastian’s Oxford rooms for lunch the first time, Charles describes himself as searching for love because his current life at Oxford was missing something. Although Sebastian awakens Charles's spirit to beauty through Brideshead Castle, ultimately placing Charles on his professional path, Sebastian himself, with his excesses and alcoholism, doesn’t offer long-term emotional satisfaction. Charles believes Julia might offer him meaning because he’s attracted to her both emotionally and physically and because they’re united by their dislike of shallow people, fostered in their bitter marriages.

This view of love ultimately spells doom for their relationship. As we see in the prologue, Charles begins the novel having fallen out of love again, this time with the Army. Because we can infer that Charles falls in love with Sebastian and the Army initially because they offer him meaning and purpose, this quotation calls into question whether he’ll truly find that with Julia. Although Julia ties him to Brideshead, which represents something meaningful to him, Bridey and Mrs. Muspratt will ultimately live there. Charles and Julia’s affair actually puts Charles further from Brideshead, not closer. Furthermore, if we believe Charles’s philosophy of love, it seems unlikely that Julia will find what she’s looking for in Charles. Julia, believing herself cast out from God's grace, hopes to find some way to be slightly nearer to God through having a family with Charles, but it’s unclear whether Julia would have an easier time conceiving a child with Charles than Rex. Charles, with his agnosticism and his disinterest in children, cannot truly be what she’s looking for.