Insight Is 20/20

Exploring the pervasive, and unperceived, patterns that govern our lives

The Myth of One True Love Per Lifetime

Whoever said we only have one true soulmate?

One of the greatest challenges I see people facing as they look for a lasting relationship is the misguided search for ‘The One.’ If you are single, ask yourself as you read this whether you truly believe there is one soul mate you’re destined to be with. Thanks to Hollywood films and the rabid Hallmark culture in which we live, we have been socialized to believe there is one – and only one - person with whom we truly belong.

Perhaps this belief was more prevalent in the past, when divorce was frowned upon and gender roles were set in stone. Over the course of decades, some people have allowed themselves the freedom to define the kind of people they are and the type of relationship they want without seeking the endorsement of society. However, based on my clinical work, it appears that too many people continue to look for their one and only perfect match.

For those who have been in a relationship for many years, they become aware of the compromises that must be made and the things they must accept in their partners in order to make the union work. Unfortunately, too many people who are single are stuck in a cycle of searching for the ideal partner. The truth is that ideals don’t jive with reality.

It’s impossible to say how many soulmates a person has per lifetime because there is no algorithm or formula to inform you. How many loves you connect with in a lifetime depends on how open you are to the idea of love. I know many people who invested everything in their partner and the relationship ultimately failed. For some of these people, they’ve given up the fight and will likely never let themselves commit to loving anyone else again. Why? Deep down they believe we’ve got only one love per lifetime.

Believing that we only get one soulmate is a trap that is based on fear – fear of loving and losing again. When you look at your ability to connect with friends and family, clearly you’re capable of loving more than one person. If you are single and catch yourself thinking there’s only one person you’re truly meant to be with, stop and think about why you believe this is true. Asking yourself meaningful questions (e.g., What do we really have in common?) and taking inventory of your wishes can help cultivate life wisdom, as well as prevent a great deal of unnecessary potential pain down the road. After all, if a relationship doesn’t work out for you, my hope is that you let yourself take the risk and attempt to find a more fulfilling relationship the next time around.

In addition to fear, the belief that we only get one true love per lifetime is deeply related with our society's insistence that monogamy is good for couples - and the moral choice, to boot. The important point for individuals is for everyone to make sure that they are being honest about their needs, maintaining flexibility and openness when it comes to the fact that their needs could change in the future, and remembering that they - not societal norms - should decide who they are and what they want. For some, they'll connect with only one true love over the course of life; for others, they'll sign on for something more adventurous.

Seth Meyers, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist with the L.A. County Department of Mental Health.

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