Will I Ever Find "The One"?
Science can tell us if finding "the one" is a noble or misguided adventure.
Posted May 1, 2019 | Reviewed by Abigail Fagan
Will I ever find “the one”? It’s a question that many people who are single or in unsatisfying relationships grapple with.
And if you listen to pop culture, society at large, or tune in to a great love ballad, then you’d be hard-pressed not to think that there is a special someone for each of us; it’s our destiny, and we just have to find them.
However, the science of relationships tells us that the idea that we each have a soul mate—or a destiny to be with a particular someone—is fraught with danger when it comes to relationship success (Franiuk et al., 2002; Knee et al., 2003; Knee & Petty, 2013). That is, holding a “destiny” relationship mindset can be problematic.
A destiny relationship mindset involves beliefs that there is one true love for each of us and that we have a particular image of what that partner should look like (Knee et al., 2003).
Research suggests that people who hold a destiny mindset tend to accept things the way they are (e.g., Knee & Canevello, 2006; Knee & Petty, 2013). Their relationship is viewed as either perfect because it fits with what they are looking for, or the relationship falls short of what their ideal is, and so it is not “the one."
The consequence is that people with destiny mindsets work less at their relationships, struggle to deal with relationship setbacks, and are particularly dissatisfied if the partner or relationship changes in a way that deviates from their soul mate-like image.
When it comes to meeting that special someone, people who hold a destiny mindset may be less receptive to connecting with potential mates, because these possible partners don’t align with their mental image of “the one." Instead, a person with a destiny mindset may look for flaws or shortcomings in a potential someone instead of focusing on their good characteristics.
Alternatively, despite thinking that a newfound love interest could be a match, a person may not commit to the relationship, hoping that something better comes along. The problem with maintaining a destiny mindset is that a person may be so rigid in what they are looking for that they completely dismiss any viable opportunities at true love. A person may even ignore a perfectly good potential mate who is standing right in front of them, and love is never given a proper chance.
In contrast to holding a destiny mindset, people who hold a growth relationship mindset fare much better. A growth relationship mindset includes beliefs and expectations that relationships develop, change, and grow over time (Knee et al., 2003). This translates into couples engaging in more problem-solving and constructive ways of dealing with relationship issues.
This mindset also helps couples to support each other’s own personal development as well as to pursue relationship goals that enhance the relationship (Knee & Canevello, 2013). Research consistently finds that people who hold a growth mindset experience many and varied relationship benefits including more effective handling of conflict, increased relationship and sexual satisfaction, more constructive ways of dealing with relationship stressors and challenges, and this mindset can even buffer against relationship demise (e.g., Franiuk et al., 2002; Knee, 1998; Knee & Petty, 2013; Maxwell et al., 2017).
There are some people in long-term relationships who believe that they knew they had met their soul mate the minute they laid eyes on them. Others say that meeting their lifetime love was “written in the stars."
But when you hear the way that many of these long-term, satisfied couples talk about their relationships, you learn that they, in fact, hold a growth mindset. Many of these couples talk of how their relationship has changed over time, and how they have adapted and worked through relationship challenges and transitions as well as helped each other to develop and grow as people.
So rather than awaiting your fate when it comes to relationships, why not take destiny into your own hands and opt for a growth mindset? It might just shape your future in finding and keeping that special someone.
Franiuk, R., Cohen, D., & Pomerantz, E. M. (2002). Implicit theories of relationships: Implications for relationship satisfaction and longevity. Personal Relationships, 9(4), 345-367.
Knee, C. R. (1998). Implicit theories of relationships: Assessment and prediction of romantic relationship initiation, coping, and longevity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(2), 360-370.
Knee, C. R., & Canevello, A. (2006). Implicit Theories of Relationships and Coping in Romantic Relationships. In K. D. Vohs & E. J. Finkel (Eds.), Self and relationships: Connecting intrapersonal and interpersonal processes (pp. 160-176). NY: Guilford Press.
Knee, C. R., Patrick, H., & Lonsbary, C. (2003). Implicit theories of relationships: Orientations toward evaluation and cultivation. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 7(1), 41-55.
Knee, C. R., & Petty, K. N. (2013). Implicit theories of relationships: Destiny and growth beliefs. In J.A. Simpson & L. Campbell (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of close relationships (pp.183-198). NY: Oxford University Press.
Maxwell, J. A., Muise, A., MacDonald, G., Day, L. C., Rosen, N. O., & Impett, E. A. (2017). How implicit theories of sexuality shape sexual and relationship well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 112(2), 238-279.