You know The One. S/he has appeared in countless books, movies, plays, songs, poems and rose-tinted fantasies over many centuries. A particular favourite of Western culture, The One is sometimes defined as ‘your great love’.
S/he’s The One who owns your heart, The One who is the only One you can ever love ‘properly’ and who has eternally spoiled you for anybody else. The two of you were ‘meant to be together’ and nobody else on the planet who has ever lived or breathed can love you or be loved by you to quite the same degree. S/he is half of you, and without her/him your life lacks something, something that can never be replaced.
The One is part of You, in another person’s body.
Please, if you put any credence in this long-established romantic notion, then I urge you to change your mind: the Myth of The One is a terrible and damaging lie.
It’s true that many marriages last a lifetime. Some people do love just once, at least romantically. There is something very special and beautiful about a marriage that sustains for 40, 50, 60 years or more. These relationships are like precious jewels: all the more wonderful because they are rare.
The majority of us need more than one attempt at building a loving partnership that endures. For some of us it takes several attempts, and even then nothing is guaranteed.
In reality, there’s no fixed pattern to it, no rule that stipulates that you can only love once or a few times, no regulation that states that the first love must be greater than the second or third or fourth, nor that any love is better than any other. There’s no measure that defines the value of one relationship over another. One love is not better than another. Relationships differ; but love is love is love.
The Myth of the One gets its power partly from the way it blurs the distinction between love and an individual. Romantic love does not exist in another person or solely because of a specific person. Love flows in and through us when we allow it to. Another person can help us initiate the process of the flow of love, and can become an object for that love, but s/he is not the flow of love itself.
We fall in love and then we love (different things by the way) because we want to, we allow ourselves to. When we love another person in this way, we choose to enter a flow of love that is always already there.
If our lover leaves, then the flow of love feels interrupted. It’s absent from us. Our heart yearns, aches to be in that flow again. In our minds the experience of the flow of love and the person with whom we flourished in that flow, can merge. We miss the person, because we miss the love.
So here is why the Myth of the The One is so evil: without it, we can recover from the pain of heartbreak, because fundamentally we know that we can either find another person with whom to get back into the flow of love or we can find a flow of our own. We know we can allow love in again. It may be a hard road to get back to that point of allowing, but it’s a road that exists, and anyone can travel it.
What the Myth of The One does, is make recovery from the yearning of heartbreak logically impossible. It takes away the road. The One can never be replaced or substituted, because of course there is only One.
This is a terrible pain to bear, and a completely false and unnecessary one.
For our own well-being and sense of independence, it’s important to know that we can lose love and find it again. What the Myth of the One tells us can never be repeated or bettered, actually can be. It happens all the time.
This does not imply any diminution of the love that was lost, nor disrespect for it. The parent of one child doesn’t love that child any more or any less than the parent of seven children (though s/he may be less tired). Likewise, it’s very possible to love more than one romantic partner in a lifetime. In fact many people love many times.
(Please note: I’m not suggesting that loving multiple partners is ideal, or even to be wished for; I am suggesting that the nature of love makes it entirely possible to do so. Those who have been bereaved by their partner, and then gone on to find love again with someone else, know well the truth of this.)
Burdening ourselves with the notion that there is only One other person we can love fully in our lifetime is an awful, self-harming belief. It blinds us to one of the most fundamental, most important and most beautiful facts in all of life: love is in infinite supply.