The One – Myth or Fact?

Sometimes I think that the people who ponder the most about relationships are those who aren’t in one. Last week, I was having a conversation with a girl that I was interested in and the topic drifted to past romances. She told me that she felt like she’s been unlucky in love, especially because she…


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Sometimes I think that the people who ponder the most about relationships are those who aren’t in one. Last week, I was having a conversation with a girl that I was interested in and the topic drifted to past romances. She told me that she felt like she’s been unlucky in love, especially because she believed the last guy she was with was “The One.” I disagreed with her on that point. To me, it seemed more likely that she wanted him to be “The One.”

Now, maybe I’ve grown up to be a cynic who doesn’t believe in Le Grand Amour, but I have never really fancied the idea that there is literally only one person in the world that can be your spouse. It always kinda sounded like a crazy myth a la The Matrix. This abstract romantic singularity is supposed to come and be your everything and save you from a world of loneliness and the possible absence of progeny.

The whole idea is ludicrous to me for many reasons, not the least of which is that it’s mathematically improbable, maybe even impossible. It presupposes a world in which you make the following assumptions:

  1. You have met and interacted with every single human (all 7.3 billion of them) and vetted them for supposed compatibility with you and life you plan to live.
  2. It also assumes that you will only ever be able to fall in love with that one person.

Obviously, nobody has ever satisfied both conditions. In deciding on the person or persons that we plan on spending our lives with, what we’re really doing is applying a series of filters to whittle down the list of potentials based on whatever criteria we think we think we might like. And then we go out hoping to find the person(s) that best meet those predetermined requirements (or do it online as is the modern trend). Basically, there was no fairy tale involved, it was not magic or miracle, there was no “One.” If you really sit down and think about it, there was, is, and will only ever be the One You Choose.

I’m sure right about now, some of you think I’m just all up in my feelings but hear me out. From the first date, through the I Do’s, and on to whatever comes after that, you are consistently choosing that person. Sure, it feels like magic when when everything is going well and the choice is easy, but that’s not always guaranteed. Some days, it’s pretty freaking hard. The way I see it, a relationship only exists where all parties continuously choose each other in mutually compatible ways. That’s especially important to remember when things get difficult, especially to the point of breaking up.

Sometimes when a relationship ends, we have a tendency to focus on the negatives and rightly so. It’s heartbreaking. You spent a great deal of time with this person, planning for a future that looks very different than the one you are currently experiencing. That’s hard! But I don’t think it’s always helpful to focus on the negatives. It’s important to remember that when you’re building a relationship with someone, you’re not just choosing that person, you’re also choosing how you want to interact with that person. As such, when the relationship ends, sometimes it’s because the people involved have stopped choosing each other altogether and other times, it’s because they’ve decided to choose each other in a whole new way. That’s not always a bad thing.

I once read a poem called, “Failing and Flying” by Jack Gilbert. In it, he describes his reaction to his divorce in similar terms to how he thinks about the legend of Icarus from the Greek Myths. My inner poet and inner mythology nerd went crazy for this poem, but I’ll spare you the literary analysis. I think the poem speaks very clearly for itself.

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.

It’s the same when love comes to an end,

or the marriage fails…

…I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,

but just coming to the end of his triumph.

-Jack Gilbert

To be clear, I’m not trying to shit on anyone’s actual relationship. I just think the fairy tale ideas about love and romance are sometimes unhelpful in dealing with the day to day of being in a relationship. Personally, I prefer a more intentional approach to thinking about love and romance. If I should ever be unfortunate enough to go through a break up from a long-term relationship or divorce, I hope to carry Mr. Gilbert’s mindset with me.

What do you guys think? Am I wrong about this?


  1. A Loco Viva Voce
    Interesting thoughts but I beg to differ. I believe that one of a kind, can die for you true love only happens once in our lifetime. This doesn’t necessarily mean we only love once because we will definitely fall in love thousand times. It simply means our true love exists in only ONE person. Some of us are lucky enough to find it while others make do with the regular type of love and may never encounter their ONE TRUE LOVE. After all, you can’t miss what you never had so it doesn’t really change anything.


  2. Nosa
    The One? *scoffs*
    Like Tola said, there are over 7 billion people in the world. So there exists only one person for which you can have that “die for love” kinda emotion for? Puhleeeeeeze!!!! Miss me with that fate and destiny crap.
    Just because you have that kind of love for someone doesn’t make them the one, it just makes them someone you love. You can have that kind of love for them and still breakup and go on to love another person.

    Love manifests and is expressed in a different combination of emotions and actions, so the way you love this person will be different from the way you love another person. So this “die for your love” emotions can be manifested entirely different from the next person.
    So the tale of their existing only one person for which you can love to death, in the world. It’s just a story they tell us to make us dream and hope.

  3. Olayinka
    Let’s see… One, two, three.. That’s the number of ‘ones’ I have had the ‘I can die for you’ feelings in the strongest sense for. And I’m on the 4th one now. Let’s just say I like to enjoy love while I have it. If this one fails again, I’ll put myself out there for another ‘one’. Life is to short to make one ‘one’ your only ‘one’ abeg.
  4. similicious
    The idea that love is on grandiose infection irks me. ‘Love’ and ‘ Finding the one’ is a decision. That being said, The search for that person tailor made for another (the one) will be an elusive one if you do not understand who you are and what you need. Hence, the reason people let ‘the one’ go….
  5. Omali
    Making someone the “one” is a choice has nothing to do with the universe destiny god yada yada yada. You meet someone, you get to know them, you go thru ups and downs. Then you realize you can’t live without them, I want to spend my life with them, then that’s your one. The one that you decided to be with it could have been anybody but you chose that person. Being the “one” doesn’t indicate an everlasting love unless u choose so. Being in love, deciding who to love, and staying in love is a choice not a destiny.
  6. Buchi
    Can’t knock the Jaded ones among Y’all, considering I used to be ‘Jade’ itself, but I’m presently in a relationship that tempts me to believe in the concept. Haven’t turned mushy enough to postulate for the concept, but, yeah, there comes along one that makes one lose a little bit the cynicism we always carry.
  7. Abi'

    I feel like the whole “the one” theory came from someone poorly explaining the fact that the deeper/ more true your lost love is the more difficult it is to love as deeply or beyond that which was. Difficult doesn’t equate to it being impossible. Love is a conscious decision and I believe it’s only natural for a person to hold back a little after they’ve felt the hurt from a lost love. However to say “the one-one-of-a-kind-love-we-can-die-for happens only once in a lifetime” would be akin to saying we all stay down once we fall and never rise again.
    I really love the fact that you always based your views on facts and science, but this is Love we are talking about, it is not something science can explain with formulas and lab experiments. I honestly believe in Soulmates, i believe there is only one person out there for each person, you have people who have been married multiple times and divorced multiple times which means they kept choosing the wrong person, as long as you don’t, choose the right person, it will most likely end in divorce or you will both be miserable throughout your marriage.
    1. Ray
      Wait, so you mean one can only be truly happy with one person?
      What about people who had great spouses, but the spouse died and they had to re-marry and they got yet another great spouse?
    2. Tola
      Science actually can explain different aspects of love. For example, we’ve done fMRI studies on people who are in new relationships and people who have been in committed relationships for a while. Their brains look very different and so do the levels of neurotransmitters that are triggered in relation to things like thinking about their partners. Because of science, we know that the neural networks in the brain use similar pathways for both love and addictions to things like cocaine and alcohol. So the next time you hear a song like Ke$ha’s “Your Love Is My Drug,” you can revel in the scientific accuracy of that statement.

      P.S. None of what I have said negates the idea that some people genuinely do find a single partner with whom they will spend the rest of their lives and have incredible puppy-love romance with throughout that period. All I’m saying is that it doesn’t always happen for everyone.

  9. aisha
    Don’t believe in that “the one” thing mehn, so if someone dies, what then happens to the “one” for him/her? will he/she be sentenced to a lifetime of single-hood or unhappy union? or people who get widowed and go ahead to marry another and are still very happy. did they have 2 “the ones”? Just work to make things work with the one you’ve got.

    PS “I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell, but just coming to the end of his triumph.” Is just the most beautiful thing!

  10. Rex
    First time to comment. Like Tola rightly noted- there are 7 billion eople in the world- imagine yourself on a search for “the one.”
    My point precisely is that -“the one”- is just a provisory title given to that special person whom we feel we can’t live without at a particular point in life.-
    on that note the theory of one and the soulmate ish isn’t valid joor.
  11. miss Somebody
    so TNC has not been posting my comments hmmm…. there’s God o

    The One!
    Love is an emotion, powerful beyond measure and sometimes uncontrollable. But Love again is a decision. A commitment and a conscious effort and an undertaking to be with Someone, to have and to hold in all conditions of life. I do believe in soulmates. To the human mind it is limiting, demeaning and even scary. “So if there’s only one person for me, what happens if I don’t meet him or if I lose him?”, “what if he dies?” “what if I miss it?” this are the kind of questions that cross our minds when we choose to consider the idea of “the one”. And I totally get, it’s beyond comprehension and why will “God” make this so? These Questions are mind boggling but it doesn’t make it any less true. I have been in love a few times but I have only experienced “the one” once. This doesn’t mean that if I go ahead and marry someone else or not even marry at all I will forever be unhappy but it simply means that I will not have an extraordinary kinda love and life. Yes, I will have kids, have a husband, be financially good, have a life but there will be that void which you just can’t explain. That is why some people will tell you that, “I love him, he takes care of me, I have great kids, am following my dreams, am accomplished, I have everything, my life is perfect but am just not happy”. Why?

  12. seryxme
    This post and some comments have made me reassess my consideration of the concept of “the one”.

    I basically do not believe that there’s just one person for you. It’s sounds nonsensical because, like someone mentioned above, what happens if “the one” actually dies. It means you’re left with no “one”. What do you do then?

    However, maybe the theory of “the one” isn’t that he/she is the only person you fall in love with. Maybe it is that he/she is that one person that can make your relationship/marriage as close to perfection as possible. The fact that some never find that person is not proof of non-existence. It probably shows how rare it is to find.

    What may be ridiculous in all this, for me, is the idea that you HAVE to find “the one”. Some may be lucky to find him/her in the next relationship or sometime before getting married but due to the impossible nature of Assumption 1 in this post, most will not find that person. What to do? Well, it’s best to live and love as stated, with “the one you choose”.

    Basically, the most important dynamic at play here is you and your mindset. Even if there’s “the one”, you might still lose him/her if you’re not in the right frame of mind or you don’t even know yourself well enough. Or maybe “the one” may just be the person to help you discover yourself and live a fuller, better life.

    In all, I think it’s important to understand that if we make conscious effort to make relationships and marriages work, we may not need to find “the one” to be ‘happy ever after’. We may just be as happy with “the one we choose”. But what do I know about these things, eh?

  13. Teliov
    I totally agree with Tola and all those citing the world population. Let’s split the world population in half (3.5 billion male, 3.5 billion female) Let’s say that half of that number are available for a relationship (1.75 billion) . The idea of “The One” means that only 1 person in 1.75 billion is right. The odds of meeting that person is terribly low. Lower even when you consider that most people do not travel alot thereby reducing the number of people they would meet.

    “The One” does not exist. Just “The One You Choose”.

    Nice one Tola

  14. Ray
    Tola, I love this article. I love how you simplified things that usually seem so complicated.

    ‘ It’s important to remember that when you’re building a relationship with someone, you’re not just choosing that person, you’re also choosing how you want to interact with that person. As such, when the relationship ends, sometimes it’s because the people involved have stopped choosing each other altogether and other times, it’s because they’ve decided to choose each other in a whole new way.’
    That’s the most insightful statement I’ve read in a while.

    Although I believe from personal experience that love is not a choice (I assume it is for some people, anyway), I also believe that relationships and tagging a person ‘the one’ are choices, just like the decision to say ‘I do’ to that one person.
    This piece reminds me of Eki in ‘Gidi up’ when she told Yvonne that Tokunbo was the one, right before he started fulfilling his demonic potentials. Then she had to move on from him, finding another ‘the one’ in the process.
    I doubt there can be only one person in the world worthy of being another’s soulmate.

  15. wunderkid
    No comment. This case stands disputable, unless you have interacted to every single person on planet earth then you can say there’s just one spouse for you.
    But on the other hand, Waht happens to Waht the bible says “The rib of your rib and flesh of your flesh” that’s just one person, right!?….
  16. chuka
    That rib of rib analogy was for Adam oo… No need to carry over biblical allusions and analogies though. I chose to wait and see the last of the comments. Fun as insightful. Whatever you choose to believe should be that which works for you. “The One.” Or “Your Choice”… Opions are like butts… By the way what do I even know about these things ehn..¯\_(”)_/¯.

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