1. He/she isn’t the one!
When consoling someone in the aftermath of a breakup, instinct tells us to reassure them that the ex in question is obviously not “the one.” Whenever I overhear this exchange—or witness someone speculate whether they’re currently dating the one—a dollop of vomit collects in the back of my throat. The main reason I can’t stomach the idea is that each of us meets such a tiny percentage of the world’s population in our lifetime. So the statistical probability of meeting this hypothetical one with whom we’re supposed to spend the rest of our lives is terrifyingly minuscule.
To believe that we will bump into—and consequently fall for—our designated one demands faith in Fate, or in the benevolence of some higher power. But even if you’re a fan of Destiny and other intangible cosmic forces, isn’t it arrogant to presume that your relationship happiness would be their priority? And how do you account for the divorced set? Are couples that split up — even those who consciously uncouple — guilty of misreading the signs, or has Eros deemed them less special and less deserving of their one true love than you?
As for why we’re programed to further the notion that there’s one single human being on the planet with whom we’re meant to pair up, I’m uncertain. The obvious targets to blame are romantic comedies and fairytales—and those who enjoy them without acknowledging the suspension of disbelief required to do so.
The good news is that there’s a positive aspect to dismissing the whole “one” thing. Just think about it: There are in fact many people out there with whom you can build a rewarding life! If it doesn’t work out with the cute guy or girl at the gym, there’s always the wonderfully mysterious bartender you’ve been meaning to chat up, or the coworker who reliably invites you out for an afternoon croissant every Hump Day. Isn’t it empowering to believe that you play a bigger role in your romantic future than Cupid does?
Suggested Alternative: He/She isn’t the right one o’ the bunch!
2. There are so many fish in the sea!
While it may be liberating to believe that there’s more than one damn fish in the sea, too many fishes can distract us. Recently, my friend Simone Burke wrote about how a TED talk on the paradox of choice inspired her grand farewell to Tinder. Apparently, more and more science shows that options can be as paralyzing as they are exhilarating—when it comes to selecting one of 100-plus flavored ketchups, or a mate. The problem with a plethora of alternatives is that they can instill the fear of missing out (FOMO) on something better, which leads us to bounce (or swipe) from option to option incessantly rather than focus on making a final decision.
It’s not that choices—or the dating sites that provide the platforms for browsing them—are necessarily detrimental to our love lives. Tinder is an efficient tool for facilitating hookups, and you need only consume a minimal amount of TV to know, through commercials for eharmony, Match, and Christian Mingle, that a lot of people have found long-term love online. It’s just that the line between a healthy amount of choice and too much choice is blurry.
In an age in which it’s easy to connect, it’s tempting to buy into the idea that you should consider all possibilities. But while people come in many varieties, the fact is that your gym crush is probably only as different from your colleague crush as the jalapeno ketchup is from the spicy kind. In other words: Relax! Identify your ideal personal choice profile—that key range along the options spectrum that’s manageable for you—and tailor your approach to dating accordingly. Delete Tinder if, like Burke, it’s distracting you from your endgame. And don’t feel negligent for signing up for one dating service instead of three.
Suggested Alternative: There are a fuckload of fish in the sea, but you don’t need to rub fins with all of them to find love. (Or, more simply: Free yourself from fish-in-the-sea FOMO!)
3. Romance/Chivalry is dead!
People often invoke this sentiment when discussing a relationship that’s starting to feel stale—as if by declaring romance’s widespread death, everyone can feel okay about the lack of it back at home.
Perhaps we would all be better off accepting one of the main, under acknowledged aspects of romance: It’s not a daily essential nutrient. In truth, regular life isn’t designed for grand gestures of devotion or prolonged moments of affection. Day to day, we are all more likely to poop, shower, or do the dishes than we are to embrace passionately or to exchange love letters. There’s definitely intimacy in the regular grind, just not the romantic kind.
And that’s okay! Because if it weren’t rare, romance wouldn’t be special. Do you really want a bouquet of flowers delivered to your desk at work more than once in a while? Like all things of value, romance is worth more for its infrequency.
Suggested Alternative: True romance is rarer than rubies for good reason.
4. People Don’t Change!
Actually, they do. Thankfully for the sake of human progress, we don’t stop learning once we reach adulthood. Most of us continue to mature and grow (and maybe regress in some areas) throughout our lives.
People often rely upon the no-change argument when examining or justifying repeated, troubling behavior, or when bemoaning unrequited love. The reality that we transform continuously should provide hope to those involved with someone who refuses to pick up after him or herself, or to couples stuck in a fighting rut.
But the prospect of ongoing personal transformation also means that an individual’s needs—and, by extension, their ideas about what constitutes the perfect partner—might evolve over time, too. We could be well suited to one kind of person while rearing children, and another once we reach retirement. The urge to fill one’s days post career by hiking or spelunking doesn’t spontaneously rise up in everyone, after all.
Suggested Alternative: Sometimes we grow together, sometimes we grow apart.
5. Everything happens for a reason!
We’re all equally unqualified to know whether or not this is true.
Suggested Alternative: Sometimes good things happen to shitty people, and other times, shitty things happen to good people. Deal with it.