What is "The One", how do I know if I've found him, and how crucial is it that I do so?
September 15, 2012 8:40 AM   Subscribe

What does it feel like to find "The One"? How do you know when you have found this person? How essential is this feeling for a successful and happy long-term relationship?

A good (male) friend of mine fairly recently began dating a woman. They spoke for about a week online, and then met in person. On their second date, they both felt a powerful sense that they were soulmates, each felt a certainty that they had found "The One" in the other person. They expressed this certainty to each other, and spoke within the first week of knowing each other in person about strongly desiring to get engaged/married to each other, which they essentially agreed to do once more time elapses. He spoke about feeling a sense of "Destiny" - as if they were fated to be together, and his choice in the matter was simply one of (happily) accepting his destiny.

I am obviously extremely pleased for him, but this has left me a bit philosophically blindsided, because I don't believe in the idea of "The One", or the idea of soulmates, or the idea of "love at first sight". I had always assumed that the idea of love at first sight (or second sight, in this case) was a sort of revisionist history, one that two people, having dated for a year (or however long), retrospectively and subconsciously imposed together on their relationship's beginning - a sort of collective origin myth, if you like. I had never actually had any experience with it live, in realtime, with real people that I actually know. This is also complicated by the fact that I have never experienced this personally, and I can't imagine doing so. I hope to get married in the future, once, for life, but I have always felt a powerful and overriding sense of my own agency surrounding my choice of partner, and have never felt any sense of fate, or destiny, or even particular clarity, about whether one person, with their personality and strengths and flaws, would be ultimately be a better relationship fit than another person. I have two sets of questions, stemming from this:

#1: Can anyone explain this sensation of having found "The One", or of having found your destined soulmate? Is it more than personal infatuation for someone - infatuation that fortuitously happens to be shared? How do two people who barely know each other have such a strong and mutual sense that the other is "The One"? What does this sense feel like? How do you know that you're not simply projecting a narcissistic imaginary soulmate onto the other person? How reliable is this sense of "The One-ness"? Does it ever dissolve once two people get to know each other further, and realize that the other is not the person that each had imagined? Does this sense of certainty about the other person ever last a lifetime? Is it the same as being in love? What is the difference between this sensation and the feeling of being deeply attracted to someone, admiring his mind and character and all of the quirks that make him himself, thinking of him throughout the day and wondering what he would think about particular things that you encounter, desiring physical intimacy with him, wanting to spend time with him, missing him when he is gone, and being delighted to have the good fortune of being in a relationship with this person, BUT at the same time, sometimes feeling areas of discord or incongruity or uncertainty about the relationship or the person, feeling no sense of fate or destiny surrounding the entire experience, and having the unmistakable feeling that if you had not gotten together with him, you could indeed be happy with someone else - possibly someone quite different?

#2: How necessary is this "The One" feeling for the happiness and success of a long relationship, such as a lifelong marriage, in the collective experience of Metafilter? Do most people end up feeling something of this type of experience, or is generally limited to particular types of people? Do most people wait to get married or long-term partnered until they feel such an experience? Is this really something I should be waiting for, or counting on? Is feeling such an experience heavily dependent on personality (my friend is a romantic type; I'm a closet romantic, but typically operate as a pragmatist)? Is it, like some religious experiences, dependent on your willingness to be swept up in the experience, and is my skepticism is actually preventing me from doing so? Am I simply not romantic enough in personality, and thus am temperamentally unsuited ever to having such an experience, and am unlikely ever to do so?

I would love to hear any thoughts anyone has about this situation or my questions surrounding it, as well as any anecdata that anyone would like to share about their own relationships, and to what extent this romantic ideology has proven true or essential in creating or sustaining them.
posted by UniversityNomad to Human Relations (51 answers total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
I am obviously extremely pleased for him, but this has left me a bit philosophically blindsided, because I don't believe in the idea of "The One", or the idea of soulmates, or the idea of "love at first sight".

Meh, I don't either. I've known quite a few people who met "The One" and rushed into living together/marriage/babies with that person, only to have things crash and burn once they actually, um, got to know each other.

I love my SO to bits and he makes me very happy. But I have never thought of anybody as "The One" because I think that's silly. Although he is definitely "The Current One and Totally Awesome" I have no doubt there are tons of other guys out on this planet who I would love to bits and have awesome conversations and sexy times with, but I'm not looking right now. Who knows what the years will bring? Yes, people can be incredibly compatible, but nobody is MADE for somebody else for life.
posted by futureisunwritten at 9:00 AM on September 15, 2012 [12 favorites]

Is it more than personal infatuation for someone - infatuation that fortuitously happens to be shared?

No, it is not. I found The One, and fell instantly and madly in love on sight -- I saw him, the world inverted, I couldn't breathe, my heart exploded, there were stars, there was a roar in my ears -- genuinely, all of that. We were in a relationship for years, and then broke up. I moved on, and eventually married someone whom I suppose, in the fairytale casting, you'd have to call Some Other One.

The point is, a percentage of couples begin with a point of enormous attraction and infatuation. The couples who work out long term will then tell you "and there was never anyone else, we were destined from the start." I would say that this is just luck, however; that beginning from this point of mutual obsession, they simply happened to also be long-term compatible. Other couples will find this is not so, and so The One is no more for them.

How necessary is this "The One" feeling for the happiness and success of a long relationship, such as a lifelong marriage, in the collective experience of Metafilter?

Utterly unnecessary. I met my husband and while I was overcome with cheerful lust, I never experienced the lightening strike sensation. We fell slowly and quietly in love. He tells me it's been 10 years; it feels like about four, and we are one of those irritatingly happy couples.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:00 AM on September 15, 2012 [31 favorites]

There is no One. This is limerance. People have this exact same feeling about the person who will eventually murder them; people have this feeling about the person they'll eventually die next to at a sufficiently advanced age. I've had this feeling about people whose last names I have to struggle to remember.

That doesn't mean this couple isn't compatible; time will tell. The feeling rarely lasts all that long, though it may come back sometimes (I've found this to be true in 8 years of marriage).

It's a stupid reason to make big decisions. Sometimes it works out anyway. But that's just statistically true of relationships: out of many, at least one of them is likely to last a good long while.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:02 AM on September 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

I met my partner on an uncharacteristically hot (for San Francisco) night when I was in town for a mutual friend's wedding. We had known of each other for a number of years but hadn't really met.

I shook her hand and I knew. It's 12 years and three months later and I still know.

She's not my first relationship or my first long-term relationship and I'm not hers; I'd been in love and in infatuation and lived with someone before. I wasn't fake in-love with any of my previous partners. But this felt, and feels, different in a way that I've never been able to verbalize.

I don't and didn't really believe in Destiny or The One - though, as a woman raised in the U.S., it's not like either of those concepts was foreign to me. I also wigged out at first and was all "But this is so weird! I don't believe in The One! I don't think? GAH!!!" My therapist got me to calm to fuck down and stop thinking in abstract concepts and start thinking about *this* particular relationship with *this* particular person.

I moved across country six months later. We moved in together six months after that. I can't, of course, speak to anyone else's experience, and even if a whole line of mefites forms to talk about how they also found The One, that's no guarantee that anyone else's experience was or is exactly like mine or like your friend's.
posted by rtha at 9:04 AM on September 15, 2012 [14 favorites]

I know I'll irritate a lot of people when I say that the whole 'soul mate' concept is a myth, largely the product of romance literature and film.

Answering #2: on a scale of 1-10 (ten being absolutely essential) I rate "The One" feeling at...zero. Mrs. Director and I will be celebrating year #32 in a few weeks so I might know one or two things.

What, then, is important?

Love, of course. (I have written a comment or two on the subject).

But love alone can't go the distance. There is another, usually overlooked aspect: you must be able to live with each other, day-to-day, moment-to-moment, thick -> thin (or, in our case, thin -> thick), better -> worse -> devastation.

It isn't the greatness of your love that will carry you through (it doesn't hurt) it is your ability to simply be with each other -- and all that entails.

Then again, maybe that's what people mean by 'soul mate'....
posted by trinity8-director at 9:06 AM on September 15, 2012 [15 favorites]

I am obviously extremely pleased for him, but this has left me a bit philosophically blindsided, because I don't believe in the idea of "The One", or the idea of soulmates, or the idea of "love at first sight". I had always assumed that the idea of love at first sight (or second sight, in this case) was a sort of revisionist history, one that two people, having dated for a year (or however long), retrospectively and subconsciously imposed together on their relationship's beginning - a sort of collective origin myth, if you like.

You're right and wrong. That feeling of mutual attraction is Real, as described by DarlingBri. You really do have that flood of endorphins that takes over your brain and gives you that blissed out feeling, and you will have that feeling for some people, but not for most others. You can believe you've found "the one" when that happens, and if the relationship lasts, then that just confirms your instincts were true.

The couple really did feel that way. They really did feel that way for each other and not for other people that they had met. And since that relationship lasted, that just provides evidence that their feelings were true. (and possibly other rare instances they felt overwhelmingly in love in previous relationships gets re-written as a minor infatuation)
posted by deanc at 9:07 AM on September 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

I never believed in "The One." When I met Mrs. Silvertree, I still didn't believe in the one. We spent a long time as roommates/friends with benefits but not in any sort of formal relationship. Each of us dated other people. One day, she looked at me and said "I want to start dating." Suddenly, everything just clicked. We dated for a year, I proposed, and we got married.

I dated a lot of other people. Some of those women were amazing women, and I could have spent the rest of my life with one of them and been reasonably happy. But I know with 100% certainty that Mrs. Silvertree is "The One." How? No matter what happens, no matter how bad it gets, I always want her there. I can tell her things that I can't tell to anyone else in the world. That probably doesn't mean a lot to anyone else, but I can't say that about anyone else in the world.

Is it necessary to have "The One" to be happy? I don't think so. I think someone could be reasonably happy for the rest of their lives with someone who is merely compatible. Let's face it, one of the biggest parts of a relationship is choosing to be with that person and making it work.
posted by Silvertree at 9:08 AM on September 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

When I first met Mr Fig (we met thru OkCupid) in person, I thought he was a weirdo. At the end of the date, he gave me a small gift related to one of my interests on my profile, which blew me away in its sweetness and thoughtfulness, so we went on a second date.

3 years later, I was reflecting on our relationship, and realized that I could not see myself dating anyone else, ever. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. The main feeling driving this is that we make an amazing team. Together , we can get through anything life has in store for us. That's when I knew he was 'The One'. It was through going through struggles, and building something very strong over time.

We werent married until two years after that revelation, so ours is on the slow end of the relationship speed spectrum, but it worked for us.
posted by Fig at 9:09 AM on September 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

There is no such thing as The One, especially when it's just common infatuation, but there are people who quickly identify each other as the best possible choice and are very happy about it. It's not necessary for such people to realize it immediately to be happy together.
posted by michaelh at 9:10 AM on September 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

I've watched some guys and women who swear they found "The One" to go totally overboard and then put up w/abuse and pain because they're in a relationship where they're being manipulated by their own desire to believe in love because they feel empty or depressed inside and also because they are vulnerable to charismatic people who might take advantage of them.

It is really awful to see these people get hurt by their "soulmate." They start to hate and destroy themselves when things go wrong.
posted by discopolo at 9:10 AM on September 15, 2012 [11 favorites]

I haven't had this experience with a person, but I've definitely had it with a place or a social environment. There was a particular house in college that I knew I wanted to live in from the minute I saw it. There was a particular group of friends that I loved from the first night -- and we're all still friends many years later.

So it makes sense to me that this could happen with a person as well. It's not necessary nor sufficient -- I've lived in great places that I haven't had this feeling with, and have lifelong friends who kind of annoyed me when I met them, but sometimes limerance and long-term compatibility line up, and then it works.

My hypothesis is that you have these feelings when something possesses qualities you have long idealized. So maybe she is something like the princess you always imagined, or he has a quality of the heroic about him. There's something about the person that fits a template you have for your own growth and furtherance.

If it lasts, it's because other aspects also work well, and because you grow INTO this idealization and incorporate it successfully into your life.

So, I loved that house I lived in, and I still take some of the qualities of that place into the other places I have lived since. If that house was a person and I could take it with me, I probably would have. I still love all the things I love about that house that I loved at first sight.
posted by 3491again at 9:11 AM on September 15, 2012 [10 favorites]

When I was 15 I started at a new school. There I saw this senior that I had never spoken a word to, but of course had this massive crush on and thought, as teenagers do, 'if only he were to talk to me, I know we're meant to be together'. Then he asked me out, and I knew--yes, a month after turning 15, still a kid really--that it was something very real and very special. It was truly love and he, a 17 year old, felt the same way. And we were together for 8 years after that.

Circumstances changed as we grew older, and both of us went through personal growth and four years of long distance in the middle (college), and lived together, but we always desperately loved each other up until the end, even after the end for a while.

No, he wasn't The One in the sense that we were together forever, but he was The One in the sense that we both instinctually knew that we were meant to be together during that time. I still think, even 6 years later, that that time was meant for us, just as we both knew when it was time to be over. We let each other go in the end because we knew we had to just as clearly as we knew we had to be together in the beginning.

I have been in love since, but nothing has ever felt quite like that did. But relationships are different, and love feels different in each one because love isn't just something you give or take, it's something that two people share. So each combination is unique I think, and some of those combinations just feel like 'destiny' I guess.
posted by greta simone at 9:23 AM on September 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

One thing I forgot to say: when I met gingerbeer, I wasn't looking to meet anyone, let alone The One. I'd dated someone long-distance for while and we'd been broken up for several months when I came out here for the mutual friends' wedding. I wouldn't have said no to a weekend fling, but I wasn't looking for a relationship or limerance or anything like that. It caught me completely off-guard - her too, especially since she had hated me for years*. Happily, that changed!

* It's a long story.
posted by rtha at 9:28 AM on September 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

I absolutely believe in The One, or at least a subset of people who are perfect for one person. I knew on my first date with DH that I could stop looking, that this man was so good and good for me. I knew that his individual quirks were a perfect fit for mine, and that our idiosyncracies were somehow well matched.

We've been together 5 years almost, and he takes my breath away every day.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:29 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

The One is as real as any fictious person can be. S/he lives in your head and is what you measure romantic interests against.

You can meet a random person and he checks off a bunch of boxes, so he's The One, when in reality, his brother or cousin or best friend could have just as easily been the one, but due to timing and availability, he got there first.

You could meet someone and think, yeah. I can MAKE him the one. Either by changing him or changing your standards. The former is always bad, but more common than we like to admit, and the latter can have mixed results. However, you could do this with any chump off the street.

Or you keep your mental The One vague and broad so lots of people can match it in one way or another.

So, yeah. When someone says, He's The One, it's totally true. It just doesn't mean what we think it means. It's more like, "This is a good representation of what I imagined in a partner." more than "This magical creature came into my life and I had an emotional revelation."
posted by peacrow at 9:33 AM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Hi UN - My personal experience in couples and individual therapy suggests that contemporary clinicians spend a great deal of time debunking the myth that The One is a Real Thing™. I believe them. I've come to believe that we can make a rewarding life with many possible partners (or more than one, or zero). Pop-psych refs. I think we're all pretty susceptible (especially in our twenties) to Jerry Maguire-ish media influences that we've had lifelong exposure to. To me, the issue turned from 'finding The One' to the much riskier 'it's your life and if you want a partner there are lots to choose from. choose wisely.' ymmv.
posted by j_curiouser at 9:39 AM on September 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Can anyone explain this sensation of having found "The One", or of having found your destined soulmate? Is it more than personal infatuation for someone - infatuation that fortuitously happens to be shared?

Ever met someone whom you knew instantly was going to become your best friend?
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 9:39 AM on September 15, 2012 [7 favorites]

I would have to say when I started that school at the age of 14, that I didn't have a 'representation of what I imagined in a partner', but then a few months later 'this magical creature came into my life and I had an emotional revelation', I'm pretty sure. But I think that The One can have a broad interpretations, two of which can be the above.
posted by greta simone at 9:39 AM on September 15, 2012

I don't think it's necessary to have "The One", but I do think that magical feeling can happen when you meet the right person at the right time. When I met my now-husband in person, after knowing him online (in a non-romantic context) for a couple of years, I knew right away, even though I'd never had an inkling when we were online friends. I had never felt like I wanted to marry someone before (in fact, I didn't really believe in marriage at all and didn't think I'd ever want to get married), and the second I met him, I knew we'd get married (embarrassingly, I went home with "The Boy I'm Going To Marry" buzzing around in my head, not a word of a lie), and here we are with ten years of happy marriage behind us and hopefully another hundred or so to go!

So is there "The One"? For me, yes. Is it necessary for happiness? No. I think the biggest recipe for happiness in a long term relationship is genuine respect, good communication and tasteful honesty (being able to tell someone the truth if it needs telling, but being sensitive about how you tell it). I love my husband dearly, but I genuinely like him, and I think the liking is more important in the long run. I think what makes him "The One" is the fact that we're on the same page about the important things, and that we respect and care about each other enough to make each others' happiness important. Plus there was that magical connection thing that happened when we met.
posted by biscotti at 9:39 AM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't believe in "The One" or destiny when it comes to relationships. However, I DO believe in there being a smaller subset of person that, due to a compliment of backgrounds, experiences, opinions and beliefs, you can very seamlessly integrate with. My husband was one of those people. When we started spending time together, it was very comfortable and, for lack of a better word, we "clicked." The thing that freaked me out was how easy it was compared to other relationships. There was very little awkwardness. Communication was great and worked, even if there was a problem. There was a simpatico of ideas and goals and inclinations that was super great and different feeling. If I wasn't a jaded late 20-something at the time, I see where I could have confused that feeling with Destiny(tm) instead of just a really great relationship.

That feeling, of familiarity and being effortless and just finding someone who's so freaking EASY to connect with, can be mistaken for mystical destiny woo woo. It doesn't meant the relationship is destined to be Twoo Wuv or anything of the like, but it can be a nice place to start from to build something great. Five years later, we're married and while we have our disagreements, that feeling of nice simpatico hasn't gone away. I may not believe in The One, but I believe I found (a) one that's perfectly suited for me.
posted by ninjakins at 9:57 AM on September 15, 2012 [13 favorites]

Is reading peoples' love stories making anyone else teary-eyed? Jeez.

I have met "the one". Twice. It didn't work out either time. I think it's different for everybody. Personally, I am pretty sentimental (especially when I was younger), and I get really into my feelings. So I get tricked. But I suspect that "the one" feeling may not be the feeling people are talking about when they know they've met the right person. Maybe it's something else, something softer and deeper. I don't know.
posted by windykites at 10:04 AM on September 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Early in our relationship, there were about 30 times when I felt Mr. 26.2 was The One. I'd been engaged before, but I hadn't felt that perfect harmony with someone. Meeting my husband wasn't a feeling of being exactly like someone (we're not). It was a feeling that our differences made us happy to be together. We complement each other and balance each other.

Mostly it feels like a special gift. My parents have this and I long lamented that I'd never find a partnership like theirs. I know that not everyone finds someone that feels like a fit.

Is there only one person for each of us? Is there someone for everyone? No, I don't think either of those is true. But sometimes you get really lucky.
posted by 26.2 at 10:04 AM on September 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

I met my husband at the tender age of 20, and fell deeply and rapidly in love with him. We both knew it was happening, and we both tried to slow it down, going so far as to say that the first person to actually say the words "I love you!" had to buy the other one a beer. We made it about three months before someone had to buy a beer, I forget who. We had rough patches and pulled through them, bought a house, got married, had kids; in November, it will have been 17 years. I love him truly, madly, and deeply. He is not the perfect man, but he is the perfect man for me.

But he is not The One. There is no One. If our relationship ended, through death or disagreement, I would be able to be happy with someone else, probably even just as happy. And so would he. My marriage is one of the greatest things about my life, don't get me wrong; I'm deliriously happy and am in no way looking to keep my options open, or anything like that. But someone can be a perfect fit without being the ONLY perfect fit.
posted by KathrynT at 10:05 AM on September 15, 2012 [9 favorites]

When I met mr. oats, it was less of a fireworks-and-butterflies-and-angels-singing-on-high feeling, and more like recognizing your best friend from kindergarten, after years and years and years. Kind of like: "Oh! It's you!" even though we were meeting each other for the first time. We have been married for five years, together for nine, as of tomorrow.

And for what it's worth, I felt somewhat the same feeling when I saw the face of my eldest daughter for the first time. Just that shock of recognition, like THIS is the person I have been waiting for, wondering about. I know you!
posted by fancyoats at 10:19 AM on September 15, 2012 [20 favorites]

QFT: Someone can be a perfect fit without being the ONLY perfect fit.

I'm not coupled, but I do believe there can be The One for you, and that The One can change and adapt over time as you change and adapt to life in general. I agree with ninjakins that a person can come along and due to a crazy-random complement of backgrounds, experiences, opinions and beliefs, you sense that potential to seamlessly integrate with them. It can seem like some magical destiny is at work, because the attraction happens on such a neurobiological/physiological/psychological/etc level all at once (limerance).

I do think it's folly, however, to put your life on hold waiting for The One. Maybe it's like a self-feeding cycle. If you work on yourself, then your cosmic definition of The One changes in a sort of continuously evolving process, until your lives are finally ready to intersect. I read a lot of Carl Jung and his anima/animus concept really strikes a chord for me in helping deconstruct my limerance experiences. Instead of seeing guys that I experience limerance over as The One, I take them as a lesson about something from my inner male (animus) that I previously did not understand better until this person came along and compelled that projection from me. I do hope to meet a guy one day that has his act together and compels an animus projection from me. *fingers crossed*

I suspect a solid sense of Self and self-awareness greatly enables a person to recognize The One when they do come along. And perhaps as ninjakins said, it doesn't mean the relationship is destined to be, but it can be a nice place to start from to build something great, or at the very least, offer a valuable lesson in better understanding what will ultimately work for you in a partner.
posted by human ecologist at 10:31 AM on September 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

I don't believe in soulmates per se, but I do know that feeling of feeling like no-one else knows you as well as the person in front of you right now. Walt Whitman wrote a poem about it.

That said, I'll see your Walt Whitman and raise you Tim Minchin.
posted by gmb at 10:58 AM on September 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

My current partner and I are compatible on a level that's simply different from my past relationships (and hers). We were both cautious and playing it slow and so didn't acknowledge this for several months, but figured out we were both feeling similar kind of 'whoa' feelings since the first date. In this relationship from the beginning I've felt totally at ease with her in a way that I didn't know was possible. It's felt exactly the way ninjakins describes; she's been so so easy to connect with. In my past relationships I never felt safe enough to truly be myself, largely because I could sense the role I was expected to play was not quite me.

I didn't really believe in The One before, and I'm a realist and I know a lot could happen between now and forever so I don't feel this is Destiny or anything, nor do I believe she's the only person I could ever be happy with and vice versa. But being with her has shown me what it means to be in love, and to feel such deep comfort and intimacy that there is no doubt, none at all, that we could happily spend our lives together. And I now believe that there are people out there who are your secret allies, skimming through life on a similar trip to yours, and if you happen to meet one of these people at the right time you'll settle into in easy companionship that feels as comfortable as an old pair of shoes.

Incidentally two of my good friends are each similarly in relationships like this which happened over the last couple of years. Both couples feel they "just know". Both friends are not prone to "The One" thinking and have dated plenty of other people.
posted by anybodys at 11:03 AM on September 15, 2012 [10 favorites]

Fate is a religious concept; by that I mean that it's basically something you can't actually know or prove one way or the other, so that part of your question is unanswerable in any definitive sense. Some people believe in fate, some don't.

Whether you need this feeling to have a successful relationship is answerable, though subjective. I have only had this feeling once and it didn't work out, so obviously it wasn't mutual! I don't know if that counts by your definition (it seems like you're still searching for a definition). However, I've definitely had relationships without that feeling, and I would classify them as successful even though we weren't together until we died.

There is also a tactic abusive people use (purposefully or not) called "fast-forwarding" and this sense of someone being "the one" can be part of that, and a way to encourage or manipulate someone into making serious decisions without an appropriate amount of foresight.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:09 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

What rtha said, except without the handshake (and Mrs. Hat and I have been together a few months longer). It's hard to explain, and certainly there are a lot of false positives (so you have to wait and see if it lasts), but I've been married before and fallen in love many times and I know what limerence is and this isn't that.

Note to all you "there's no such thing" folks: just because you've never experienced something doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
posted by languagehat at 12:05 PM on September 15, 2012 [9 favorites]

I forgot part 2: of course it's not necessary to a successful relationship. But it's very nice.
posted by languagehat at 12:06 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I met The One when I was 18. It felt like instant recognition, the sense that we were together many past lifetimes over. I am actually neither romantic nor sentimental – my job is to make evidence-based decisions and I consider myself a scientist. But having had The One in my life (we are no longer together) has made me open to the possibility that there are forces at work that I do not understand and science cannot yet explain. For the rest of my life, I will wonder about two specific events that involved The One. First: I had a dream when I was in middle school about The One, long before I knew he existed, and never thought about that dream again until I met him, and instantly recognized him from the dream. Second: we had a song, it was a very rare and old song; after we broke up, I happened to be in his area one day and randomly called him to meet up for drinks – I got there first, and as he walked in, our song started playing. It was hard when things ended, really hard, but on balance, I will always be grateful that I had The One, even if for a limited time.

As for your second question, I can only say that for me, The One brought out the best in me, but also the worst in me. As it turns out, the longest and most successful relationship I’ve had, the one I am currently in, is nothing like my relationship with The One, and has made me grow and stretch as a person in ways The One never did. The One and I were very similar – perhaps we were just recognizing each other’s similarities. My current SO and I are fairly different in personality, but we just work. I always say to my single friends that when you find “The Right” person, it is hard to break up even if you try – we very much love and respect each other, are dedicated to each other, and have just a more stable and adult relationship than I had with The One. I’m happy with The Right (One) now, though I do think sometimes of The One and hope he is well.
posted by booksandwine at 12:09 PM on September 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

Sometimes "signs" that you've found The One can be overwhelming ("We have the same initials!" "We met during the solar eclipse!"), but ultimately, it all boils down to chance or luck. And I think the trick is to take it slowly and rationally, and not let the romantic idea of fate alter your perception of a potential partnership.

Maybe you'll get along perfectly for 20 years before things fall apart. Or 21. Or 1. Life's just too complicated and nuanced for things to fall into place so neatly. Sure, sometimes it happens, just as a numbers game. But not all that often.

Love isn't a romantic comedy where things always end on a high note, because life doesn't end where the movie conveniently ends.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 12:19 PM on September 15, 2012

A strong sense of being loved just tells you, IMO. I too am skeptical of love at first sight. But not to be cheesy, but I think a strong unspoken sense that someone is The One is not unrealistic.

Love is supposed to be unique and irreplaceable. I think that's one of the few things that sets it apart. You can optimize anything else but I think when you find the right person it feels like destiny. Here is someone just for you.
posted by kettleoffish at 12:23 PM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

(Oh, and I should add that the same thing applies to a career, or sports, etc.. . That dramatic ninth-inning come from behind victory could be less of a "turning point" and more of a precursor to a 10-game losing streak.)
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 12:25 PM on September 15, 2012

I never believed in it, and yet I experienced it with Mr. Sidhedevil. So far, still feel that way 14 years later.

So I think people can feel that way and have it turn out that they have a happy and healthy and joyous partnership. I also think people can feel that way and have it turn out that they have a difficult and mismatched partnership.

The feeling is real. Whether or not it's accurate as a predictor of relationship success is another matter entirely. Only time will tell.

Also, "limerEnce", folks.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:49 PM on September 15, 2012 [8 favorites]

There is no "One." But there are many people who could make you amazingly happy. Find one, and enjoy.

The reason your friend felt a "soulmates" connection as early as a second date is easy to explain. He has hopes, dreams, goals and character traits. He met someone whose hopes, dreams, goals and character traits were close enough to his that they mesh well together. Their personalities click too. Right?

When that sort of thing happens, the feeling is amazing, partly because we all like to think we're SO unique, and yet there's someone who understands us. That's good stuff.

It isn't destiny or fate. It's a human being feeling special. And it is special.
posted by 2oh1 at 1:59 PM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I met "the One"... three times, in fact. While all of those were great relationships, none of them proved successful.

The fact is that successful relationships require compromise and dedication more than raw passion, and those are qualities that it's hard to see immediately in somebody - they tend to be revealed over time.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 2:23 PM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Agreed with the many others who said there is no such thing as "the one."

I proposed to my husband about six months after we met, and he immediately agreed - we got married about a year after that, and we're still married with cats and a kid and a house and amazing wonderfulness six years later. I was a lot younger/more immature then than I am now - luckily it all worked out!

I wanted to propose because the day I met him, I knew he was more like me than anyone else I'd ever met. It's not that we share all the same interests or preferences (we share many but not all), it's not that we have identical worldviews or backgrounds... I can't even really put my finger on it. I just knew, and know, that I want us to build our lives together. Just this morning I was browsing through his flickr looking at pictures of our kid at a local arboretum we went to a few weeks back, and just reading his doofy captions made me get the stomach butterflies. Just doofy flickr captions! It's ridiculous. I wouldn't trade him for anything. He is my best friend and he loves me in spite of myself.
posted by agress at 2:29 PM on September 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

I have met the One more than once. I went off with a different one. YMMV.
posted by jadepearl at 3:14 PM on September 15, 2012

I don’t believe in “the one” or “soul mates”…however…
A year and a half ago, I went on a date from Match.com. I’m not sure what it was, but it was butterflies and light headedness and all of that. We were inseparable from that point on. I was the one who said “I love you” first but it was mutual. After a few months, out of the blue, he broke up with me and broke my heart. I’ve never gotten over him. I’ve been married before, had LTR’s before but I have never had anything even close to what I had with this man. After a little over a year of not speaking to each other, we ran into each other again and it was like not a single day had passed since we had spoke. We picked right up where we left off. I don’t know where it will go or what will happen, but this is so different than any relationship I’ve ever had. I’m crazy about this guy. I still get the butterflies and lightheadedness. Just thinking of him makes me randomly smile.
posted by Amalie-Suzette at 4:13 PM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Finding someone with whom you have an intense connection feels life-changing. It happened to me once, and he wasn't at all The One, though at times I wanted it to be so. We're still fine friends, though. I found someone else who was emphatically Not The One, and am happy as a clam.

I knew one couple where the husband had called his mother after the first date to tell her he'd just met the woman he was going to marry. It was a charming story the wife told, because she said that if she'd known that, she'd never have gone out with that crazy guy again. As far as I know, the marriage lasted about 20 years, many of which were good.

Which is to add to the chorus of folks who say that no, you shouldn't wait for The One. If you feel an intense connection with someone, feel free to explore it thoroughly, but it doesn't mean anything magic.
posted by ldthomps at 4:57 PM on September 15, 2012

I think you can meet someone and know immediately that you are attracted to them/want to date them/etc, but that is different from believing that they are "the one."
posted by mlle valentine at 5:15 PM on September 15, 2012

I never thought that my college boyfriend was The One -- I'm only 20, I'm too young to know that! -- until I gradually came to that realization over the 5 years after we broke up. Fortunately, he was still interested, and getting back together with him and seeing how well our relationship worked just cemented my idea that there was no one else for me. We've now been back together for 6 years, married for 3. So even though it wasn't an instant "you meet someone and you know" infatuation moment for me, the narrative of The One and being "destined" is important to how I feel happy and secure in our relationship.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 5:16 PM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

There's a book in this thread, or a blog.
or something...
posted by TDIpod at 5:45 PM on September 15, 2012

Well, to answer question #2, I can't say I felt like my fiancee was "the one" immediately. I simply didn't know her well enough to know that. We actually knew each other socially for 1.5 years and hardly even hung out before we got together.

I did know that I loved her within a few weeks, and within a few months I felt like marriage was a real possibility, but I wanted to wait beyond the limerence stage to be sure. I haven't really had a feeling of "yes, fate brought us together!" as much as "how cool that WE brought us together".

We're now engaged and have been together almost 3 years, and I feel like I love her way more intensely and fully than I could have those first few days or weeks of dating. I don't feel at all like our relationship has needed that "The One" spark, or has lacked something because it didn't happen immediately. lf anything, I do now feel that she's not necessarily the Only One I ever could have found love with, but she is the only one I want to love, having been with her.
posted by nakedmolerats at 6:03 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't believe there is such a thing as "The One," but I do believe there are people you meet and instantly feel whole, right with. This has happened to me once, maybe twice. The first guy was my boyfriend for two years until I broke it off (for practical reasons). The instant I saw his photo I knew he was right, I crushed on him for months without knowing him, finagled a meeting, and in person the effect was even stronger. We were extremely close in a way I'd never been with anyone else. The second guy I met in an elevator and dated for two weeks, at which point we had a messy and dramatic goodbye. With both of them I felt like I was a person I'd never been before-- funny, outgoing, smooth, glowing. (I'm usually pretty reserved.) I didn't feel any less "right" with either of them after breaking up. From the very beginning we had conversations that were on an intangible, unspoken level-- it was like we could jump from concept to concept without having to verbalize the links in between, we understood and reacted to each other's looks, we were drawn to each other almost immediately when we first met. I don't know how to explain it. We had the exact same sense of humor, too. I did find out at one point that they were both INTPs on the Myers-Briggs test (as am I, sometimes INFP), so I suspect it has to do with having a rare "personality type" and meeting someone very, very similar to you, who you're also physically attracted to. The bonding is instantaneous and the event is so rare that it takes on great significance.

As far as crushing on a picture before even meeting, I have a feeling that what I'd heard about him and particular cues about his appearance clued me in early that we had similar thoughts about life. (He wasn't a weird dresser or anything, it was very subtle.)
posted by stoneandstar at 7:01 PM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: This is fascinating and very helpful, all - thank you! Keep it coming!

I'd love especially to hear more about any stories where people made a long-term relationship work without having any dramatic sense about someone being "The One" - either a more comfortable and quiet recognition, of the type that fancyoats mentions, or something with even less certainty.
posted by UniversityNomad at 7:11 PM on September 15, 2012

I was working the cash register over a summer job back in University and a customer came up to the counter and I was hit with sudden overwhelming emotion. I couldn't even speak for a few moments. It wasn't remotely sexual, it was an older woman with weird pancake make-up and off fitting clothing, and I just want to reach over and hug her and then go for coffee. I think she may have have noticed something because she got really nervous and kind of hung around a bit making strange small talk.

I've never felt anything like that since. Not sure what it was, if she subconsciously reminded me of someone, or I'd had coffee, who knows.

Humans relate to their world through stories and patterns, two people who feel a sudden overwhelming interest/attraction to each other can easily turn themselves into the stars of a romantic tale, and why wouldn't they? If you come from a culture that believes in fate and soul mates, well, you just found yours! At least they're not going on about how they gave birth to Indigo children.
posted by Dynex at 10:10 AM on September 16, 2012

I'd love especially to hear more about any stories where people made a long-term relationship work without having any dramatic sense about someone being "The One"

My wife and I did not have a "The One" moment with each other, nor a gradual-recognition experience. We met, quickly decided we'd found someone very cool and compatible, fell in love, decided to move in together after six months, then got married a year later and have been together ... coming up on 14 years now. We often wonder why, exactly, because there are a number of reasons and each seems like a possible explanation but none is certain. Several things come up over and over when we talk about it:
  1. Live compatibly: major preferences are mutually held, not compromises.
  2. Communicate well: respect, clarity, patience, minor-issue compromises.
  3. Think similarly: epistemology, metaphysics, meaning-of-life stuff is mutual.
  4. Balance power: note and correct for subtle imbalances, no matter the source.
  5. Indulge physically: sex, touch, exercise, music, food; together-time feels good.
  6. Encourage growth: help each other become what we each dream to be.
  7. Accept individuality: embrace our differences, meet such needs outside.
I have no idea if this is a recipe for others relationships. Watching all my friends proceed along their chosen paths in relationships has made clear to me how amazingly different each couple's trajectory can be. I don't find it easy to distill simple rules from all the things I've seen working, or not-working. Certain recognizably unhealthy or dangerous patterns, but nothing that clearly guarantees longevity or dissolution.
posted by ead at 2:16 PM on September 16, 2012 [10 favorites]

Oh, also: I've had several "The One" moments, emotionally; some turned into relationships, some did not, none lasted even a fraction this long. So I don't really know how to interpret people telling me it's an essential (or even ... closely related) aspect of a long-term relationship. Sounds like mistaking correlation for causation, to me!
posted by ead at 2:19 PM on September 16, 2012

A little late to the game, but I wanted to chime in to write that I have been "The One" to many. I have some weird compatibility awesomeness that caused men who dated me and females who befriended me in my 20's and 30's to consider me their soul mate. The One! I actually had a speech prepared (mostly for the boys, since the girls were not so much a problem) that let them know that I have some weird compatibility awesomeness and it results in people thinking I am their soul mate but that I am not really their soul mate. ("I'm not saying that what we have isn't special....it IS, but I'm probably not the One".) I could tell I wasn't the One for them because invariably, it wasn't a mutual feeling. Not even close.

In my forties, I settled down with a guy, B, who had known me for a few decades and knew the effect I had on people and had his share of women fawning over him. We weren't in love but we loved each other and decided to make it work for the time we were together. And then we met this guy named C, who, a few months later told me that I was The Package", everything he'd been looking for/waiting for in a woman partner. When I started in on my prepared speech, C pointed out that we were more than compatible. I was not convinced and my feelings were elsewhere. Much later, B even spoke with C about my history and that this is how men just feel about me, but C remained unshakeable. Eventually, I realized that I couldn't be in the same room with C, or even think of C, without getting lightheaded.

If C were not my husband now, I would want to be married to him or be with him in some way. From the minute I opened my heart to him, we were like long-lost twins in thought, attitude, and action. We just don't argue. We think alike (with differing opinions for endless debate). We complement each other exquisitely. He's my "Other".

And maybe we have other Others out there. A dear friend once defined intimacy as recognition over a great expanse. C just recognized me or recognized himself in me.

(I'm sick, so apologies for the disjointed sharing.)
posted by Jezebella at 10:11 AM on September 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

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