The Myth of "The One"
"I think he might be the one!" Aren't we all waiting to get to that moment in a relationship? There is this concept that has been propagated through an abundance of romantic comedies as well as our American Christian culture that we all have one perfect soul mate out there somewhere. But I want to propose that this idea of "the one" is a myth and is an idea that is actually bringing more harm than good to those who embrace it.
First, let's talk about what I mean when I say "The One." There is a right way and a wrong way to view this. As Christians, we know that Psalm 139 says "all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be." Because God is aware of what will happen throughout the course of our life, he obviously knows who we will marry if we get married. This is 100% Biblical and a correct way to think. If this is how you see "the one," then this article is not for you.
But there is another, more common way that "the one" is viewed that is not Biblical. It defines "the one" as the singular other human on the planet who can complete you, satisfy all your longings, and the only one with whom you can have a successful marriage. We see this concept in movies like Jerry Maguire (the famous "You complete me" line), and Twilight ("You're my only reason to stay alive."). This concept of "the one" is what I am addressing in this article. The idea of hoping in one person to complete and satisfy you might not seem that bad on the surface, but underneath it results in numerous problems in marriage and singleness.
The Impact in Marriage
Belief in the one has taken a biblical view of God's sovereignty and distorted it, implying that there is only one other human being on the planet that we can have a fulfilling and successful marriage with. This causes us to place our hope for a successful marriage in who we marry instead of in Jesus. This unfairly puts incredible pressure on our spouse to satisfy us and brings sure disappointment when they don't live up to our expectations.
If your hope for a satisfying marriage is based on meeting the perfect person, what happens when 3 years in that person isn't making you feel as wonderful as you hoped? They immediately become the one to blame for your unhappiness. "If you would just love me like you used to when we were dating, I'd be happier!" Marriage can quickly turn into a finger-pointing blame game if your basis for happiness is your perfect soulmate. Even if you are the two most compatible people on the planet, you will still have conflict because we are all sinners and self-centered by default.
The ramifications of this outlook can be enormous. If you become unhappy in marriage, you may convince yourself you made a mistake and your spouse wasn't actually the one. This could potentially lead you to justify divorce simply because of unhappiness. Or if you don't divorce, you may live under a constant feeling that you have settled for something less than you deserve leading to deep-rooted bitterness toward your spouse.
Secondly, the one concept encourages a self-centered view of marriage. Biblically, marriage should be all about the glory of God, just as every aspect of our lives should be (see 1 Corin 10:31). We should be striving for a partnership in marriage that is about bringing God glory and seeking Him together. But when you look to your spouse for satisfaction, meaning and worth, it immediately turns your view inward, instead of upward to Jesus. It promotes an attitude of "what can I get" from my spouse instead of "what can I give." As Christians, we are called not to be served by our spouse but to serve them, just like the Jesus we follow (Matt 20:28).
The Impact in Singleness
The one mentality also affects those who are single. Believing there is only one human who can meet your needs can cause great anxiety and fear of missing that person or choosing the wrong person. You may be dating someone who loves Jesus, someone you could have a great marriage with, but doubt he is the one. This may cause you to be obsessed with thoughts like, "what if there is someone better out there for me?" Or if you aren't dating, you might be tempted to always keep your eye out for the one instead of shifting all your gaze toward Jesus, where it should be.
Another problem is that this mindset encourages single people to look to their feelings to determine whether to date or marry someone. "I just feel like he is the one!" "I think we may get married, but I just don't feel like I expected I would when I met the one." The main problem here is this: Feelings are NEVER a solid foundation for a relationship, or for anything else for that matter. Our feelings can change in a matter of hours and often aren't a picture of reality. Yet I find that this is usually the first and greatest basis people give for dating someone.
Now don't get me wrong, it isn't bad to have all those butterfly-like feelings. There are many of my friends who are married to a man they had these type of feelings toward early on. But it isn't always the case, neither does it need to be a prerequisite for a good relationship or marriage. In either situation, the point remains: feelings are never a solid foundation for a relationship or marriage because they change. It is only a matter of time before that amazing person you were sure was the one doesn't make you feel quite as wonderful. And if the basis for dating/marrying that person was how you felt at the time, then when those feelings go away it will shake your whole relationship.
The one idea doesn't just promote judging relationships by our feelings, but also causes us to feel entitled to certain romantic expectations in our relationships. Sometimes, from movies or our own imaginations, we can have incredibly lofty expectations of what it will be like to finally meet the one: how he or she will treat us, how he will propose, how she will look, etc. So, what if you are dating someone and he doesn't do anything for your 6 month anniversary? Or he proposes over dinner at chili's instead of the elaborate evening you had hoped for? Or he doesn't look at all like you thought, or heaven forbid he is the same height or shorter than you? If you've embraced the one mentality, you may doubt your entire relationship based on these unmet expectations. But in all reality, you can have a successful marriage with someone who proposes over dinner or someone who proposes on national television. You can have a successful marriage with someone who is taller than or shorter than you. These things don't make successful marriages! The Biggest Problem
But more than all these reasons I've just mentioned, the greatest problem with this idea of the one is that it tends to promote idolatry. Let me explain. Often, there is so much expectation wrapped up in the idea of meeting the perfect man or woman that you begin to look to this person above all else for fulfillment. Whether it is your spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend or an imaginary future someone, looking to them for meaning more than Jesus makes them an idol. Anything you feel you need to be happy besides Jesus is an idol. Ultimately, if anyone is truly the one for us, it is Jesus. He is the only one we should look to with hope and expectation to meet our needs, satisfy our souls, and give us purpose. For all else is rubbish compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Him! (Phil 3:7-9)
To recap, if you truly embrace the idea of the one as defined in this article, the result will be anxiety and fear in singleness and/or dating, an incorrect basis for evaluating potential spouses, a self-focused view of marriage leading to disappointment and potentially divorce, and ultimately and most importantly idolatry.
How to Have a Successful Marriage
So if we refuse to embrace this concept of the one, what is an appropriate way to evaluate marriage partners? That starts with an appropriate view of what it takes to have a successful marriage. A successful marriage is found through two people, whose hope is in Jesus, who are committed to the covenant they made and consider the other person as better than themselves. This is only made possible through Jesus. He is the only one who can fill us up, satisfy our souls' need for love and purpose. He gives us the ability to die to ourselves and consider our spouse as more important than ourselves. As we seek Him and are filled up by Him each day, we are enabled to look to our marriage with the view of "what can I give?" As we study and learn of His faithfulness to sinners like us, we are able to choose to keep our own marriage covenant when our spouse isn't fulfilling their end of the deal. Jesus is our hope for a good marriage!
Honestly, I believe you can take any two people who love Jesus, have their eyes on Him for fulfillment, and who long to keep their covenant and serve each other, and they will have a successful marriage! It doesn't matter how "compatible" they are, how much they have in common, or even how strong of feelings they have toward one another. Those things do not make a successful marriage, a love for Jesus and His glory above all else does.
So, instead of asking the question "Is he the one? Is she the one?", we should ask "Can I have a God-glorifying, Jesus-centered marriage with him/her?" Rather than looking for someone that can meet all our needs, we should instead look for someone who loves Jesus more than anything and seeks to glorify God in all they do. These things applied in the realm of marriage will make it successful, satisfying, and fulfilling. Let's choose today to change the norm in how we view relationships and marriage. Let's put Jesus back in the center of it all!
**updated on Nov. 1**
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