I recently read an article in The Huffington Post in which the author claimed that she was "no longer a hopeless romantic." She argued that the pain and heartache she had come to experience over the years had led her to believe that, while romance certainly exists, "love is the exception, not the rule." Although it's a depressing thought, there are many people, even scientists, who argue that she's right, and that the chances of finding our "soulmate" are slim to none. The problem is, I'm just not one of those people. Ever since I've been old enough to pick up a Jane Austen novel, I've been a firm believer in the "the one."
Now let me get one thing clear: I'm not delusional, I'm not naive, I don't live life through rose-colored glasses. If anything, I'm a realist who is very aware of the grief and confusion that often accompanies romance. And still, I'm a hopeless romantic. Hopeless in the sense that there is no hope of me denying the existence of that one person with whom we're all "meant to be." A soulmate, if you will.
Anyone who has read a romance novel or watched a rom com knows what I'm talking about, and perhaps that's the problem. We see two characters meet, and immediately they're captivated by this supernatural, visceral connection. They talk the same, they think the same way, they compliment one another in the ways that they're different. They are destined to be together, and, after frequent exposure to this storyline, we think that our relationships are supposed to parallel these fictional narratives.
But real-life soulmates are different. They might not understand your messy habits, they might get jealous, they might be tempted to stray from your relationship, but the feeling you get when you're around them is still unlike any other, because finding "the one" means finding that one person who understands you better than anyone else, and who loves you so much that they are willing to make a lifelong commitment to your relationship.
All of this is part of the reason why I love Austen novels so much. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy were very different people, they fought often, they did not have a transcendent first encounter, and yet they are still in many ways the paragon of soulmates. The problem, then, is not that "the one" doesn't exist, it's that our concept of "the one" is somewhat inaccurate. We conflate the magic of love with the idea of perfection, when the fact is that love can be both magical and imperfect.
And yet people still refuse to believe in the existence of soulmates. In many cases it's due to the fact that breakups are disheartening. As a child of divorce, or someone who has just ended a serious relationship, it's easy to conclude that "love is the exception, not the rule." But just because a relationship ends doesn't mean it wasn't meant to be. On the same note, just because one relationship is over doesn't mean that the next one won't be more loving and fulfilling than its predecessor.
So now it's time for me to hit you with a theory that's untested, but I suspect is true. Once we give up hope of finding "the one" (once we, ironically, stop being a hopeless romantic), we relinquish our opportunity to actually find this person. When we stop believing, we stop looking, and when we stop looking, we miss our chances of forming that connection that many are fortunate enough to experience. In many ways, this theory calls to mind the famous quote from The Perks of Being a Wallflower, in which Bill tells Charlie that "we accept the love we think we deserve." If we deny the existence of soulmates, we cannot demand the type of "body and soul" romance that accompanies this idea.
That is why I will continue to believe in "the one," and to settle for nothing less than a relationship that satisfies the expectations I had as a little girl after reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time. I will continue to look for the soulmate that fulfills my definition of a loving, committed relationship (not a fairytale.) Lastly, I will strive to not let the disappointments shatter my faith, because even though my romantic beliefs may be described as "hopeless," my search for love is not.
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