I married him, but he's not 'The One'
Should she have held out for her soulmate? Newlywed Lucy Foster explains why she doesn't believe in the concept of 'One True Love'
'I have never felt like this before." A friend, eyes molten with excitement, said this to me a few months ago in the pub, whispering conspiratorially about a new relationship that had seen him swiftly cull a long-term partner.
Now, I'm not one to pour water on a friend's joy, but I tend to apply cynicism to such passion. Because I've been there. I've felt that heady flush and reckless abandon. I also know it's some sort of chemical imbalance.
"Don't you believe in The One?" he asked, clearly offended.
"No," I said flatly. "No, I don't."
"Well, maybe you and I don't have much in common then." He looked smug. And worryingly frosty. As facial expressions go it's an odd combo, but I get the subtext. I'm the one who can't appreciate the spectrum of feeling afforded only to wild romantics. I am dead to love.
In reality, though, I'm really not. Last month, aged 33, I got married. I said my vows and I meant them. I was delighted about committing to a man I adore (despite the wet towels left on the bedroom floor) and I relish the prospect of spending our lives together, building what is sure to be the most challenging and satisfying relationship of our lives. It's just that I don't believe there is one person out there who is perfect for me. Quite the opposite, in fact: I think there are loads of people out there who could be perfect for me. Because I am a human being. I am built to adapt.
And I can happily live alongside many people. I know this because my mother told me so when I was about 17. My mum and dad celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in July and theirs has, by and large, been a happy relationship. But Liz and Dick they ain't. "I think I could have married about 10 men and had just as much success with them as I did with your dad," my mum breezily declared one day while we hung out the washing. "But your dad and I finished university and we wanted to get married, so we just got on with it." Take that, romance.
Yet people balk if I venture that my husband is not The One. They find it shocking that it wasn't a magic force that brought us together over a bottle of Rioja and a shared fag.
Frankly, it smacks of hypocrisy. We deride those who believe we sprang from Adam and Eve, yet may honestly hold out for fate to deliver the one person – in the seven billion-strong population – who will turn our life into a Disney story. There are a lot of believers out there; a survey by internet-based researchers YouGov found that almost half of us believe we will meet our soulmate (although they clearly haven't read the University of Virginia's 2012 paper that found that those who believe in The One are 150pc more likely to divorce).
Very recently, former NASA programmer Randall Munroe tested the probability of The One and found that even if our soulmate is similar in age there are still half a billion people out there in that demographic.
But most people don't meet more than 50,000 people in their age range in their lifetime. That's a pretty depressing one-in-10,000 chance of meeting The One.
There is a multitude of other issues to address. If my soulmate is out there, does he live in the same country as I do? Languages are not my strong point.
And when are we going to meet? Because I've made it to 33 and I've met a lot of people, but my favourite so far is my husband. That's why we got married. Should I have waited for someone else? Have I made a hideous mistake? Obviously not.
Let us not forget that until recently women were passed from father to groom to unite families, forge dynasties and curb feuds, very much like a Sherlock boxed set is today. The concept of marrying for love is, in the grand scheme of time, a momentary heartbeat. Thankfully, we are living in that heartbeat, but as religion in the Western world has withered, our obsession with love is at fever pitch.
True love – in all its heart-thumping drama – is everywhere.
The lovers who endure terrible hardships before being united to live happily ever after are in all our favourite TV programmes (Carrie and Mr Big), books (Dexter and Emma in One Day), and even music videos, adverts and, of course, films. This concept of love is used to sell things to us, basically, and we fall for it every time.
It's a wonderful diversion from our dreary daily lives, an X Factor kind of love that pierces your life like an arrow, turning everything golden. But what effect does this belief have when faced with the day-to-day realities of a relationship?
According to a study published last year, people who believe in on-screen romances were more likely to find fault with their partners. Similarly, it has been shown that there is a correlation between exposure to rom-coms and dissatisfaction with intimate relationships. Why? Because the reality can never match up to the romantic ideal.
Yet people still give up on their imperfect relationships and move on to the next – and immersed in early infatuation, claim that this time it's the real deal.
Just think about my friend Alex. After just six weeks, his one true love turned out to be "a bit high maintenance", meaning that she soon hit the cutting-room floor. If I'd married the person whom I thought was The One when I was young, I could be an emotionally battered mother of five living in some thankless grot hole. I moved on because I had a university place.
So should I have held out for The One, that knight in shining armour who loves DIY, writes poetry and has Jamie Dornan looks? No I shouldn't. Because my "one" is watching TV in the next room. He makes me laugh, he's kind to my family and friends, he can hold down a job, he doesn't do drugs, cheat, or gamble and every so often he hangs his wet towel up.
It's not Heathcliff and Cathy. It's not Mr Rochester and Jane Eyre. It's not even my mum and dad. But it's solid and it's real. And that's enough for me.