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The One? I Prefer The Many

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REJECTINGPROPOSAL

Are you still looking for "the one" to set your heart on fire? The indispensable, all-powerful, absolutely-made-for-you soul mate?

Did you toss aside a perfectly loving human being, because something resembling a tiny blinker--or maybe even a fog horn--was telling or yelling that he or she was not "the one?"

I've long had a problem with the romantic and irrational notion that there is one and only one "right person" for each of us. However charming that might be in a quick beach read or some sappy relationship site, I don't buy it.

Aren't you terrified at the thought that in a world with a population of more than 6 billion, you only get one shot at a compatible mate?

A recent Psychology Today article treated the subject of soul mates, and I might say - in both humorous and intelligent manner. While it doesn't address the issue under the specific auspices of post-divorce life, it certainly touches on the dangers of the soul mate approach to partnership.

As a veteran of the divorce wars, and having been in and out of the post-divorce dating waters for many years, I've met and observed my share of men and women who operate on the principle of soul mate searching. Some are now on second (and third) marriages, and less than satisfied with their fates - and mates. Others like myself, by preference or circumstance, have avoided another trip down the aisle.

I offer no empirical data, but it's hard to overlook those who move in and out of serious relationships (or marriages) in rapid succession, sometimes as often as every year or two. In fact, I've watched in dismay as men and women I know dive headlong into serious affairs, convinced that true love is theirs at last. I am reminded of a friend - a gorgeous woman - whose post-divorce love life was a series of fiery encounters that generally went up in smoke.

In an insightful article on rapid remarriage (and why men seem to remarry more frequently and more quickly), the male tendency to fix problems gets the nod as one of the primary factors in speedy spousal replacement. We have only to look at Kelsey Grammer and Jesse James as recent celebrity examples.

When it comes to remarriage, demographics favor the men as well. Who will dispute that a middle-aged man with bank can have his pick of 20-something and 30-something women? (Kelsey Who?)

The 50-year old woman? Um... not so much.

But I wonder what else is at play. Might men be less inclined to hold out for some perfect vision of a mate? Or is the opposite true? Do men hop from bride to bride because they are still seeking "the one?"

I admit that lately I'm pondering what motivates men much more than usual; I am hoping to rejuvenate my sagging social life before all my body parts conspire to head south on permanent hiatus. So I have redoubled my efforts to figure out what makes a man tick. I keep telling myself that if I understand men to a greater extent, not only will I be a wiser single mother to my teenage sons, but perhaps I will fare better in the dating department.

So far, the jury is out. But then, I didn't explicitly send my question into the universe as to whether or not men ascribe to the Soul Mate Plan, as do so many women. Because if that's a yes, then I think I'm sunk. Perhaps I should ask here, now. Are you holding out for "the one?"

Even the ladies of Sex and the City--my Go-To Gurus for provocative relationship exploration--managed to disappoint on this dimension. Following Charlotte's troubles post perfect-on-the-outside Marriage Number One, she allowed for the possibility of a second soul mate. This paved the way for unlikely but lovable Harry, who became Husband Number Two. As for Carrie, she once mused that she had used up her two allotted opportunities in Big and Aidan. Yet as the series came to its close, Big proclaims (in Paris yet!) "You're the one."

Clearly, my post-divorce goals must have been askew: raise my kids, make a living, and rebuild a romantic life when I could. As my boys grew older (and so did I), the nature of the relationships I sought evolved. Never was the thought of "the one" part of the picture.

So I remain stymied by what we read and see that continues to support this idea that there is one person to complete us - or possibly two. Not only do I feel quite complete as I am (which has nothing to do with desiring a relationship), but I shudder at the perpetuation of the belief that our fulfillment is dependent on finding a needle in the happiness haystack.

When will we learn to take the time to assess what we want and need in a relationship? And what the person we may be seeking would want and need from us? When will we dispense with the childish expectation of one perfect person for each of us? I say - forget "the one." I prefer the many--to get to know, taking our time, and without unrealistic and damaging demands on the potential for loving partnership.