4 Reasons the Concept of “The One” is Destructive In Dating & Marriage

After a brief aside in yesterday’s sermon about “The One” concept in dating/relationships, someone was confused and suggested I clarify what I mean at some point.  Here’s a quick outline of why I think it’s important to destroy the ubiquitous romantic myth of “The One” and replace it with the gospel… Here’s the general idea of “The One”…

There’s one person out there designed just for you and who is exactly what you need. If found, this person will fulfill the deepest longings of your heart, satisfy you, and with them you’ll have the “and they lived happily ever after” story.  The goal of dating is to find this one person and when you find them, you’ll fit together like two puzzle pieces. The End.

Over the last few years as a pastor I’ve come to think that this idea isn’t just untrue (more on that in a second), but ends up keeping many single people out of what could have been wonderful marriages and being destructive to existing and potential godly marriages.  Four ways I’ve seen this be true…

1) Promotes idolatry/unrealistic expectations within marriage. People walk into pre-marriage dating relationships and eventually marriage building their happiness on a person and looking to a person to give their lives meaning, significance, self-worth, and joy.  In short, they treat this person like a functional god, looking to that person to do for their hearts what only the one, true God can do – satisfy them and be enough for them. If you walk into marriage (or any relationship) trying to build your happiness, identity, self-worth, or security on a person, the following things happen…

  • You’ll absolutely smother them, crushing them under the weight of your hearts’ need for them to be “more” for you
  • They’ll be frustrated and discouraged, feeling they can never be enough for you
  • You’ll spend the entire relationship chronically disappointed

This happens because they may make a great spouse, but they make a terrible god. The concept of “The One” often trains you to look to someone created for something only The Creator can give.

2) Causes people to marry ungodly people because their hearts are screaming, “THIS IS THE ONE!”.  When people are looking for the ever-elusive “One”, they’re almost always told that the way to find this person is to “follow your heart.” Especially in dating/courtship relationships it’s VITAL that we have a true understanding of the human heart.  Our culture’s and The Bible’s are polar opposites. Our culture says, “follow your heart!”. The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things.” (Jer 17:9).  In short, The Bible says your heart will sometimes lie to you and lead you into destruction instead of being a trustworthy guide for major decisions.  Practically, this means that sometimes when you’re dating you’ll be looking at an ungodly person who would make an awful spouse and your heart will be screaming, “LOOK AT HOW STRONGLY I’M FEELING. THIS IS THE ONE! DON’T MISS THE TRAIN!”  Or, on the other hand, you’ll be looking at a godly person who would make an incredible spouse, leading to a lifetime of happiness and spiritual growth, and your heart will be telling you, “Meh. No thanks.” Quick personal story. Jana and I have an incredibly fulfilling marriage that’s gotten better every year. Honestly, we didn’t know marriage could be as good as it is right now and we’re only 9 years in.  But here’s a true story: after our first date I thought, “Meh. Conversation was just OK. I don’t know if we’ll ever go out again.”  And after our second date Jana thought, “Meh. That was a little awkward. I don’t know if we’ll ever go out again.”  But we did because I knew what The Bible said a godly woman looked like and my head told me, “That’s a GODLY woman!” and our hearts (very much) followed later.  Trust me. A THOUSAND TIMES WORTH IT.

3) It builds in the foolish idea that a fulfilling marriage comes about like a chemical reaction instead of like an artistic masterpiece.  It’s remarkably common to be talking with a couple whose marriage is difficult and for someone to say in desperation, “It just shouldn’t be this hard!”  The concept of The One tells you that a fulfilling marriage happens like a chemical reaction: just make sure you get the right two ingredients (people) in there, and BOOM! Fulfilling marriage! Here’s a more accurate analogy: if you were trying to produce a bestselling album or paint a piece that people would look at for generations or write a truly great literary masterpiece, would you expect it to just happen? And then, when it didn’t just happen, would you say, “It shouldn’t be this hard!”?  Of course not.  Creating a masterpiece is very hard and takes thousands of hours of work, self-discipline, and perseverance through failure.   So why would we expect it to be easy to craft a masterpiece real-life marriage?  The concept of “The One” misleads people here.

4) Leads to hopelessness when marriage gets hard because the person thinks they must not have married “The One” and He or She is still out there.  The LAST THING someone needs when marriage is hard is regret and lack of hope.  But the collateral damage of “The One” is usually those two thoughts when marriage gets very hard.  It causes people to think, “I must’ve missed my One… and they’re still out there. Think about what I could have if I left this marriage and found THEM!”  First off, they’re being tricked by a myth.  Second, I mean, think about that.  Can you imagine having to sort through those feelings and thoughts on top of your own marriage being very hard?

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THE TRUTH This post is getting long, so here’s the short truth: Jesus is the “The One”.  He’s the only one who, if you get him will fulfill you and when you fail him he’ll forgive you. In the gospel we find that Jesus will love us unendingly, forgive us fully when we fail him, and can satisfy us like a feast satisfies an empty stomach (Psalm 63:5).  The truth is that in order for you to love your spouse unselfishly, you can’t need them to make you happy.  If that’s your heart’s default mode, you’ll suffocate them and be frustrated that they’re never enough. Jesus.