When I was in 8th grade, we had a discussion about fate and free will in my literature class. I have no idea what book we were reading that would tie into the discussion, but I have a vivid recollection of tracking all of my daily activities and assigning them to a fate or free will bucket. Brushing teeth? Free will (sorta – but with heavy parental influence). What to eat for breakfast? Fate AND free will, in that fate determined what we had in the house, and it was my free will to choose what to eat. And so on.
I was also religious back then, and believed there was a grand plan put in place by higher powers, so I thought a lot of the big things were predetermined. I thought I had a destiny, and I have an equally vivid memory of looking at this destined life in the form of a maze with a single exit, but with many possible solutions. Maybe life was the perfect combination of free will to a predestined end. So I could make many decisions, and have “free will” but still end up where I supposed to be. Except… hm, that doesn’t really feel like free will, that feels like the illusion of free will. If I’m going to end up in the same place no matter what I do, what’s the point in making any decisions at all? That wasn’t cool. So I revised my life philosophy and thought maybe life was like that maze, but there were several possible paths and exits. That way you can have the benefit of free will and still believe someone else is watching out for you – it’s the best of both worlds!
In college, I applied this philosophy to matters of the heart. For a while I believed in the One and Only – so romantic to think that one person was put on this earth just for you! And when you find that person, it’s all butterflies and rainbows and happily-ever-after! Except I had a problem. My One and Only (aka The Tormentor) was too stupid to realize that I was the perfect girl for him. And I was a math major. And suddenly the statistical improbability of two independent people with a reasonable amount of free will making all the right decisions to ensure an eventual meeting at the right time and place was too much for me to handle. I had met my One and Only when he was too young and dumb to know what’s best for him! How is that my fault? And how could I be missing out on eternal happiness because of this one hitch in the system?
So I decided there’s more than one perfect person for each of us. Not a lot of people, because it still has to be magical enough to mean something, but definitely more than one. I mean, it’s an awful lot of pressure to put on every decision of your life to think that there’s only one possible match for you. What if you choose the wrong college? The wrong job after college? What if your parents screwed you over in the beginning by choosing someplace they wanted to live without even considering where your One and Only might be (like living in Albuquerque instead of Hollywood (or wherever The Mickey Mouse Club was being filmed))? There simply had to be more than one.
Now that I’m older and wiser and less fatalistic, I’m even more convinced that this is true. There is more than one perfect person for each of us. The only real difference is that now that I’m less religious, I don’t associate those perfect matches with destiny but with compatibility – given all the qualities and traits that make us individuals, there are a handful of people on this earth who will fit in all the right ways to make them a perfect match.
I’m sure we could probably conduct extensive studies on personality traits and attraction and find out roughly how many people in the population would be a perfect match for you, but for the sake of laziness while avoiding vagueness, I’m gong to say there are seven. Seven perfect matches in the world – that gives you a fairly decent chance to stumble upon at least one of them, but it’s a small enough number to make it feel really special when you do.
And I hate to put any negative spin on the Seven and Only, but I also think that this is what leads to infidelity in some marriages. The good news is that knowing about your Seven and Only can help you avoid the same trap. I mean, you get married thinking that this person is your One and Only, but marriage isn’t actually all butterflies, and rainbows, and happily-ever-after. There are bills, and schedules, and kids, and work, and dishes, and just a lot of crap that makes some days harder than others. And what if, in the midst of some of that, you meet one of your perfect matches? Someone who makes you laugh and think and feel good? And you think, “Oh no!! I’ve married the wrong person! THIS person is my One and Only!” But they’re not – they’re just one of your Seven and Only. And the person you married is also one of your Seven and Only (hopefully, but there are exceptions). So you don’t need to throw away your relationship! Just know, as you go out in the world, that you could meet more than one of your Seven and Only and plan accordingly.
Just in case you’re wondering who my Seven and Only are, there’s The Tormentor, Adam Levine and Justin Timberlake (obviously), plus three other guys I haven’t met yet (and may never meet). Last but definitely not least, there’s my husband – the only one of my Seven and Only with whom I’ve chosen to look for butterflies, rainbows, and happily-ever-afters amid the bills, schedules, and dishes. Perfect.