Ever since its inception, Bollywood has rammed an idealized notion of “The One” down our throats. From breaking into a synchronized dance as the clouds burst into rainfall to dramatic declarations professing one’s eternal love, according to our films love is three things – pehli mulaakat mein pyaar, damsel in distress and fighting against all odds to unite with your lover. Odds include: angry dads, socio-economic divides, sarson ke khet, etc (you get the gist). But, the million-dollar question is – is any of it real? 

Once you take off the rose-tinted glasses and wipe the glitzy, glamour what’s left behind is the realm of actuality and the possibility of any of that ever happening. The do-jism-ek-jaan philosophy of Indian cinema is painted to hook us to a fantasy, that one day your prince charming will come riding on a white horse, sweep you off your feet and ride into the sunset. In reality, it would be a police complaint. 

Your soul mate won’t just magically appear out of thin air. Real connections take time, hard work and above all, sacrifices. According to relationship counsellor Rachel Davies, “This view of relationships is dangerous. It can lead people to think that good quality relationships just happen. The truth is that all relationships have their ups and downs, and all relationships take work.”

I’m not saying that the whole love-at-first-sight narrative is a complete lie. It’s only human for two individuals to feel an initial spark or an electric sensation when they come across one another. However, people often misread the situation for what it really is. As sex and relationship expert Dr Pepper Schwartz puts it, “Ultimately, there are qualities people are drawn to: the way somebody’s eyes sparkle, a certain physical look to them, the way they dress. I think people who say “love at first sight” don’t realize all the information they’re taking in that they’re not coding. The way a person’s dress shows their social class. The way they look often shows their background. The way they stand shows their attitude. That information can amount to attraction, but it’s not like there’s a one-and-only, as if you saw them and everything was guaranteed thereafter.”

Like most of the population, I’m guilty of this approach too. I fall in love at least five times a day. But also like most of the population, a huge chunk of it is in my head. I see a person and I envision a romanticized version of them. I interpret their appearance, traits and quirks in a manner that aligns with my own idealised, Bollywood-sanctioned notion of romance. I project my vision of the perfect partner onto them. But this is a distorted reality constructed to fit into a fantasy. In the real world, once you get to know the person, the slanted version of them you cooked up quickly fades away and you begin to see them for what they really are. And some attributes are not going to line up with yours. From here on you’ll either be left disappointed or embark on the quest to determine if they are really your person, but spoiler: the journey might not be smooth sailing. 

Davies claims that “Sometimes ‘The One’ myth is fed by films, stories and interviews in the media, that depict loved-up couples in beautiful settings, ecstatically happy. If they’re not loved-up, they’re depicted as deeply unhappy and on the verge of breaking up. There is no middle ground when the reality of most long-term relationships is somewhere in the middle. Celebrities argue, get grumpy with each other and get annoyed with each other for the day to day things like we all do. The same is true of our friends, who may want to present the best image of their relationship in conversation or on social media. The reality is more likely to be that there are aspects of their relationship that are not perfect.”

Another big lie: there is only one “The One”

Our lives are tumultuous. Given the hundreds of life choices and daily decisions we make, someone who is “The One” today needn’t be the “The One” tomorrow. But does that mean you need to waste every second of every relationship wondering if they are “The One?” No! It sucks all the joy out of a relationship and hinders you from enjoying a great run with your partner. 

“It may be better to think there are probably many ‘ones’ out there for us and even that there are some ‘ones for now’ (someone that we want to date and get to know, but without making the early decision that this is someone we want to grow old with),” Davies adds. 

Instead of constantly worrying about “The One” – ask these questions instead “Do they make me happy?,” “Can I be myself around them?,” “Do they make the world a little bit better everyday?” If they answer is yes, then why stress?