How many times will you fall in love in your lifetime?
Every one of us has thought about this question in one way or another at some point. Whether it is after a bad break-up, a divorce, a death, or even as a teenager dreaming of a first love, we’ve all wondered, is there such a thing as “the one.”
Or, for those of you that are like me and fall in love with every second person they have a crush on, many “the ones”? Given that in the United States half of first marriages, two-thirds of second marriages and three-quarters of third marriages fail, everyone better hope that there isn’t only one of “the one.”
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Now, there are many psychologists and advice-givers that will talk about a first fairy tale love, a second hard love, and the final easy third love, but none of them show any real statistical evidence so let’s take a deeper dive and see if we can find any real statistics behind the answer to this question.
A mathematician, Dr. Hannah Fry, wrote a book on patterns in sex, love, and marriage, which showcased a fascinating theory. Fish tend to reject the first 37 percent of possible partners no matter what, and then the first possible partner that comes along, who is better than all those that the fish rejected, is the partner the fish chooses. Fry relates that to patterns we see in human nature, namely, we play the field into our late 20’s and then we choose a partner and settle down.
So, for example, if you believe you are most likely going to have 10 love partners in your future, you should reject the first 4, and marry the next love partner that comes along who is better than the first four. Or if you believe you are going to have 20 love partners, you should reject the first 8 and marry the ninth person.
As Fry so aptly puts, it is a fine balance between having the patience to wait for the right person and the foresight to cash in before all the good ones are taken. -- This means that at some point, we just make the choice to fall in love and settle down.
For example, I had a high school sweetheart, then fell in love with a nerdy math guy in college, had a long wonderful relationship with a kilt-wearing Scotsman in Glasgow and am now back in the US. This means the guy I’m dating should be super worried because statistically speaking I should choose to fall in love immediately and settle down (hope you aren’t reading this).
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Interestingly, we all do this very naturally – human nature tends to follow patterns. So where does that leave us?
On average, in the US, people will have about 11 sexual partners. Now, one can imagine that if you are in love with someone, you most likely will sleep with that individual. This means that the absolute maximum amount of times you can fall in love in your lifetime is 11 i.e. a cap of 11. But we need to remove one-night stands, which Americans have, on average, twice in their lifetime, bringing the maximum amount of times you can fall in love down to 9.
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But, if we reject the first 3 of our sexual/love partners and marry the 4th, that would leave us with 5 other future possible partners meaning that we have a maximum of 6 times that we will fall in love.
Now these are numbers are very subjective and pretty much a complete (albeit educated) guess. Human emotions are messy, complicated and usually completely irrational, which is the antithesis of statistics. But what these numbers do show us is that there are patterns, there are inferences we can make from the past about the future, and it can give you hope that there is no such thing as “the one and only.” Your next great love might just be around the corner.