Catherine Townsend: Sleeping around

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"The second I laid eyes on Chris, I knew I'd found my soul mate," Sarah said tearfully, during a toast at her wedding. I had to stifle a giggle. I have no doubt that she and her husband are madly in love, but I've heard her utter the same phrase about several boyfriends over the course of our 10-year friendship.

Not that I'm in a position to criticise. I've referred to more than one ex as "The One". And I wasn't lying: I believed it at the time and was no doubt spurred on by the endorphins that were flooding my brain due to rampant sex!

Even though most women consider themselves financially and sexually liberated, the "someday-my-prince-will-come" mentality remains one of the last fairy tales left in modern life. Why are we so obsessed with the idea of "The One"?

I blame Plato. He popularised the idea of soul mates when he wrote that men and women were originally fused together but Zeus split them apart because the creatures were too powerful. So, according to legend, men and women have been looking for that magical "other half" since then.

But while I hope to meet a long-term partner and fall in love, I find the idea that each person has one member of the opposite sex somewhere in the world, who they are destined to end up with, hard to swallow.

The "soulmate" card can be a way of justifying rash decisions, such as when a friend invited her boyfriend of 10 days to live with her, rent-free, while he "found himself". The only thing he ended up finding was her credit card, before she chucked him out.

And for those of us who lust after picture-perfect celebrity romances, it's worth noting how often it's the couples who publicly proclaim their undying love who crash and burn most spectacularly. Watching Angelina frolicking in the African plains, it's hard to believe that not so long ago she was sporting vials of Billy Bob Thornton's blood.

I want to fall in love, but I don't want to feel like someone is relying on me to "complete" them, or vice versa. Research in the US has found that asking a partner to "be your everything" can create unrealistic, damaging expectations.

I have amazing girlfriends who I consider to be soulmates, and my dad believes that he found a second one when he remarried. My mum swears that hers is a 16-year-old greyhound called Paulette.

When I finally settle down with my Mr Right, it won't be because the universe magically keeps us together: it will be because we work hard to make it happen. Not because I need him to make me a whole person (I've done that on my own), but because I want to be with him, which I think is much more romantic.

In the meantime, I'm going to forget about "The One" and focus on Chris's sexy best man, aka "The One for Now". If I want to see my soulmate, I'll look in the mirror.

c.townsend@independent.co.uk

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