I found that to be a fascinating and noteworthy statistic worthy of exploring.
On the one hand, it seems quite sad, if this is the case. What a bummer, in terms of notions of romance and life relationships. But on the other hand, might it be realistic?
In terms of simple statistics, if one considers all the people in the world, what are the realistic chances that the majority of us will end up with someone who is an incredible match for us, who fills us with passion, makes our heart race, who we absolutely love spending time with, to whom we are deeply physically/sexually attracted to, with whom we have an amazing connection, etc, etc (someone that fits all these qualification ideas)?
And for those of us that are lucky enough to even meet someone like this...we still often times do not end up with this person. Statistically, it isn't likely that loads of us will end up with, or even let alone simply meet, someone who fits all of these great longings and wishes within our hearts.
In my research on this topic, I found statistics such as:
*1 in 4 people in long term relationships would rate themselves as being truly, deeply happy within this relationship. (We are talking generally lots of years together or marriages here. Because almost everyone is happy in the initial "honeymoon stage").
*Somewhere around 60% of people admit to having settled, to some degree, within their current lifetime-committed relationship.
*The percentage seems to hover somewhere between 32-50% of people having felt regret regarding a past breakup of theirs. Having realized, too late, that they might have made an error.
And yet, might this final statistic suggest that the numbers in statistic #1 could be higher, and the numbers in statistic #2 could be lower, if the people within the final statistic had acted differently?
Here are the reasons that I hypothesis (fun word, eh? ;-)) as to why many of us do not end up with the person we would consider to have been the "great love" of our life:
1. Timing. I would say this is most probably the biggest factor. Timing means a number of different things.
First, what are the chances, out of the already small number of people that you have loved/will love romantically within your lifetime, that each subsequent one following the last one will truly be a huge improvement upon the most recent love? As in, deeper love then the last one, a better connection, they have more traits you admire or like, you fit together better, you are more attracted to them, etc. Yes, for some people, their last relationship was pretty crappy, so the odds are highly in their favor that the next one, assuming they choose wisely, will be a big improvement. But what about for those of us who had someone quite good? In cases like this, it ends up being a probability game. A gamble of sorts. Each time you move on to a brand new relationship, its a gamble. You can only know who was the most ideal once you have met the comparisons. And by that time, sometimes after having seen the comparisons, its too late. This leads me to my next point...
Lots of people do not want to end up single for life (though nowadays a decent number of people prefer this to a lifelong relationship, now that some of the stigma for this choice has decreased). For those who do not want to be single over the long term, and regarding what I just said about probability, I suspect its likely that a significant number of people begin to feel flickers of pressure or fear as the years pass and thus end up either sort of "sliding" into sticking with someone who is "good enough" or just deciding to remain with the person they are with since they are fairly happy, there is a lot of history there, and they feel its too risky starting all over again. Even if they feel that in some ways, their current love could be more ideal, deeper, or better. Often times, I think this is with someone who would not have been their first choice. They very likely feel love for this person, but to some degree of their innermost heart, they know there is a semblance of settling going on. This person often doesn't seem to be the one we deeply, desperately may have wanted.
On the same topic of timing, sometimes two people meet who are very much in love, are wonderful together, but are at the wrong point in their life to be ready for this. Maybe they are both in high school, or one of them is pursuing an educational degree that doesn't leave them the room for this relationship right now, or maybe someone just isn't ready yet (as in, they meet this person when they aren't in the right mindset to be ready for such a relationship, or possibly even recognize it). So the chance passed them by because the moment didn't fit.
2. Many people aren't fully sure what qualities constitute as fitting the criteria of their "great love" until after the fact. Meaning, once they have gone through life a bit more, had further experience, met more comparisons, and usually by then the relationship they would define as their "great love" has passed them by. I suspect many people do not realize what they had until its gone. Or, after comparisons, they may not have realized just how amazing one person was for them until they dated others whom they realized fell short, or for whom they didn't feel as strongly.
3. Deal breakers. Sometimes a big deal breaker exists like religion or geographic location (and neither person can easily move), or maybe one wants children but the other does not, or some other huge issue that is not surmountable. The love and depth of connection might be there, but as anyone who has experiences in relationships knows, sadly this isn't enough to keep two people together over the long-term, if a huge, glowing deal-breaker exists. No matter how deep the love is.
4. Sometimes life takes two great loves in very different directions. The feelings are there, the connection is there, but the life goals and values do not match up. This could be something like: one person wants to live in the country, have four children and farm while the other person wants to travel the world, write, photograph and have adventures. No matter how deeply these two people might feel for one another, it isn't likely to work out in the long-run.
I stumbled across a quote on this topic months ago and I suspect it may allude to the reason I am getting at (as to why most people do not end up with this person): "A true soul mate is probably the most important person you'll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. This is often too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave."
All throughout famous literature, movies, TV shows, in music and in poetry. Even among people I know personally. A few people are with the person they would label as their great love (these are the ones with no glaring deal-breakers, they recognized what they had when they had it and held on, they also got lucky and met this person in the first place, the timing worked out), but most are not. And those "most who are not" most certainly love who they are with, but their great love calls forth another name to mind.
The famous examples are hundreds but I will name a few: Lyla Garrity and Tim Riggins from Friday Night Lights (award winning TV show), Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe in Just Kids (breathtaking memoir, best selling book) (though in some ways, they ended up as something even better), the passionately-in-love-over-the-course-of-decades actors Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Pippa and Theo in The Goldfinch (international best selling book) who loved one another at a distance over the course of years with just occasional wonderful moments of close-connection, Maisie and Hugh in A Dangerous Fortune (book) (though they did end up together in the very, very end. But still, they missed most of their life with one another), Delphine in The Engagements (best selling book) ends up in a marriage based on a friendship-like love (not with the man she was deeply passionate about, because it was just too hard), Marco and Celia in The Night Circus ( best selling book), Severus Snape in Harry Potter-he always deeply loved Harry Potters mother from afar but she didn't return the same feelings. The list goes on and on and on.
Somehow, most of us just do not end up with this person. In fact, according to statistics, that number of us who do not supposedly hovers around 70%. Most of us end up with someone we love, but not THE love. Not the love who stirred us the most deeply, and for whom our heart felt the most passionately.
To quote the book I just finished (which was a showstopper of a story, by the way):
As well as a few other famous words on this topic....
“I know that's what people say-- you'll get over it. I'd say it, too. But I know it's not true. Oh, you'll be happy again, never fear. But you won't forget. Every other time you fall in love, it will be because something in that person reminds you of them.”― Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
“It amazes me that people think their soul mate is going to show up in their life at this predestined time and be this flawless person. A true soul mate is a mirror of yourself, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. Sure, they have a common upbringing, similar interests but they have the one thing you don’t have which is the introspection of you, to help you become great. What use is a soul mate if they can’t help free you from yourself so you can live your life mission?”
― Shannon L. Alder, Never or Forever