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True Love Is a Matter of DNA in The One

Tech company The One uses DNA to match people with their one true love. But making this love work is harder than it seems.

What would happen if we had an unassailable way to find lasting love? How would society really function if we all found a love match that was predetermined by your DNA? Instead of endless swiping and waiting for random meetings, we’d have a guaranteed soul mate, someone who science has determined will fall in love with us. How would that change our lives? These questions are among those posed in the new Netflix show The One.

In the series, a ruthless woman and her business partner discover a hormone sequence in insects that guarantees the insect will find their “match.” The scientists then extrapolate that hormone sequence in humans, steal some data from the National Health Service, and start a company, called The One, that creates love matches among humans using their algorithm and a bit of DNA. It seems like a clean, no-hassle way to meet someone. No uncertainty. No enduring hours of bad dates. No swiping. But human emotions are inherently messy, and so the plot of The One reveals the biggest human fallacy about love: that finding “the one” makes love and relationships easy.

Some of us believe in the idea of a soul mate, the one person who you’re meant to be with forever. We have fantasies about how wonderful it would be to meet our soul mate. That person who was created just to be with us. Basically, all popular music feeds this belief, giving us verses about the first time seeing our mate and how happy we are now that we’ve finally found the right person. Movies have storylines where lifelong bachelors and career women meet a partner and suddenly change their ways, falling in love and committing to a happily ever after. This is the world that The One tries to create, but shows us that even matches made in the lab don’t necessarily result in happiness.

Rebecca, the creator of The One, is the first person to be matched with the system. When she meets her knight in shining armor, she gets all the feels. You know, the feelings of falling in love: flutters in your chest and stomach; a feeling of familiarity and connection; warmth in your heart and in your genitals. She instantly falls in love with Matheus, and he with her, but they cannot be together. Rebecca has created her own match based on the stolen data, and if she were to reveal the timing of her match, the truth of the theft would come out and destroy the company. So, Rebecca leaves Matheus after a weekend, and finds a widower to pose as her match for the sake of publicity.

This story line reveals a fundamental factor of love: it’s a choice. While it’s true that you can’t choose who to fall in love with, you can choose who to show up for every day. You can choose who you make your mate, and that doesn’t have to be the person who sets off all the bells and whistles. You can even have all the bells and whistles, but not love someone on a deeper level. Feeling a certain way isn’t a guarantee that love, or a mate, will last forever. Rebecca chooses to protect her corporate standing over living a life with her match.

The character of Charlotte further illustrates the fallacy of effortless, everlasting love. Charlotte is married to her match, and she loves him deeply. But she regularly has sex outside her marriage, which her husband doesn’t know about. The husband isn’t able to satisfy her, and she justifies her behavior by saying that she loves and is committed to her marriage, and that the most important thing is that she chooses to go home to her husband at the end of the day. 

Human frailty also derails the potential for lifelong partnership. In Hannah’s case, frailty takes the form of insecurity and obsession. Hannah is married to Mark, a man who loves her dearly. Though Mark confesses to being satisfied with Hannah and is against matching, Hannah steals a piece of his hair and has it tested to find his match. She is obsessively insecure about her relationship with Mark, and she’s afraid that he will leave her if he finds his match. Instead, Hannah finds his match–Megan–and befriends the woman. Hannah intends to study Megan and become more like her, so that Mark would never be tempted to leave. It blows up in her face when Mark invites Megan to Hannah’s birthday and the two matches feel chemistry.

Hannah’s behavior illustrates a few of the problems with the biological soul mate concept. First, it assumes that an actual relationship with a soul mate will be the best, most fulfilling relationship of your life. We’ve already seen that people can be happy (if not fulfilled) by their matches and still act contrary to their feelings. If your match isn’t the perfect one for you, then you can be perfectly happy with someone else, like Mark. But the soul mate concept is so compelling that it can make someone ruin a healthy, happy relationship based on the mere idea of someone better. 

The second problem is people in general. None of us are perfect, and we act in not-so-perfect ways. We have character flaws, like jealousy and insecurity, that guide our behavior in ways that hurt our loved ones. Hannah did that with Mark, her behavior guided strictly by her fears and insecurities. If she hadn’t been so convinced that Mark would leave her for his match, she never would have brought Megan into their lives. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: She caused the very things she was trying to avoid, even though her husband was already loving, faithful, and committed. 

When it comes to relationships and human emotions, there are no guarantees. There’s at least one other person involved, and you can’t predict or control anything about someone who isn’t you. The idea of finding the one perfect person is quite appealing, given the uncertainties and risks involved with love. But The One does a great job of highlighting the imperfections present in trying to find the perfect match.

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