on relationships and love: the rule of 200

yesterday, i caught up with one my dearest friends and collaborators, ross chanowski. we had, as usual, what i think is our most typical conversation: catching up on what’s gone on since we last saw each other and how those experiences relate to our individual and collective efforts towards making and building the world we want to see. gotta love it.

during the convo, he reminded me of one of my philosophies that i haven’t yet written about so here’s the exposition post.

i’ll give him the credit for naming it (as is his penchant): the rule of 200.

in short, i don’t think there is such a thing as “the one.” the oft-repeated trope of falling in love with “the one” person in the world made for you doesn’t make sense to me. i’ve got some thoughts about this inspired by anil dash, but the tl:dr; is that statistically it doesn’t make sense that so – many – people – end up marrying “the one.” i swear, i hear at almost every christian wedding that they found the one person in the world God made for them. so you mean to tell me that thousands of people (maybe hundreds of thousands) all happened to find their soul mates in their tiny small town in the country they live in on a planet of billions of people… by ag 30? really? (and don’t even get me started on the divorce rates of people who married “the one…”)

additionally, not only does that thinking have no biblical basis, it’s extremely self-centered. to assume that God would make anyone FOR anyone else is… (i want to use a stronger word here, but in order to not feel like i’m attacking anyone i’ll just say) silly.

so the rule of 200 to me (which was inspired by a mentor but i can’t remember which one) is that there are actually probably about 200 people on the planet whom any one person could build a meaningful, lifelong partnership with.

i don’t have the actual calculation anymore, but i did the math some years back when i was debating becoming a monk and talking to both monks and long-time married couples about their long-term perspectives on life. these were the factors:

somehow (i should probably recreate the math someday to make sure i did it right) what this left me with was that there are about 200 “the ones” for each of us. and the quest for a long-term life partner is really just about probability plus hard work.

the probability part looks like this: if there are 200 people in the world for you (and that is a ranked list), whenever you meet one of them, they are somewhere in that list. maybe they’re number 1… or 101… or 198. either way, they’re on the list and that means you could form a meaningful bond with that person and be totally content to build a life together.

the issue is that you will meet other people on that list in your life.

one of my gainesville mentors said to a group of guys he mentored once that he and his wife fall in love with people outside their marriage on average once every ten years. they’ve been married for like 40 years. at this point, they’re so experienced with the situation that they can actually identify when it’s happening. they even have systems for dealing with it healthily. because they know they have a life together (kids, a home, a community, extended family relationships, etc.), it’s not worth them ending their marriage over a new love.

when you’re young, you’re more like to meet someone higher on your list during the rest of your life. so what you have to do is weigh the decision to settle down with “the one” in your life now versus hold out for someone higher on the list later.

and to be clear, the ranking, imo, is a compatiability ranking. it’s not about the quality of the person. no two people will ever be fully compatible, but #1 on your list is the most and number #200 is the least (and remember, we’re talking about 50% to 100% of the world’s population – depending on much you’re attracted to people of different genders).

so as people get older, want different things out of life, and have experienced some “ones”, and recognize that the probability of meeting people higher on their lists diminishes, people settle. this is settling in the best sense (assuming it’s still with one of the 200).

from there comes the hard work part. no one is guaranteed to have a successful long-term relationship. even with the most compatible person of your 200, if you don’t do the hard work of loving (of which bell hooks discusses extensively) it won’t last. but that’s a whole different topic…

anyway, i’ve been rambling and i’m definitely realizing that this should have been two posts and that it needs significant editing. but this is a beginning. the rule of 200.

writing spell-check, research, link-finding, & formatting
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