When an acquaintance began talking about soulmates — out of the blue — I had to keep myself from rolling my eyes. Not only is there a perfect someone for everyone (he insisted), but in his life view, we each have an ideal mate, and the only tricky part is finding him or her.
To hear this from a 60-year-old man, divorced and still searching for The One, was… let’s just say… surprising.
At the time, I was unaware that he had harbored a little hankering for me over the years, and this was his way of approaching the subject of (finally) grabbing a coffee together. But long before that factor came into focus, I listened to him express his absolute conviction that soulmates exist.
Like many men and women both, this individual truly believes that there is one right person for him — his other half — in keeping with the origin of this romantic concept. However, this is not a belief that I personally share.
My own feelings on the subject fall more along the following lines. At different points in time:
Circumstances + who we are + who we partner with = more or less a good fit.
What to add to the equation above?
For a relationship to flourish — communication, compassion, shared values, and a big dose of luck.
Interestingly, this article offering social science research suggests that those who believe they have a soulmate are in for trouble.
Referring to one study, the article reports:
… those who saw love in relation to achieving The One proved to have more negative perspectives than the latter group… People who view themselves as soulmates tend to be less satisfied when they think of the conflicts in their relationships… In the soulmate frame, conflicts are bad…
Now, I might point out that conflicts are wrenching in any intimate relationship, and the variables that make those conflicts more or less damaging are many. Nonetheless, I can well imagine that if you were expecting perfect harmony with your One and Only, then conflict, depending on its nature and severity, would potentially result in greater concern.
On a related note, while I adore my reruns of Sex and the City, I have always cringed when the use of The One appeared in dialogue, much less in the plot line. To me, this notion denies the rich diversity of human experience in loving, needing, giving, perceiving, evolving, and so much more. In short, it ignores the reality that life alters us — and rightly so — and that we make new, hopefully better choices as we change who we are, and change how we hope to live.
A “great” mate at 23 may be a less than compatible option at 33; certainly, that may be more the case at 43, at 53, at 63 and so on. Then again, your relationship may grow richer, more profound, more passionate, and more of a partnership with the passing years.
As adults who choose the extraordinarily risky and audacious adventure of attempting to love one another, we know there are no guarantees — not in falling in love, not in sustaining it, not in growing together rather than apart.
There is no guarantee that unforeseen circumstances won’t break the relationship, no matter our good intentions and degree of commitment going in. And sometimes, love simply fades.
If you are fortunate, friendship remains. For me, that is the kind of soul connection I hope to experience in my lifetime, and surely not just once. I would hope to be soulmates in abiding friendship. Soulmates in support. Soulmates who need no labels at all, but are there for each other — without any expectation of “perfect.”
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