There is unfortunately no denying that a belief in soulmates can actually be detrimental to long-term happiness and lasting relationships. It is the natural skepticism and cynicism programmed in us from our primal ancestors that makes us naturally disbelieve in something seemingly too good to be true. A belief in soulmates in the most general and broad term often leads to disappointment and disillusionment when conflict and differences inevitably surface. We are so focused on the idea of ‘one perfect singular person’ who fits us to the T that we view any obstacle or deviation as a red flag. Most people who believe in soulmates also believe in ‘deal-breakers’ wherein we have very clearly defined borders that our potential partners cannot stray out of. I would also go so far as to say that the belief in soulmates often lends itself more readily and more prevalently in those who are more active spiritually. After all, it is a natural extension of the belief of a ‘Divine plan’ or ‘pre-determined fate’ that love and marriage is something sacred and set forth for us from the beginning of our inception. This is much more than just the western Judeo-Christian belief of marriage and saving oneself for that person God has determined to be our partner. Any belief that promotes the idea of design or fate or destiny would believe in soulmates. It could also sometimes be used as a defense mechanism, an internal gut feeling that tries to warn us of potentially disastrous relationships. If our gut can tell us we have found our soulmate, it can very much also tell us if we haven’t.
There are clearly positives and negatives to believing in soulmates, and there are psychological, biological, and spiritual reasons why this belief has existed for so long despite evidence to the contrary. It is very easy now to rail against the reckless and pure optimism of believing that we could experience this ultra-heightened, unique, encompassing love and happiness. Yes, a belief in soulmates means that the person is often much more likely to ‘give up’ on a relationship much quicker than others and yes, dating someone who believes in soulmates means being with someone who is much less open to compromise and much less flexible in terms of expectations and cultivation. As someone who once was very much invested in the search for my soulmate, I could more easily and more readily tell you all the things my soulmate wasn’t than I could tell you what I imagined my soulmate was. There were miles and miles of red tape and lines drawn in the sand, and it was an easy and convenient excuse to justify ending relationships swiftly and mercilessly. Those who would criticize the romantic ideal of soulmates would point out their fickleness, fear of commitment, and unrealistic expectations when faced with unrealistic odds.
But I am a romantic and I do understand all of these potentially negative things about soulmates and I would say to you, whether you agreed with me or not, that the person who has lived his or her life waiting for a soulmate could be one of the best partners you will ever have. See I used to put the pressure of perfection on the girl. I wanted her to be my soulmate so that was how I measured my relationships. And it’s very easy in the honeymoon stages of a relationship to idealize and idolize every aspect of a person. Every similar hobby or interest, every shared experience or discovery of a shared memory was like a thousand fireworks bursting in my heart. These were signs, good messages, promises. That’s what soulmates give us. Promise. The promise of ultimate happiness. The promise of lasting bliss. It builds up this intense and magnificent environment that we want to fully inhabit and lose ourselves in. We create intense, fiery, passionate beginnings because of the promise that we hope for. Almost all couples who mutually believe in soulmates can tell you of the whirlwind of giddy bliss their relationships started out as.
Destiny believers are also perhaps the best at taking those seemingly crazy odds and making the most informed decisions in the least amount of time. Destiny and soulmate supporters are more practiced and more keen to develop their gut instinct and find patterns in partners much more efficiently. They ask different questions of themselves and of their partners when trying to gauge the potential of a relationship and often, I find, do a better job of finding a stronger and more reliable start.
Think of it like this. Two people are walking down the aisles of their local big brand supermarket. The one on the left, the destiny believer, has a shopping list to make only linguini with clams. It’s the only thing this person wants to eat and so the only things this shopper will put into the cart are those for linguini with clams. That’s what is supposed to be for dinner. The person on the right on the other hand, the growth believer, is equally hungry but has no list and begins to browse the market freely. The person on the left will pass up an entire market full of delicious, versatile, and equally suitable ingredients and meal options. Blinded to all the other possibilities, this person will willingly stress and struggle and work to find just the right ingredients, but will move faster and with more purpose through the aisles while doing so. Where this person will ultimately find struggle in is not only in finding just the right ingredients, but also that if those ingredients don’t happen to be in stock that day, the linguini will go uncooked, and the person will go unfed. The person on the right is free of the stress and pressure, but is overwhelmed by choice. This person is much more flexible and adaptable, and could perhaps make a great meal out of say, kidney beans and tuna fish. They are open to change, are much more able to improvise, but if they linger and keep testing combinations, the market will eventually close and the shopper will run out of time and also go unfed.
Now let’s do something revolutionary. Let’s go grocery shopping with a list for linguini with clams. We are on schedule, on track, but oh no, the linguini of said linguini with clams is out of stock. Do we despair? No! We adapt (out of strength, not out of submission) and grab spaghettini. Or angel hair. Or to be crazy, lasagna sheets. Moving along. White wine. Check. Clams. Check. But what’s this? Scallops are on sale. And while they may not have been in the original linguini with clams, thank god we have the flexibility and openness to recognize that even things we didn’t think we wanted could be beneficial additions.
That’s the modern day destiny believer. That’s the happy lover who continues to long for his soulmate but knows how to love and to, if need be, help to make his own soulmate. Again it’s too easy in modern times to just strike down old-fashioned romantic ideals. But that knee-jerk reaction inevitably fails because, well, there’s no alternative offered. I believe you can still believe in soulmates and be happy with the person you are with.
For one, soulmates are intense supernovas of emotion and attachment. Some people cannot handle that level of intensity over prolonged periods of time. It would be like trying to hold onto the sun. Sometimes our soulmates are meant to come into our lives with such ferocity and passion that we are filled to the brim in this overwhelming love but have to leave us or we would go crazy. For some perhaps it is enough to have that certain special someone who teaches us to feel emotion to the very edges of our fingertips and toes, to know that we are capable of great love, and then send us on our way to express it for someone else. This way we can tell when we love someone just a little, because we’ve seen the great edge. For me, this was maybe the Beautiful of my life. An intense college love filled with the promise of youth and freedom. She was my first everything. I have seen the edge of the infinite universe in how far my love could reach for her. But that level cannot be sustained.
Another point is that perhaps our soulmates are meant to challenge who WE are. They come in blindingly bright pure white light that our every stain is magnified and exaggerated. Soulmates do not have to be these docile, timid, perfect fits that affirm every aspect of ourselves. Our soulmates are not mirrors but rather lenses to which we should see not just the best in them but the very best in us. We should be inspired that in our imperfection that still loved us for who we were and for however long they could. Soulmates should not be an excuse to sit idly by and await the idylls of romantic bliss. While we continue to hold out and hope for our soulmate, knowing that their every action not only brings them closer to us but makes them even better, we should be doing the same. Contrary to popular belief, the destiny believer does not need to be sitting back, waiting, lazily browsing those who pass in front. They are perhaps the ones who do the most in preparation. If my soulmate is someone who will challenge me intellectually, I will begin to read and grow and improve. If my soulmate is one who will challenge me physically, I will begin to take better care of mind and body. And in doing so, I will need to be at the bookstore or at the gym. Where odds are, I will find the person doing the same thing. To find the one you love, do the things you love.
Soulmates are also very much about patience rather than impatience, which might seem paradoxical. See facing the odds that I stated at the beginning, the destiny believer does not panic and rush to meet as many people as he can. Instead, they trust that the summation of their actions and reactions will result in the meeting because TWO people working towards the same goal increase the odds more than ONE. After all, if we believe we are searching for our soulmate, shouldn’t we also believe they are too? It is much like the case of my friendship with another woman in my life, Bird. I met her at work while I was still with Beautiful, blindly trying to save a relationship that had already been abandoned by the other person. Bird is the epitome of what my ideal ‘girl next door’ was supposed to be like. Flirtatious but not obscene. Witty. We had all the elements needed. I discovered from talking to her that, though three years my junior, we went to the same elementary school and lived in the same town for a good portion of our childhood. We were both avid video gamers and enjoyed anime and manga and could share similar stories of growing up in Asian households and working for the same company. I could talk to Bird for hours and never run out of a word to say. I could see as vividly as the world in front of me, the world as it would have looked like if we were together. Potential dates designed around our mutual interests. Stories to be made and to be shared. How I would introduce her to friends and family. But, I was in a relationship at the time, doomed though it may have been. And she was single. And then Beautiful left me, and Bird found someone. I could have torn my hair out at the dramatic and tragic irony of our circumstances. Was there something here with the potential and promise of incredibleness that we just kept missing? But I believe in soulmates. And so if this was supposed to happen, it would. Maybe not now, but if it is, it will. I can be patient. In the meanwhile I can continue to develop who I am and who knows, maybe in the process find that I was looking for, or needed, something else. Fate is like the wind. And the wind never apologizes for being late.
Soulmates can also be more about imperfection and growth rather than perfection and design. We imagine our soulmates to arrive perfectly formed to our expectations and thus the relationship would then follow suit. Soulmates make us stronger. Better versions of ourselves. Compromise is strength, not weakness. So if there is anyone worth compromising for or with, it is our soulmates. Yes there are definitely deal-breakers. We all have them. But not every obstacle is a deal-breaker, sometimes they are opportunities to see us grow and change and become better. And our soulmates inspire us to do so.
There is a very prominent place in the modern 21st century lover’s toolbox for the belief in soulmates. It just needed a modern day tweaking, a rebranding, to realize that seemingly impractical and implausible belief could be a strength.
Do I believe that there is a singular person, the soulmate, who is the best and most perfect version of our partner? Doesn’t matter. I believe in the benefits of hoping. I can be a better partner, lover, and maybe even soulmate, for someone because of it. I can make a soulmate, I can wait for a soulmate, I just have to believe in wanting a soulmate. While there may be a one in three and a half billion odd person who is just everything, I am more convinced of the idea that of the 3,999,999,999 people, there are bound to be plenty others who can make me just as happy.
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