Many people think of soul mates as two people who find each other and know immediately that they’re destined to spend their lives together in ecstatic harmony. Others consider the idea about as credible as crystal healing, love potions, or the tooth fairy. Our culture is saturated with the notion that there’s one perfect partner out there for everybody, and to settle for anything less than this perfection is to deny oneself a chance at true happiness, which is surely waiting in the wings. The National Marriage Project, conducted in 2001, found that 94 percent of twenty- to twenty-nine-year-olds said that the person you eventually marry should be your soul mate, and 88 percent reported a belief that for everyone in the world, there was a spiritual twin out there somewhere. While the notion of soul mates sounds like a good one, does it color how we view relationships and marriage and set us all up for failure?
An Unrealistic Expectation
From the time we begin dating, most of us can picture an idealized version of our perfect partner. We want someone of a certain height, appearance, and intelligence, someone who perfectly complements our strengths and camouflages our weaknesses. Many believe that once we find this perfect partner, we’ll be happy together forever. One problem with this perspective is that it views relationships as things that happen to us, rather than things that we create by working hard on them. It assumes that once we’ve found our intended, they will complete us like the missing piece of a puzzle, and everything from then on should be easy and effortless. The search for a soul mate is dangerously close to the search for a completely perfect relationship, something we all know doesn’t exist.
Most people who believe in the idea of soul mates believe that the harmonious bliss of a new relationship is proof that their new love is indeed the one they’ve been waiting for. Eventually, after the newness of a relationship has worn off, people worry that the corresponding dip in excitement (which is perfectly normal) signifies that the relationship wasn’t meant to be after all. Dr. John Grey, PhD, author of Becoming Soulmates: Keys to Lasting Love, Passion and a Great Relationship, writes, “If we want a great relationship to deepen and last, we need to realize that ‘happily ever after’ includes feelings other than happiness. The myth of ‘soulmates’ is about a relationship that is blue sky forever. Always sunny, and that sunshine pours down on us, brightens us up, lifts us. In a real-world relationship, challenges come. The sky occasionally clouds.”
Does the Grass Seem Greener?
The most pernicious effect of the soul-mate myth is that it encourages people to believe that there must be something better out there. The myth can sometimes cause people to sabotage perfectly salvageable relationships because of the belief that finding one’s true spiritual equal will make a person blissfully happy at all times. Of course, few relationships can live up to this ideal, and the myth judges any lesser relationships as not worth the effort. After all, would your true soul mate criticize your friends? Would your true soul mate disagree with you about money or household chores? The idea of such a kindred soul leads people to believe that good relationships don’t require work and don’t involve disagreements, neither of which is true. Even people who are happy in their relationships are often left wondering, “Could I be happier? Could my real soul mate still be out there?” This thinking isn’t limited to those who believe wholeheartedly in soul mates, either. Even those with a more rational view of relationships can still fall into the trap of never being satisfied with any partner, viewing each and every small rift in the relationship as evidence that they could be happier with someone new.
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