Soulmates are Built, not Found

31 May 2020

The ideas of soulmates can be seen throughout history and literature.

Plato in his work Symposium depict the earliest humans as doubles (two beings in one form). When they attempted to challenge Zeus for power, he divided the doubles, so that each pair was longing their other half for the rest of time.

The Bible, specifically Gensis in the Old Testament, describes how Eve was created from Adam’s rib, creating the perfect partner in life. The Midrash, a Jewish text, has a different understanding of this story where Adam was born with two faces until God split the beings, also showing the idea of original pairs.

The term ‘soul mate’ however was first written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1882, where he shared the idea that you needed a partner that resonated with your soul in order to have a successful relationship. Emotional and physical intimacy wasn’t enough.

Jane Austen and Emily Bronte write some of the most famous soul mate stories of all time. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice as well as Heathcliff and Catherine in Wuthering Heights demonstrate the enduring impact of these ideas on our beliefs around love.

However, these examples of philosophy and literature sometimes lead to mistaken expectations surrounding romance and love. How are we ever supposed to distinguish our soul mate from other people, and is there only one person out there for us? What even is the soul?

The internet defines the soul as the essence of your being, a thing that is not your body or mind, but is intertwined with both. Something beyond our comprehension. Looking at pop culture, when you meet your soul mate, you’ll have an immediate connection with them. They will be someone who will love us for us, knows us better then we know ourselves and we will have a perfect relationship with them with no jealousy or waning passion. This is a long list, and most likely an unrealistic one.

So, what makes people so certain that they want to marry someone? That they are willing to make a commitment to someone for the rest of their life. Maybe it’s because love is such an amazing, special feeling. Weddings are when emotions are at an all-time high, there is celebrations, dancing, partying, and the opportunity to see two people so in love they are choosing to live the rest of their lives with each other.

However, weddings can also be a source of tension. Sometimes seeing the love that two people have for each other can make you doubt your own relationships, perhaps even your own marriage. It can lead to doubts and anger towards your pattern or for people who are single, a reminder that you exist in a world where we are pushed to find out partner and you are still alone.

However, philosopher Alain de Botton has a lot to say about the idea of soulmates. He said the notion that we have one person out there, who will love us immediately with all our flaws and oddities, is nothing more than an unrealistic story tale born out of romanticism. Soul mates are marketable, they make good stories, good songs, good books. But in reality, a relationship should be a rational and stable partnership where both sides are working to better themselves and grow as a couple.

Rachel goes onto to explain the unrealistic notions of a soulmate, “The idea of having a soul mate in a spiritual sense isn’t aligned with psychology.” She warns against thinking immediate and intense attraction means you have met your other half because usually this is “a physiological cascade of hormones and neurotransmitters that make you fall into lust”. Rachel advises to not interpret this intense physical state as you meeting your soulmate. “That doesn’t happen with everyone you meet, it only happens with certain people, but that’s also just a stage you pass through, it’s not the definition of a soul mate.”

She also states that relationships take work, and if you want to have a soul mate like connection with someone, you have to work for it. “There is some interesting research on this where they found that people who deeply believed in soul mates had a more difficult time in the relationship, because they expected that it should just work. And so, when they came across problems, they felt that this must mean ‘we’re not compatible and we’re not soul mates’, and they don’t want to work through difficulties,” she says. “Whereas people who believe that it was love that made a relationship and expected to have times where they would navigate through choppy waters, they had more longevity and happiness in their relationship. Really believing that one person is out there, and it will just work is not helpful for people. You have to participate.”

This means you have to work through all phases of your relationship. When the honeymoon phase wears off you need to face and acknowledge each other’s differences and negotiate the terms and boundaries of the relationship that work for you. You have to work on yourself and grow as an individual to be able to create a long-lasting, healthy partnership. As Rachel says, “if you understand yourself well, then you have a much better chance of making a relationship work from your side.”

However, this doesn’t mean we have to get rid of the idea of soulmates completely. Thinking there is someone out there for us, that will love us and support us no matter what, gives many of us hope for the future. So maybe we just need to redefine our understanding of soulmates. Instead of meeting someone and instantly feeling a sense of completion, soulmates are built. “It takes time,” says Rachel. “It’s two people who deeply value the relationship through thick and thin. I have met a few couples that have felt something like ‘soul mates’ and when I stepped back and I thought about why – it’s one thing to chip away at it and to learn to communicate and be trusting and give trust and all that, you can do so much from one side. But the magic formula is finding two people who are willing to do that for each other.”

Instead of having unrealistic ideas about an instant, perfect connection we must have a commitment to working and building our relationship with our partner in the mundane aspects of life. We must work through disharmony and arguments as much as we should enjoy and cherish the happiness our partner brings.

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