The problem with ‘soulmates’

The beauty of romance isn't in an elusive forever just as the beauty of humanity isn't in an elusive heaven.

It’s the middle of the day; a perfectly clear, sunny day in Los Angeles. I sip my coffee, mildly resentful that I am cooped up inside and not poolside. Just then, an e-mail falls into my inbox. It’s from “Are you with your soulmate?” the subject asks, and it reminds me of that bitch we all know who likes to inquire, ever so casually, what we’re wearing to that one party she knows we’re not invited to attend.

As I click to delete it, I pause for a moment — why is the soul singled out? This isn’t a religious context, yet the notion of the soul as an incomplete thing that requires another has been co-opted to represent the ultimate union.

“Why?” I ask my orchids, sitting lazily on my counter next to the coffeemaker.

Because with or without context, it’s hard to disprove and thus easily believed to be static and eternal? The soul, with or without context, is seen as an unchanging thing that never ends; thus, finding that other eternal, unchanging thing with which to pair it translates to a connection that is itself timeless and immutable — is that why?

I like to think of myself as a romantic, ready to die a thousand deaths in the service of love. But the idea of a soulmate disturbs me, not just because it supports a lack of completion and suggests there is just one person out there meant for each of us, but because it fosters a sort of complacence about romance which I think is ultimately damaging to the ecstatic connection between (or among, as the case may be) people.

Meaning, once you find that one person, the notion of a soulmate would suggest the hardest part was over, when clearly, fostering a continuing enriching interaction only just begins at that point.

I’m not interested in buttressing the things I experience with a lover with myth. I don’t have to. I have this moment. And I don’t play favorites with the different aspects of him, all of which are constantly changing — his mind, his moods, his emotions, his body, his vision, his creativity. I’m not looking to divide him, cut him up or press his qualities hard into my own until he changes to fit me. There is no “fit” or incompleteness to fill. There’s only the individual. It’s the differences as much as the similarities that draw us to one another.

Lovers are two rivers that have met, different but now flowing in the same direction. We don’t know what will break our trajectory — or if anything will. It doesn’t matter; eventually, we’ll all feed the sea. The beauty of romance isn’t in an elusive forever just as the beauty of humanity isn’t in an elusive heaven. It’s in the fact that right now, at this moment, it’s me and it’s him.

This morning I woke up with my chest resting against his shoulder blades. That’s monumental because I might never wake up with him in my arms again, not because I think I will.