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.

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11 thoughts on “<span class="entry-title-primary">The problem with 'soulmates'</span> <span class="entry-subtitle">The beauty of romance isn't in an elusive forever just as the beauty of humanity isn't in an elusive heaven.</span>”

  1. The term makes me cringe. I almost didn't read the post but knowing you I gave it a chance.

    My becoming a part of this couple has its woven mythology. Socks, coffee beans, hair brushes and Waffle Houses dot that creation story.

    Often people mistake us for sharing a brain along with a life, a bed. We don't share a brain. As convenient as it would be to have one child tell us something and the other know this information, we know the drawbacks there. Nothing knits us closer as a couple than our differences, our selves.

    Of the analogies the kids use, I like the one that we're peanut butter and jelly best. It speaks to the differences, yet how well we go together. The flavor may change, but we go together.

    But, when I babble of my love, I cringe at the soul mate description. Yes, our relationship is singular but soul mate and other half suggest that if our rivers had never met we would be less somehow--that any relationship would pale absent the magic we bring to each other. Our love--our magic--means that I know that her magic is a strong one, a worthy one and not mine alone.

  2. We (meaning myself and the husband) don't use the soul mate term, though we do believe we were somehow meant for/to find each other. Our sense of humor are such that not too many other people would laugh as we manage to shoot liquid out our nose because we're laughing SO hard at something SO inappropriate. That's love.

    I think we both believe that love is a bit more complicated than one person for one person. Only. EVER. Thankfully, we have each other and we're going with it. As a woman who calls Pittsburgh her hometown, I really love the rivers merging analogy.

    Kudos on this post. Loved it.

  3. After losing my husband to cancer, it was hard to think of dating again...I had lost my could i love someone else? I mean you can only LOVE one person in your life I have been cant love two at the same time or love another one in your life...sorry folks...but there is different kinds of love I have come to find out. I have found my second "soulmate" but it is a different kind of love. This one I am not planning on marrying or living with...but when I need someone to go hang with or want to go on a trip...this soulmate goes with me as my Soul Partner which is what I need this time around. I had my marriage of 30 yrs, now its my time with a friend whom I love but not in the same way as I needed 30 yrs ago. I know a lot dont agree and think I HAVE to marry again, but I dont see it that way. Now is my time for me and when I need a companion, I have Soul Partner..

  4. My husband and I have been married for almost 23 years. We have been through many of life's ups and downs together especially with our 3 children. I can honestly say that we have come a long way as a couple and as individuals. He can still make me laugh :). To say we are "soul mates" seems trivial and inconsequential at this point, I am happy to say! The truth is we are all soul mates created from one source. That source is whatever you choose to call it. But is undeniable when you listen to your own soul.

  5. think the notion of soulmate is this instant "click" with another person. There is no working to make it fit, it just does.

    In that way, I don't believe that it exists. However, the man in my life, I do believe is my soulmate. We had that instantaneous click from our first contact. It's been work learning each other over time, and it hasn't always been easy, but it has always been worth it. I can't imagine my life without him in it.

    There are other types of soulmates, I think. I have a very dear male friend who always seems to be on the same page as me mentally and emotionally at any given time. He's my touchstone when I need grounding.

    Well-written article.

  6. I have chosen a soulmate. It is a choice, one I re-make and re-commit to each day. So, then, I suppose he is also my brain-mate and my heart-mate and, oh heck, why not my spleen-mate too.

    Whatever organ or invisible part of me I credit the success of our pairing with, the reality is that in order for it to continue to work, I recognize that it's a choice *I* make day after day, year after year.

    Well, that and perhaps a little fairy dust. That's our secret. We hold it in our souls, and sometimes our kidneys or livers.

  7. That is truly a beautiful thing you have...and extremely rare. I wouldn't say my wife or children complete me as I feel whole even without them. My wife and I compliment each other and the children add a sense of fulfillment.

    Without assuming a myriad of variables, I can't say I understand the statement: "Without a belief in something how can we claim to be someone". Are you saying that a person can't be whole or complete without believing in xyz or being with Mr or Ms XYZ?? Though I love my wife and kids I wouldn't say they complete me. I'm very happy on my own merits. I would say we compliment each other and the children give us a sense of fulfillment.

    If a person parts from their soulmate one day for whatever reason then either they weren't soulmates or soulmates are, contrary to the implication, just romantic illusions. It follows that if it was a romantic illusion then how many others that claim to be soulmates are just romantic expressions waiting to run their course.

    We have to be careful when we use absolutes in our ephemeral existing.

  8. AV, you're such a beautiful writer. And yes! I couldn't agree more.

    You refer to the scarily common quick-fix Jerry McGuire 'You Complete Me' definition of soulmate. Which is dangerously disempowering. 🙂

    My own favourite definition of soulmate supports what you say. That being with a soulmate 'somehow provides us with an impetus to become whole ourselves.'

    I also believe that we have more than one soulmate, that they can be relationships other than the carnal variety (including children)... and that we are always, always at choice.

    Personally, I have chosen to believe in reincarnation and that these connections serve us over lifetimes.

    But I won't arm wrestle anyone over it. It's my truth - not The Truth. Nuff said.

    OK! Evidently, I am writing BEFORE java this morning. Thanks AV for the wake-up call. You rock.

    Warm wishes from Toronto,

  9. Funnily enough, my definition of a soulmate has nothing to do with romance. And is certainly not restricted to a single person. Soulmates, to me, are the people that come into my life that I connect to so deeply and so intrinsically that it feels as if I've always known them, and that I know I will always feel connected to, even if they are no longer part of my life. I've always known I didn't need that connection to find love. I won't deny that it can enrich the relationship in the moment. But it's just another kind of love, and not two loves are the same anyway, so why would I want to limit the possibilities for my longterm partners by putting that kind of restriction on them? If it's a really stable relationship it will dwarf the connections I've made with some of the people I've called soulmate in the past just by dint of its staying power anyway.

  10. I love this...

    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.

    I'm lucky enough to have had two soul mates. My first husband and soul mate passed away when I was 22, so this rings very true with me.

    I've been with husband number 2 for almost 10 years now and I'm thankful for every single day that I have him. It's a different love than when we started out, but it feels more precious and I only hope that feeling continues to grow.

  11. I for one never believed in finding that one person that would for lack of a better term, complete me. However, in sincere honesty, I have found him and he found his other in me. Together we have a love bound in trust, faith, friendship and adoration. We have three beautiful children and are adopting two more little ones and I also believe that my children "complete" us. Without a belief in something how can we claim to be someone. Together we make up a family and that all began by the love that grew between us,beyond our own control or comprehension. I wish the same connection for everyone because it is priceless.

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