Friday, February 28, 2014

I Have No Soul Mate (And That's OK)

Recently, there's been a post going around from a woman who was recently engaged but was questioning if it's the right path for her. The ultimate message of the post is challenging the concept of "Soul Mates," instead insisting that since nobody is perfect there is nobody that is perfect for you, and the decision to love is precisely that, a decision. A friend of mine posted a well-worded rebuttal to this, drawing from his personal experience and insisting that Soul Mates do exist for those who are "called to marriage." Leaving aside the spiritual aspects of these arguments, I want to focus on the concept of a soul mate.

I fully expect this post to spark some controversy amongst my readers. Let me be clear here; I am in no way trying to discount or invalidate anyone's beliefs or experiences.

You are all special snowflakes with your own unique views.
photo credit: ChaoticMind75 via photopin cc

One of the big points regarding Soul Mates (and being "called to marriage") that is problematic is the idea that we are somehow destined (or not) to be with someone. This is essentially a belief in predetermination. Personally, I refuse to believe that we do not build our own "destinies" through our actions, thoughts, and words. I would argue that the very idea that we are not in at least partial control of something as major as whether or not we get married and to whom is objectionable, and actually cheapens the marriage in question. It's so much more meaningful to choose to marry someone, and likewise be chosen by them for that marriage, than it is to be destined to marry them. The fact that you are not being forced by anything, whether you're aware of it or not, makes the commitment to that person carry that much more weight as an act of love and devotion.

So, let's say that there is no predetermination. Without the guiding hand of destiny, is it really a feasible model to believe that there is precisely one person who is "perfect" for you out of ~7 billion on this planet? Or is it much more likely that there are quite a few people who are compatible enough that a lifetime commitment would be something worth pursuing with them, and it falls upon us to use our Free Will to make the decision to make that commitment? Belief in "The One" fosters a scarcity mentality, essentially the belief that you have to make THIS relationship work because you'll never find anyone better, which is a big cause for so many abusive relationships lasting way past their expiration dates.1

Confession time: I use a dating site.

Loser fingers
What, you can't even get a number at a bar like a normal person?
photo credit: JLA Kliché via photopin cc

At any given time I can do a search for women on that site who meet whatever criteria I set, and it will show me a list of women who would be "good matches" for me based on similar answers to dating questions and how well they fit the criteria I searched by. There's actually a woman (and after her a man who did the same thing and got more media exposure for it) who "hacked" dating site algorithms to determine what questions to answer, how to weight those questions, and what content to put into her profile to attract partners she was attracted to. The result was thousands of profiles that were anywhere from 90-99% matches. Any number of these people would have made for a good marriage with her, but she ultimately decided to pursue just one of them. This was due to any number of reasons, but the end result is that it was her choice to commit to this person (and his to commit to her) that mattered.

Another point that gets brought up is the "nobody is perfect" line. This is true, we all have flaws. And while some will insist that a Soul Mate isn't someone that is perfect objectively but who is "perfect for you." There is no such thing as perfection. To err is human, after all. So I reject the idea that there is even one person who is completely "perfect" for me, or that I am "perfect" for. I believe that love is not about finding someone with whom you have no points of contention, but rather finding someone whose flaws you are willing to accept and work with and who is willing to accept your flaws and work with them. Obviously there's more to a relationship than simply being able to deal with that person's flaws, but that's an important aspect.

That's not to say that it can't feel like you and your honey bunny are perfect for each other, but what this really means is that the two of you are highly compatible, and some of those compatibilities are the ways you address problems, communicate needs, and compromise, so that when you do encounter areas where you share an incompatibility, you are able to overcome that issue effectively and without damaging your relationship over it, possibly even to the point that it feels like there are no conflicts at all.

Half-eaten cupcake with engagement ring
Essentially you get to have your relationship cake and eat it too!
photo credit: Poppy Wright via photopin cc

And ultimately, that's the other major kind of damage that the idea of a "perfect" relationship can do; if it's not motivating a person to stay in an abusive relationship, it can motivate them to end a healthy one prematurely. It takes work to get through adversity, and if we believe that we shouldn't be settling for anything less than "perfect" then we'll drop an otherwise great relationship as soon as a major issue comes up that requires some effort and compromise to work through. Now, that's not to say that any relationship can work if you work hard enough. Clearly there comes a point where a relationship simply isn't working out and it's not going to work regardless of how much work you put into it,2 but a relationship that seems perfect except for one or two grievances is certainly worth fighting for.

There's no such thing as "falling in love." Love takes work to build, and the trick is finding someone worth putting that work in for.

1 I'll cover more about the scarcity and abundance mentalities in a future post.
2 Or the relationship is simply not worth the effort to repair anymore.


  1. Interesting article, not quite as on topic as the porcelain man was though. I don't see the connection to masculinity here...

    1. One of the aspects of masculinity is the way we view and interact with the world and with other people. In fact, the way we view and interact with potential partners is a big part of what defines us, whether men or women. I felt that since the posts that inspired my article were currently relevant, I didn't want to sit on this topic too long before getting it out there, and I apologize if it seems out of place at the moment. There will be future articles regarding relationship philosophy that may make the connection more clear, so please bear with me for now. The next article will definitely seem more immediately on-point.

      GENERAL HOUSEKEEPING NOTE: I'm aware the footnotes don't appear to be working. I am unfortunately unable to fix this until sometime this evening, as I am currently restricted to a mobile device.

    2. I disagree with you. Being a 'man' is not a solid and steadfast concept. It's a fluid definition that changes based on a variety of factors. Age and cultural impacts are perhaps the most impacting when defining manliness. What it is to be a man at eighteen is a lot different than what it means when you're in your mid twenties or early thirties. Teenagers are still trying to figure who they and perhaps do not have the emotional maturity to consider marriage. While on the other hand, relationships and by extension marriage is perhaps on the forefront of a man's thoughts a handful of years later. While this doesn't necessarily hold true for everyone, the majority of the time, it does.
      TL;DR Perfect topic.