Is the Soul Mate Mentality a Sham?
- Friday, July 17, 2009
There has been a lot of hoopla in the media lately regarding the use of the term, “soul mate” by South Carolina Governor, Mark Sanford, to justify his extra-marital affair. Our society has romanticized the notion of finding your soul mate for generations. There is something mesmerizing about the conviction that there is one person out there that is a perfect match for us, just waiting to be found.
And many couples enthusiastically use the term to describe one another when they first “fall” in love. The thrill of love in its infancy and the joy that we experience, seem to indicate that we have found that one perfect person that completes us and makes us better together than we were apart.
But when the reality of merging two lives into one collides with our romantic stirrings, many people deduce that they didn’t find their “soul mate” after all. So they seek excitement or solace in the arms of someone else, or they part ways and are once again involved in the quest to fulfill their fantasy of finding the one and only person on this entire planet, who will make them happy.
And therein lies the first problem with this philosophy—our happiness is our own responsibility. If you are looking for someone else to complete you, to fill your life, to be the source of your contentedness, then you will be searching in vain your whole life. And you are placing an unreasonable expectation upon everyone with whom you develop a serious, romantic attachment.
Spouses, partners, friends and family are not here to make us happy. They are here for their own spiritual journey. When their lives intersect with ours, we can love one another, support each other, demonstrate kindness, and enhance our experience of being on this planet. But our ultimate happiness is not derived from other people, or even from our external circumstances. It comes from an attitude within us, our connection with God, and our choice to take personal responsibility for our own lives. Even a purported “soul mate” has no power to sustain our joy, our happiness, or our value and self-worth.
I found it interesting to read the various definitions of a soul mate: “a person who is perfectly suited to another in temperament, a person who strongly resembles another in attitudes or beliefs”, “a person, especially of the opposite sex, with whom one has a deeply personal relationship”, and even, “a person with whom one gets along well because of having shared interests and experiences.” Hmmm…sounds a lot like how most of us have described our spouses at one time or another!
So how do we go from this definition of a “soul mate”--our own spouse, with whom we have “a deeply personal relationship”, who is “perfectly suited” to us, and who shares our “attitudes, beliefs, interests and experiences”, to “falling” out of love?
Well, this is the second problem with our romantic ideology about love. We use the terms, “falling in and out” of love when in reality, love is a choice. The feeling that initially attracts us to someone, is more akin to lust than to the true definition of pure, real, love. And that is why it doesn’t last. There is no way to sustain that level of fiery passion for a lifetime. And when our lives intrude upon our romantic inclinations, we start to believe that there is something wrong with our relationship.
But that is not always true. Passion burns with intensity at the beginning of a relationship. It is exciting, it feels good and we are often consumed by it. But all fires eventually burn themselves out when they run out of fuel. It is our job, as marital partners, to remember to “fuel” our relationship, to nurture it, to feed it, to cultivate it so that it can grow, develop and evolve into a sustainable and mutually beneficial partnership.
We must make a daily choice to continue to love one another and remember that little things can make a big difference. Ever since we were first married almost 18 years ago, my husband leaves a note for me on our bathroom mirror. He keeps a pad of sticky notes in his drawer and writes me a short message every day. And if one of us is traveling, he sends it to me in an email.
He takes his inspiration from whatever is happening in our lives at the moment or from his morning devotional reading. Sometimes he thanks me for something I have done, other times he compliments me, occasionally he apologizes, often he writes an uplifting and encouraging message, and sometimes he just simply says, “I love you.” There are usually just a few sentences, but they mean the world to me. They make me feel loved, appreciated, valued and cherished.
And he has told me that in the disciplined act of writing these daily affirmations of his feelings, he “finds a new reason to love me, every day”. And that is the advice that he gives to all newly married couples he encounters, “Find a new reason to love one another, every day.”
That attitude demonstrates the realization that LOVE IS A CHOICE. It illustrates how to make the choice to continue to love, day after day, in spite of any circumstances that might detract you. And it exemplifies how you successfully transition from the blazing, passionate flames of new love, to the warm, glowing embers of a love that lasts a lifetime.
It is also interesting to note that while The Bible gives us a great definition and much advice regarding “Love”, I could find no reference at all to a “soul mate”. God never instructs us to seek out a soul mate. However, if we follow the precepts of marriage he provides, then it is possible to develop the spiritual, physical, and emotional connections implied in the term.
So is the notion of a soul mate some sort of sham? Perhaps. But I believe that my spouse is my soul mate--not because of some mystical twist of fate, but because we work on our marriage every day to ensure that our “soul mate status” remains intact.
We seek contentment and happiness within ourselves, try to limit our selfish behavior, forgive easily and quickly, and strive to maintain our connection with God and with each other. We appreciate each other and endeavor to find new reasons to love one another on a daily basis. We spend time together, sharing “interests and experiences”. And we make the choice, every day to continue to love each other, respect each other, and treat each other with kindness, compassion and patience.
Perhaps we should all start embracing the notion that “soul mates” are made, not born, that we can become soul mates with our partners. After all, what we really want when we seek a soul mate is someone that excites us, someone we can depend upon, and someone who really loves us for who we are. Put in those terms, it doesn’t seem so far-fetched or out-of-reach, does it?
I know that becoming soul mates with our spouses requires more work on our part than just getting “lucky” and “finding” them does, but at least we don’t have to abandon our romantic desire for the level of connection and intimacy that the term “soul mate” represents to us. We can stop “searching the world” and start searching our own homes. And best of all, with God’s help, if we will integrate this mindset into our marriages, we can actually turn the fantasy of a soul mate into a reality.
Take a good look at your spouse today and see if you can’t “fan the flames” of love a bit. You just might find that you have been married to your “soul mate” all along, after all.
“So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe that God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.” ~ Colossians 3:14 (The Message)
Deborah J. Thompson is a writer, artist and Stephen Minister. Please visit her website http://www.inspiredreflections.info/ for additional “Reflections” on Life and Marriage. She has just finished the first draft of her first book, Your Life, Your Choice, which gives 5 simple steps to harness the power of your choices and bring more Love, Joy and Peace into your life. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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