by Anne B
I heard a relationship guru on YouTube the other day saying that one of the biggest downfalls when going into a relationship is focusing on what you can gain from it, rather than what you can give to it. Although I’m not sure I would have paid to see this gentlemen live, I do wholeheartedly agree with this statement.
As I thought about this approach I wondered how it could come to terms with the concept of a soul mate. If you think about what it means to have a soul mate, it implies that there is an ideal out there who is the perfect complement to yourself. Your soul mate is supposed to be the key to your lock, the enzyme to your substrate, the sparkle to your disco ball. A soul mate is someone who provides unfailing support, emphasizes your strengths, and acts as the perfect buffer to all of your weaknesses.
We are subconsciously driven by society to have it all. You’ve got to have a great sex life, a beautiful family, fitting careers and social lives. Finding your soul mate truly is a manifest destiny of relationships to which many of us believe we are entitled. And shouldn’t you have high expectations? Nobody wants “good enough.” Why should they? The thought of devoting yourself to a partner who meets /some/ of the criteria of your perfect match is disheartening and not exactly great motivation to head to your local watering hole and woo Mr. or Miss Right. If you find yourself chronically dismissing the possibility of a deeper relationship with the people you date because he or she is not “the one,” stop for a second and re-evaluate. Note: I am not encouraging anyone to lower the bar of their standards. Could your expectations be impossibly high or maybe even skewed? Are you expecting to be loved perfectly by a storybook ideal?
I have a very small confession to make. Part of my motivation for writing on the subject of soul mates stems from Disney’s new release of the Princess and the Frog. Before you say “Disney ugh!” and stop reading, let me explain. I haven’t seen the movie but I was reminded of the saying, “You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.” This counsel is meant to pacify the cries of women (although men are subject to this too) who bounce from one suitor to the next as they discover with each kiss that the person is in actuality a gross, slimy frog. Frogs are not sexy, have little conversation skills, and we could be really extreme and postulate that some frogs are not only slimy but poisonous too. Hold out, don’t settle for the frogs, and eventually you’ll score a diamond in the rough, your prince charming. Que the lights and voila you’ve got “happily ever after” ladies and gentlemen.
If you look at the original story of the frog prince by the brothers Grimm, the frog’s only request was that the princess (who they portray as pretty spoiled and self absorbed) love him and make him a part of her life and home. The frog, actually a prince under a spell, is not transformed into the suave prince that he really is until she violently throws him against the wall out of disgust.
The moral of the original story is that the frog’s character was what already made him the perfect catch for the princess. Perhaps this princess had a distorted and unhealthy expectation of what the image of her prince should be, and maybe if she would have allowed herself to be totally captivated by just a frog she would have realized she had her prince all along. Fortunately for the princess, in spite of her throwing him against the wall, she and the prince, formally known as frog, end up getting together.
I recently read a quote in which the author said that “the north star guides us through variable and turbulent waters from far off shores. Although the star is never to be reached, it is valuable nonetheless.” This is the clearest illustration of my thoughts on soul mates that I have found. Identify your north star. This can only come from you getting to know your own soul. Ahem, need I say it? Ok, be your own soul’s mate. Identify your North Star by finding out what it is you need and want in a relationship by just developing yourself. When you know what you need. Pursue it. Realize that the journey in the direction of your north star is a critical one, and be happy knowing that now you have direction. But eventually you will need a destination, and that is something that no star can provide. That is where the myth of the elusive soul mate meets reality; it’s when you choose your destination. You stop chasing the North Star, you make yourself a home, and you weather the storm.
Weather the storm? Does that sound jaded and void of romance, because it really shouldn’t? I am not in pursuit of a soul mate. It’s true that I am not seeking sublime connection and completion by one unique individual, the perfect complement to my person. I’m open to the opportunity of finding someone who has a profound commitment to our lives together. I look for an optimistic and tenacious vision for our future together; a future in which we both have room to grow as two individuals, but two individuals walking down the same bumpy path. Any connection that we have to each other will not be a cosmic force that binds our souls, but a connection that we have fostered over years of faithfully showing love in spite of the ebbs and flows that come with relationships. It will be a connection built on a foundation of common core beliefs, values, and a desire to grow. It might mean that I have abandoned the search for the holy grail of relationships, but it also means when the relationship gets rough, which it will, I will recognize the imperfect humanity of it all and not be tortured by the lingering doubt of whether he is or isn’t “the one.” It doesn’t mean you lackadaisically settle for imperfection, but it does mean that you have a realistic understanding of your expectations as you continue to strive to do greater things for this person and your time together.
In 2001, the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University took a national survey of 1,003 people ages 20 to 29 years old, 61 percent of whom had never married. The survey asked questions about their views on marriage and divorce.
* 94 percent of never-married singles said that ‘when you marry you
want your spouse to be your soul mate, first and foremost.”
* Less than half, 42 percent, of single young adults believe that it
is important to find a spouse who shares your core beliefs about
spirituality and even religion.
This survey shows that an overwhelming majority of people place a higher value on finding a soul mate than someone with shared values. As much as I believe that soul mate tunnel vision can be detrimental to the development of potentially valuable relationships, these figures show that most of us haven’t lost that desire for the intensity of magic and rapid connection. I can understand that desire, but for now instead of passively waiting for my soul mate to cross my path, I’m an advocate of living life a little more proactively. Dr. Alex Benzer’s philosophy says stop waiting for love to show up and instead show up as love.