“A true soulmate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.”
– Elizabeth Gilbert
I don’t believe in soulmates.
Well, it’s not quite that simple. I don’t believe in soulmates in the “one person on earth for everyone who will complete you” kind of way.
Aside from the previously discussed mathematical absurdity of imagining there’s exactly one person designed for one other person, the One True Soulmate thing doesn’t account for polyamory, or people who are widowed and then find love again, or just people who have multiple serious relationships in their life because something isn’t retroactively less real because it ended. Then there’s the fact that we are all whole already and don’t need another person to complete us.
I’m not sure I even believe in souls, at least not in the metaphysical or religious way the term is often used. I’m both an atheist and fundamentally quite cynical.
So no, I don’t believe in soulmates. That doesn’t mean I am cynical about love. I’m not. I do believe in powerful connections between people, which might happen quickly or might grow over years.
When I hear “soulmate,” I think it implies a situation where you’re so made for each other that everything is easy. It’s the Disney-fied, romcom-style happy ending where all problems vanish and you live blissfully ever after.
But that’s not real. It’s a seductive lie, a dangerous fiction, a marketing ploy that leads real people to believe their relationships are inadequate.
I don’t want always-easy, because always-easy does not exist when it comes to meaningful relationships. What I want is someone who sees me completely. Someone who sees everything – the good, the bad, the ugly, the broken – and loves me anyway.
And, yeah, someone who can call me on my bullshit.
I don’t believe that anyone can know us better than we know ourselves. That is a fallacy. No-one else will ever be in your head or your body and you are always the ultimate and final expert on you. But I do believe that another person can see the bits of us that we’re not seeing, or choosing not to see, or trying to choose not to see.
Of course, it requires trust and vulnerability to let someone in that far. I’m not very good at either trusting people or being truly vulnerable. It takes me a long time to get there and the rest of the time, there’s a protective layer around me. Sometimes it’s a steel wall a foot thick, sometimes it’s barely perceptible and almost permeable.
A soulmate, in that fiction, would be someone who immediately fixed all those issues with their True Love. That doesn’t exist. What I want is someone who takes the time to see everything that is behind that wall, makes the effort to understand it, and wants to stay even then. Someone who does not expect pretense or perfection, but who embraces all that I am and – and this bit is important – all that I will be.
The “soulmates” ideal implies something static, something immovable and permanent. Real love isn’t necessarily like that. Our souls – our selves – are not static. Instead, I want a person who commits to growing alongside me. Someone who is all in, for the messy as well as the tidy, for the worse as well as for the better. And honestly? Someone who will walk away if it is truly no longer working, rather than someone who is so attached to an ideal that they stay to the detriment of both of us.
So no, I don’t want a soulmate. I want people who will do the work, make the effort, and show up again and again when it’s hard as well as when it’s easy.
It might not be quite so picture-perfect, but at least it’s real.
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