In 2016 I proposed the idea (episode #128) that the term “soul mate” was a myth, at least in terms of how the current culture allowed its definition to be interpreted and peddled to imply we were not complete without our other half. Due to the origin of the term, the ancient tale of Aristophanes, the concept of seeking our second half has been perpetuated, implying that we are not whole without another being in our lives.
After much consideration as to exactly what a soul mate is, I have found Elizabeth Gilbert’s description to be quite apt. In fact, because I see such truth in her recognition of the gifts soul mates (yes, we can have more than one) can bring into our lives, I have come to realize that I have met one or two of my soul mates already, and for our time together I am quite thankful.
In fact, rather than a soul mate, the person we are seeking to share our life is simply put, a partner. Because if we look closely at what the role of a soul mate is, they are actually someone who will break you down, break you open as Elizabeth Gilbert shares (see below), so that you can see where and how you need to be transformed to reach your full potential. In other words, who you can become in order to be your best self, and thus be a better partner. But because a true soul mate offers a relationship that is often too intense to endure, it is a relationship that offers an opportunity for growth rather than an opportunity for a lifetime partnership. And so, yes, we can and most likely will have more than one soul mate as we are on a journey of growth and discovery and the journey never ends. As Gilbert shares, a soul mate is an individual who,
. . . 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. . . . A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave. . . . A soul mate’s purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life. —Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love
When we can shift the idea of a soul mate and differentiate that from the life partner we seek to share and enjoy our lives with, we are recognizing the gifts a soul mate can bring into our lives and be thankful for the time spent with them. And then the responsibility is on us to do the work. No one will fix us, no one will show us how, but a soul mate shows us why it is necessary and, most importantly, that it is possible to reach our full potential that we may have thought was not possible until they came into our life.
So how can we heal the parts of us that seem impossible to fix, but clearly need and can be? By addressing them. By doing the dirty and seemingly difficult work of understanding why certain things are not working as we would like them to. Investing time in winnowing away aspects of your life that are no longer serving you — coming to better understand how to handle your emotions, recognizing barriers you have in your life, and discovering the tools to work around them, as well as learning how to effectively communicate with others — is a gift not only to anyone you are in a relationship with, but to yourself as well.
Once you invest in yourself, you most likely will find you enjoy your own company. You will no longer need to fill your life with appointments, responsibilities that do not support the life you wish you live, anything to busy yourself so that you do not have to sit quietly with yourself from time to time. You will achieve a peace that multiplies your comfort, contentment, and happiness. The person you need in your life is your best self.
It is up to each of us to recognize the perversion of love portrayed in the media and understand what a loving relationship truly is, while dropping the need to label the person we would like to welcome into the most intimate part of our lives as a soul mate. Because the truth is that no such thing exists.
The soul mate theory is a fallacy because it presumes we are fixed entities. But “growing apart” is a common reason that marriages fail. Humans are forever changing, learning new information about themselves and the world, and trying various ways to move forward. This does not mean relationships cannot endure; but acknowledging the reality of change is crucial. The story of a new relationship — two individuals meet, connect, and seem to speak the same language — is only the first chapter. The rest is a conscious choice to invest, learn, listen, and communicate, to express kindness and recognize within ourselves the truth behind what we feel. To quote Alain de Botton, “love is a skill.”
So let the term soul mates go and liberate yourself, whether you are in a relationship or not, seeking a relationship or not, because when you do, you open the door to more responsibility on your part, but as they say (albeit in reverse), when you take on such great responsibility, you give yourself power to live a life that will bring you true contentment.
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