In the past few days we’ve seen multiple articles about “soul mates” – what the term means and whether there is, for each of us, one person God has planned for us to spend our life with. One we found on CNN: Is God Going to Hook Me Up Online? Assessing Christian Mingle and ‘Soul Mates’ By Thom Patterson. Christian Mingle is a web matchmaking site which implies that you can join to find your soul mate. We won’t comment on the implications of that idea – we are more interested in the article’s exploration of the idea of a soul mate and how various religions approach it.
When we were teaching, this subject came up often among high school students. We found that many of them were sure that there was a perfect “someone” whom they would eventually meet and that they would have a wonderful life together. As the article reports, our students were not unusual.
I found the discussion of the approaches of various religions to be interesting. The Jewish Talmud suggests that we each have two possibilities when we are born and their names are “written down”, but in the spiritual plane, where we cannot know who they are. Christians are divided on the subject and I find the arguments for a soul mate to be a stretch. Muslims consider that acceptance of the soul mate idea would allow us to blame God for divorce and that is unacceptable.
I think the more important considerations are the potential negative results of believing in a soul mate. It can lead to serial marriages – when the first doesn’t work out and is abandoned to resume the search for the real soul mate. In other cases a person may be unable to commit to marriage out of fear that each possible partner may not be the soul mate. Read more in the complete article.
Rita and I have had discussions on this topic over the years. I believe that columnist Ken Potts: gets it right in Soul Mate? You May Have More Than One.
If we think about the sort of people we fall in love with and the sort of people we are close friends with, it is not to(sic) hard to believe there could be more than just one soul mate out there. In fact, there are all sorts of people we are attracted to as either friends or lovers. And when one person has the potential to be both, they also have the potential to be good, long-term marital partners.
Second, every successful couple I’ve known has worked long and hard to create, and re-create, their relationship. Innumerable studies of healthy relationships suggest the same. The consensus seems to be that being soul mates may be a good start, but being lifelong “work mates” is probably just as important.
I believe that Rita and I have worked successfully to create a relationship which has the characteristics of a ‘soul mate’ relationship and continue to work at it. We hope that you have, too.
I don’t remember hearing the term “soul mate” when were dating and looking for a life partner. I began to hear the term somewhere in the late nineties when I was teaching my students about marriage and relationships. They began to refer to their boyfriend or girlfriend or the person they wanted to marry as their soul mate. I think they meant someone with whom they were compatible, someone who shared their interests, someone with whom they never argued because they always thought the same thing on every topic. It was someone with whom they felt comfortable and happy. Someone who they believed filled their every need. Their soul mate was somewhere out there – they just had to find him or her. Looking back, a lot of what they were experiencing with that person in adolescence was infatuation, since most of those “soul mate” relationships ended before or just after they graduated. When we were writing our book, Forever and A Day, one of the questions we asked couples as we were gathering information about what made their marriage successful was, “are you soul mates?” Most couples we spoke with said they hadn’t thought about that term, yet we do find couples at our enrichment days or evenings reference each other as soul mates. Why the sudden usage of the term?
I think Lisa Anderson’s concerns about the effects of the soul mate search in the article “Will God hook me up online” is interesting.
They think if they marry their “soul mate” then the marriage will be easy and wonderful. Then if the marriage turns rocky, game over; they suddenly decide they’ve picked the wrong mate. The marriage ends and they return to square one, searching for someone else to fill the soul mate role.
On the other hand, searching for a soul mate can be tragically intimidating, to the point of indecision.
“We’re seeing young adults – X-ers and millennials – absolutely paralyzed and unable to get to marriage because they want to do it right,” says Anderson. “They don’t want to be their parents’ generation … the largest divorce generation in history.”
What I heard from my students was a fear of divorce, especially if they had unhappy or divorced parents. They wanted to make sure that the person they married was the right one, one who would make them happy, or someone to fill their every need. They never thought about the fact that their parents likely had those same thoughts when they got married.
Is Bob my soul mate? I don’t know, but I do know that much of what my students looked for did happen not because God had predestined that we be together. Could I have been happy with someone else the answer is likely “yes”. I get support for that when I look at widows and widowers who marry a second time. Would my life be quite different if Bob weren’t in it? The answer is a resounding “YES.” I think all the things that we looked for and what young people are looking for today come from finding someone you see as compatible, someone to whom you are attracted-physically, spiritually, emotionally and psychologically and then never taking any of what you have together for granted. It requires work and celebration, giving and accepting forgiveness, failures and successes, sorrows and joys. The focus has to always be that we are on a journey toward God together. Maybe when we both meet God we will discover that heaven is living the life of soul mates not just with each other but with all who share God’s love.
Like all aspects of marriage and relationship, soul mate is an interesting concept to consider. However there is no one thing that makes a marriage successful. It requires determination, letting go of pride, never being self-righteous. More importantly it requires a sense of gratitude, humility, work, and seeing that there is always something or someone greater than the two of you. Don’t necessarily give up looking for that one person to share your life, but having it all together before you get married may mean that you are one step closer to it not working out. A priest friend of ours used to say to us “remember; ripe is one step from rotting.” Enjoy the process of the journey and as I said, maybe at the end you will discover your soul mate.
What do you think? Have a story to share? Leave a comment below.
Bob & Rita Boeke are:
Authors: Forever and a Day: An Invitation to Create a Marriage that Lasts a Lifetime
Presenters of Marriage Enrichment Programs. Info at http://readabookpress.com
Bloggers at http://thewonderofmarriage.com
Contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org or 847.204.1151
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