Your Soulmate Isn’t Who You Think It Is.


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Bonus: How to Find the One.

Mark Radcliffe thinks you should skip the supermodel and go for the one who loves you even on your worst days.

We all have our own romanticized notions of what it will be like when we find true love. How it’ll go. What it’ll feel like. What he or she will look like, sound like, act like. Even kiss like.

And every once in a while, we actually meet that person. There they are! In the bar standing next to us! Or down the hall at work! Or in the line at the bookstore!

They’re perfect. Everything we imagined. And so we engage. And chase. And pursue. And assume our very best behavior. And fight for a chance at that perfect union we’ve imagined in our heads for so long.

And sometimes it works! We get their phone number. And a date! And a second date! And sometimes it even goes a month or two!

But then at some point, it runs afoul. What once seemed effortless becomes arduous. The perfect conversations suddenly don’t flow as easily. The shine has worn off the apple. It’s work, now. And who has time for that?

And here’s where many a relationship come to an unfortunate end. Because the other person thinks it should only be constant magic. That anything else is merely a false symbol.

But we still chase them! We want it back! We think of what we can do to possibly salvage this sinking ship. Should we change ourselves? Adjust our behavior? Change our whole personality? After all: this is love. Surely it’s worth sacrificing for, no?

No, I’m here to say. It’s not. Because there’s a big, horrible idea out there in the world of romance: That if it’s not hard, it’s not real.

True romance must be earned, we believe. Struggled for. Barely survived.

If it comes easy, it’s wrong. Shallow. Too simple.

We must suffer for love. We must cry with certain regularity. Lose our faith time and time again only to barely regain it again.

I humbly submit that such a belief is the romantic equivalent of 100% grade-A bullsh*t.

Perhaps it comes from our culture’s puritanical beginnings. The notion that anything great is worth suffering for.

And while I agree that love takes work, patience and forgiveness, I don’t think it should involve perpetual, ongoing damage-control.

If the relationship you’re in takes constant, ongoing acrobatic maneuvers to keep it afloat, then it’s not a relationship; it’s a doomsday project.

Relationships, in general, should be easy.

If they’re taking a ton of work, a ton of the time, something’s wrong.

Chances are either that:

A) One (or both) of you is not a stable enough person to even be in a relationship to begin with, and you need to go off on your own to learn how to keep yourself perfectly happy with nothing more than yourself to sustain you. (And yes, I’ve been this person many times.)

B) One of you has unrealistic expectations of what the other is supposed to provide them on a regular basis. (And yes, I’ve been this person, too.) They think you’re supposed to keep them constantly entertained. Or wined and dined. Or sexually pleasured. Or emotionally rescued. Or financially bailed out.

Neither of which is sustainable.

Which is why I say the following:

Don’t chase the person you can barely hold on to when you’re at the top of your game.

Seek out the person you can be happy with even when you’re having a bad day. Or week. Or month.

Because those days will happen, many, many times over the course of a relationship.

And the person who’s only happy with you when you’re a superhero will not stick around when you finally become a mortal again and need them to be there for you, instead.

So skip the supermodel. The pursuit of your own personal Jessica Alba or David Beckham. It might be heaven for a week or two, but they’d probably dump you as soon as you failed to be the emblem of perfection for more than 2-3 seconds in a row.

That perfect pairing with the Mister or Miss Right we’ve all imagined in our hearts isn’t going to survive the endless ordinary days that real life is fraught with.

The person who’s truly right for you is probably cleverly disguised as the one you work with every day. Or the one who you’ve casually known in your circle of friends for five years. Who has seen you at your best and at your worst. And is still there, a big believer in your immense potential. And is probably an amazing kisser if you’d just give them a chance.

That’s the person it’s going to be genuinely easy with over the long haul.

So the next time you’re looking for the one, don’t look up on some stage or pedestal for some shining realization of your fantasies. Turn around and look behind you. At the person you might have overlooked. The person who is quietly everything you need them to be and more.

You just have to give them a deeper look.

—Photo he(art)geek/Flickr

* This essay originally appeared on The Good Men Project on 01/18/12

Bonus: Red Flag, Green Flag, the One! A Buddhist view:

Yoga Girl:


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The Good Men Project is a cerebral, new media alternative to glossy men’s magazines. Founded by Tom Matlack in 2009, it's become a social movement: an ongoing in-depth discussion asking “what does it mean to be a good man in these modern times?” Proceeds from The Good Men Foundation are used to support organizations that help at-risk boys.


82 Responses to “Your Soulmate Isn’t Who You Think It Is.”

  1. luke says:

    basically the article is saying "date someone who youre not attracted that much to", or basicallly "date down, its easier"

  2. TheTerrible says:

    Reading these commends makes me feel really sad about humanity in 2014. YOU are the idiots that contribute to the above 50% divorce rate in the US. This is an extremely large amount of children that come from divorced parents who have to see their parents constantly trying to "work hard" at their relationship.

    Coming from two parents who got divorced and "worked hard" (ie were constantly screaming at each other), it's not a healthy environment.

    I went on to date lots of terrible people who I had to "work really hard" with, not realizing they were basically the people mentioned in this article that expected too much and always took and took, had their own problems, could not emotionally stand on their own. Then I met the love of my life, who was the easiest person in the world to love, because she loved me at my absolute worst, always. Always says "How can I help?" instead of "You never do (insert complaint here)."

    This article is dead on. All of you who say it's supposed to be hard? You're literally dumb as a bag of doorknobs. You're either really bored or you hate your own lives….I'm guessing you hate your own lives. You're stuck in some shit job you don't like (regardless if you make a lot of money or not) and you're probably overweight or have some disorder, and you're refusing to do anything about it, so you pour all of that into another person who will not be the answer and call it "hard work."

    • Krista says:

      I am not commenting on your opinion of the article and whether or not it matches my own. (Let’s say it does). I felt compelled to enlighten you (from love) ..
      It warms me that you found somebody who nurtures and helps you through your struggles with no judgement. Let’s use that as an example in remembering that everybody is in a different place of their growth. My point is, there is no need to use such harsh words toward the people who not have yet found the truths that you have. True love is the answer in relations to ALL people, not just a romantic interest. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about”

      🙂 With love

  3. Kbill says:

    Leaving out sexual attraction is a mistake in the long run.

  4. Karen says:

    Just follow your heart. Thats what I believe.

  5. Cherry says:

    This article is spot on for me! 15 years of “trying” with someone who never intended on doing anything that required him to do ANYTHING but drain the life out of me. Nothing was ever enough because he was so broken and messed up deep on the inside, there was nothing I could do except leave and pray that he finds himself one day. I have daughters who hadn’t ever seen me truly happy until I left. Love doesn’t have to be perfect, no…but love doesn’t have to hurt and be a daily struggle either. Glad I made peace with that and followed my heart towards happiness

  6. N. Green says:

    Assuming all supermodel types would leave you as the slightest difficulty? Judging based on looks? I understand the 'point' but not very well thought out and slightly steeped in judgment

  7. Shane W. says:

    LOVED this article. Glad that someone called out all the unrealistic views of relationships in TV and books for what they are. As a society, we need to grow up.

  8. Gail F. says:

    And as in the rest of life: “No pain, no pain”. However, I believe it was Wayne Dyer who said ” if you can finish each other’s sentences, one of you is not necessary”…He contends that ‘soulmates’ are those who push our buttons, cause us to grow the most; in which there are some challenges that encourage our characters and ability to love, to rise. Not all ‘sweetness and light’, but certainly not abusive and self-esteem lowering.

  9. Stephanie says:

    Well I would really appreciate it if this soul mate of mine would appear soon. I feel that I have been waiting patiently long enough. These lonely nights are getting longer.

  10. Steph says:

    This article is spot on. I don’t believe it’s implying that people should “date down” or settle for anything or anyone less than what you deserve, however I think people have unrealistic ideas about relationships and that you have to lose yourself and all that you are including your self esteem for someone that was never right for you in the first place. The bottom line is relationships should be mostly good. If you spend most of your days trying to be someone you’re not or trying to change fundimental parts of your personality to try and make someone else happy is unrealistic and absolutely no one in this world deserves that of you. Speaking as a person who is attracted to people solely on personality and connection I believe if someone can accept you for who you are, supports you, accepts you for who you are and loves you for that but most of all can make you laugh then they’re worth hanging onto. Yes sexual attraction is important, I’m not naive enough to be with someone who doesn’t give me jelly legs and butterflies but sometimes if you’re in the right place and at the right time you just might be lucky enough to meet that person that’ll still love the bones of you when you’re at your worst.

  11. Jon thur says:

    Excellent article..a real red flag is when it's hard from the beginning…I like the idea is that the person who is best for you isn't the one who always makes your heart go thump thump thump..but the person who you feel relaxed around

  12. Valeria says:

    Excellent article and very true. Unfortunately this wisdom comes only with each experience

  13. Michelle says:

    To an extent I agree. When I met my boyfriend, it was an instant attraction. I felt something really drawing me in. Somehow we’d lived in the same small town for over a decade, yet we had never met once. He knew all my family, which is even weirder. We were acquaintances for a while, despite the obvious attraction. Then, we became friends. We talked constantly. Our first real conversation was long and we seemed so insync and it happened naturally. We just seemed compatible. So it wasnt until 8-9 months after meeting we finally started dating. Things were good but there WERE hurdles. Though these hurdles could have been avoided, I was just not being an easy going person. We fought constantly because I accused him of things he wasn’t doing. Even made him cry a dozen times… All of these problems happened after only three months being together. Any sane person might have called it off right away. People from an outside perspective anyhow. It had to get to a point where I stopped blaming him for my fears of my past, and realized the compatibility between us that was undeniable. I had to LEARN to start treating him right because throughout my entire childhood I had never seen a genuine loving relationship(i know it shouldn’t be an excuse but it is my legitimate honest to god reason.) and it haunted me.
    I hadnt seen one relationship in my life where someone hadn’t cheated or done something suspicious. After pondering whether or not to call it off, and much advice from mutiple friends and family members, I decided that I had to swallow my pride and learn how to appreciate him. I had to put aside my fears, and trust him and let my walls come down. I now realize that I have a perfect person for me, sexually and romantically and in any way you can imagine, right in front of me. I realized that I want him so much I need him. So yes, sometimes some of the best relationships do go through hurdles, despite what this post suggests. However, if you express your fears, yes, I agree relationships in general should be easy. But don’t let go over some fights, especially if the root of the problem is fixable. Nip it in the bud, talk it out, let your walls down and just be happy. That’s what I’m learning to do and I’m so lucky to have such a patient person who cares

  14. Khumo says:

    funny enough it was after 8 years and two kids that i finally had a chance of dating the man i loved so much from the first time i laid eyes on him. i knew him when i still in college and he was dating someone and because i didnt want to involve myself in a love triangle i decided to cut all communication with him and went on to be in a committed relationship that later produced 2 beautiful kids but over those years and even in my relationship i couldnt forget about him. i refused to get married scared of the possibility of being married to a man whom although loved me so much i coulnt love him the same way. then one day i couldnt hold on any longer hence i left the father of my kids in pursuit of my own hapiness. hoping and praying that perhaps maybe one day i could have the same connection and the same feeling i had for my so called soulmate. a year later after 8 years since the last time i saw my soulmate , he was sitting at a resturant at an airport drinking coffee a moment i never thought would happen. suprisingly we were going on the same journey, at the same town for the same reason. we both broke up with our partners we had kids with and we were taking a holiday to refresh. things started there. the months that followed were heavenly until my soulmate started having trust issues due to past relationship issues. i tried for a full year understanding where he comes from,to sustain the relationship but it got so bad that we both decided it was better to end things. he feared so much to be cheated on to be lied to that if i dont pick up my phone when he calls or reply to his messages because im busy he becomes paranoid. i understood and i was willing to stay with him until he can be settled that i wont do what they did to him but it was getting too much for him and it didnt do any good for his self-esteem and eventually he failed trust our love and to trust me that i can sustain our love. he is my soulmate that im not with and will probably never be. its hurts me but i know life goes on and i have to allow myself to love other people and i know that eventually at some point i will.

  15. Jska says:

    But what if you (me) do everything the same way as far as caring and doing nice gestures but the other changes? We went from long talks to barely speaking. He basically ignores me now. zero attention, hasn’t touched me in forever and rarely helps me with kids. I’m really lonely now and he doesn’t seem to care. Anytime I bring my feelings up it turns into a competition about who works more and harder. I also have a stressful job that pays very well. I did fine on my own before him. In a nutshell my feelings and needs don’t matter.

  16. Krista says:

    I somewhat understand the premise.. But do not believe its delivery was effective for me. I agree that it is harmful to chase fantasy’s .. But don’t let the meaning of that get twisted. I do NOT mean I think anyone should settle. I do however think a lot of people create an image of what they want , which is fine and healthy , until they apply it to a relationship that doesn’t line up, and run into resentment galore when the other person doesn’t meet them where their imagination has demanded.
    I do NOT think it has anything to do with the reference to ‘models’ and all of that . So please explain what is meant by these statements? Good looking people are just all doomsday waiting to happen? This is a small minded approach to prove the intended point I’m afraid. Grouping models/attractive people into a ‘class’ to be stereotyped all as one…. is, well, unfair and judgmental. Those statements hugely diminish the impact of the message unfortunately.

  17. Elizabeth says:

    I loved reading this article. For years I had this belief installed that I needed to work really hard to get anything in life. In other areas of my life it seems to work that way. In love it has been an effortless struggle. Last year I met an amazing man and I truly believed he was my soulmate. There was mutual love, companionship, respect, friendship, support and so many other amazing qualities and I truly thought this was my time to be happy in love. It was so easy… suddenly when I least expected it things turned around so rapidly that before I knew it I was alone again. I went through a rough period but am standing strong on my two feet. It´s been a year to of lessons learned. I have chosen to let go, to stop struggling and believe that someone wonderful is on it´s way. Thank-you for sharing.

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