One of the most damaging concepts of society has been that of the idea of “soul mates.”
Now, before you scream “heresy,” hear me out.
As a recovering hopeless romantic, I get it. The idea of having one special person that is custom made just for you sounds super appealing.
It’s unique. It’s a once in a lifetime kind of thing. If someone is your soul mate, it’s like The Notebook happening to you in real life. It’s girls who grew up on Disney having their dream come true. Cue swoon.
But slow down, there. Let’s really think about this whole “soul mate” concept. There are a few things that are just inherently wrong about the idea of soul mate that I feel require closer examination.
Let’s imagine that there really is only one perfect match for us in this whole world.
7.3 billion people in the world and there’s one perfect person who is going to complete you? Really?
We live on a rock filled with an explosive core that spins at a rate of 1,000 miles per hour and has remained suspended in space since the beginning of time. It seems like whatever divine energy keeps that system moving would be much more precise than the concept of a “soul mate” when it comes to our most intimate partnerships.
Next, the soul mate myth sets up unrealistic expectations. People who believe in soul mates and who believe they have found theirs tend to expect that their relationship should be “easy” because they are soul mates.
Because they expect that the stars will line up perfectly and they’ll fit hand and glove with their soul mate, people don’t think about things like learning how to communicate effectively, or even how to deal with their sh*t in the context of a relationship.
They think that their soul mate is going to accept them just as they are, so they are free of any need to improve. Concurrently, they accept more and tolerate more bad behavior from their partner because, well, they’re soul mates!
People mistake the intense attraction they feel for another person as a sign that they are soul mates, but what is most interesting is that attraction is not necessarily a sign of great compatibility.
The thing about attraction is that it can actually be deceptive—neuroscientists have found that we are “wired” certain ways based on our primary childhood influences. Therefore, we are wired to respond to people who are similar; we “recognize” them and have strong responses and believe that strong response is a sign of fate or destiny.
Many times, we are acting out old patterns or looking for someone to fill in some perceived deficit we have. These unconscious patterns are like a bad matchmaker, driving you into the arms of destruction.
So what’s a New Age spiritual love ninja supposed to do about love if indeed there are no such things as “soul mates” (or if the notion is just really, really misused)?
First, let’s get real about the idea of one perfect person who will complete you a la Jerry Maguire. While my naïve romantic side swooned at that line, my grown up self realizes that no one can complete another. The best relationships are with two whole and individual people who are content with themselves before they partner.
Don’t buy into the “there’s one perfect person for me and when we meet it will be all rainbows and magic and everything will be easy and fun”. You will have to know how to communicate, how to ask for what you want, how to set boundaries and understand all other the necessary skills for cultivating a good relationship. If you expect that you’ll meet your “soul mate” and they will magically know exactly what you want, you’re setting yourself up to be majorly disappointed.
Next, do your own healing work before you go into relationship. Carl Jung once said that “until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
When you’re single, you have great opportunities to grow—and believe me, if you don’t do it now, you’re going to have to face it later. Recognize that unless you had a perfect childhood with perfect parents and a perfect school with perfect teachers and perfect first love, the sooner you face it, the sooner you can become conscious, aware and lighten your emotional load which will make traveling the freeway of love much easier.
(By the way, we all know no one has had a perfect life—we’ve all got some baggage to unpack.)
I believe we attract people who reflect where we are in this journey of life. If we think we are unlovable, we will attract people who affirm that belief. If we think we are disposable, we will attract people who treat us that way. If you believe you are worthy, you will attract people who treat you as though you are. With that said, I believe that a true “soul mate” relationship comes along when we have mastered the art of love—first of all, with ourselves.
When you fall in love with yourself, really, truly love, respect, honor and admire and see yourself as the worthwhile, lovable, amazing goodness that is you—then you will find your “soul mate”. Because a soul mate is simply another person recognizing that which your soul already knows and reflecting it in how they love you.
Author: Lisa Vallejos, PhD
Editor: Alli Sarazen