What If The Term “Soul Mate” Is Why Your Love Life Sucks?

“Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”

 Emily Brontë

In a New York magazine article about soul mates, writer, Melissa Dahl, considered the question: What if the term “soul mate” is the reason why your love life sucks? This caught my attention. As she points out in her article, recent research suggests that describing your love relationship in terms, like, “he’s my soul mate” may be super detrimental to your expectations.

You know what language works better to describe your love relationships? Being on a journey, walking a road together. The reason is deceptively simple. Having a “soul mate” implies completeness. It sounds like a pairing of souls. They are your other half. A longed-for perfection. And when this is not the case, when things do not progress absolutely, smoothly, when there is difficulty or misunderstandings between you and your soul mate, you suffer from a greater sense of failure whenever you consider your relationship. Makes sense. The term “soul mate” creates falsely elevated expectations. Whereas, when you consider your partnership like a long walk, on a path you hike together, naturally, one might stumble, one would need help, one might want to slow down, and of course, there would be ups and downs. This is all implied by the use of a different metaphor.

(Science seems to be suggesting that, like the many rom-com Ryans: Ryan Phillipe, Ryan Reynolds, or for your Mom, maybe it’s Meg Ryan or Ryan O’Neal, the idea of having a romantic “soul mate” may be terrible for you in real life.)

We recognize a soulmate by the supreme level of comfort and security we feel with that person. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t issues that remain to be ironed out. Rather, it means we know intuitively that we can resolve issues with our soul mate without losing his or her love and respect.

Linda Brady

Now, I won’t lie, I use the term. I’ve told a few women I felt they were my soul mate. I like the idea. I very much believe in souls. And that’s why I use it often. Well, relative to most people, I use it often. “Wait! You use soul mate … often? Hey Zaron, d’you just go around telling every girl you get naked with that she’s your soul mate?” Um, no. That would be super lame. What I mean by often is, I’ll say it to dudes I know. Like, “Man, you know you’re my fucking soul mate, right?” Oh yeah! They love/hate it. And crazier still, it doesn’t even take tequila to wrestle the words out of my mouth. They practically fly out. I say that shit to them sober, looking ‘em in the eye. Yes, I know this is not normal. My point is … it should be.

Melissa Dahl makes some interesting points in her article. She got me thinking that, maybe, my sarcastic approach isn’t as crazy as it seems. Maybe a soul mate isn’t or shouldn’t be an exclusive gig. Perhaps, it’s not a star-crossed pairing. It’s not a split soul cleaved in two, nor is it twinned spirits who wander the world seeking their missing other half. Nope. Instead, maybe, it’s more like how you find that some souls vibrate at certain frequencies. (I know, frequency is so inexact and overused. What word would you prefer? For now, we’ll go with frequency, but it’ll will be like the n-word, I say it, but you know I really mean something else.)

Basically, just like how a radio station broadcasts at certain frequencies, you’ll find some folks make a recognizable noise at certain frequencies. The people I like best, the ones I know instantly are my people, the ones that I can somehow “feel” even when we’re separated by great distances, they all make a recognizable noise. I can “hear” their signal. To me, those people are my soul mates.

People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But 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

It helps if you take an Australian view of things. I really like my Aussie friends. Generally, I dig how they arrange their priorities. But one word they use, as cool as it is, I never borrow, because it’s such a lame way to bond with an Aussie. Like, seriously, it’s best if you never ever call an Aussie your mate. This is not a two-way street. They may call you a mate. And when they do, no lie, it feels rad. It’s a fun word with a deeper meaning. But if you are an American, accept that it’s not your word. Just leave it be. Otherwise, you come off sounding like a wanker. (Just like how that sounded.)

That said, relying on that word, the Aussies have figured out a cool way to identify those relationships that change you and shape your life — your mates. The term refers to those souls you hold dear — the ones you will claim in public, the ones you will defend in their absence, and with fists if you must — the ones who are your mates-4-lyfe.

A soulmate is someone to whom we feel profoundly connected, as though the communicating and communing that take place between us were not the product of intentional efforts, but rather a divine grace.

Thomas Moore

If you borrow this Aussie view of mates, you no longer have to exclusively view your soul mate as someone who is, or will be, your spouse; a person who is, or will be, the co-parent of your children; a person who’s your life-partner and your one-and-all-and-everything. Sure, you will lose a sense of exclusivity if you take the Aussie plunge, but as science seems to be suggesting, taking the soul mate out of your romantic language and instead applying it to all the people who touch your soul, might greatly benefit you.

I used to believe in one true soul mate, but not anymore. I believe you can have a few.

Paul Walker

Think of it this way, consider what the loss of your one true love can mean — this romantic notion of soul mates can twist, dry and hang a lot of hearts on the clothesline of life, never to be loved again.

Like, what would it mean for the young widow if she didn’t lose her one chance at a life filled with love? Or what would it mean for the newly-divorced dude who thinks he will never again feel the same? And what would it mean for the young dater who would no longer feel the burden of looking for someone so impossible to identify in a Brooklyn house-party as “your soul mate?” (You’re way more likely to meet Bill Murray.)

A soulmate is an ongoing connection with another individual that the soul picks up again in various times and places over lifetimes. We are attracted to another person at a soul level not because that person is our unique complement, but because by being with that individual, we are somehow provided with an impetus to become whole ourselves.

Edgar Cayce

Instead of wandering the Earth in search of your one twin soul, you hike through life bonded and buoyed by the many soul mates you discover along your path.

Your roommate can be your soul mate. Your best-friend can certainly be your soul mate. Your sister or brother, if you’re lucky, can be a lifelong soul mate. Your partner, whether that means you’re cops sharing a squad car, soldiers riding patrol, oil rig workers enduring a double-shift, or nurses holding down the overnight ER in-flow together, you can be soul mates. And none of those relationships would change the fact your boyfriend or girlfriend or husband or wife is also your soul mate.

“Maybe our girlfriends are our soulmates and guys are just people to have fun with.” 

 Candace Bushnell

Rather than drag (the apparently toxic) romantic term out back and put it out of its misery because rom-coms have distorted the poor idea into unrecognizable and unrealistic proportions like bad L.A. plastic surgery, while this century is still young, let’s blow open some doors and start loving each other more, out loud, and with words. Let’s shake things up. Let some folks know they’re you’re soul mates. Like, for reals.

Of course, you may want to explain what you mean, tell them that you’re using this newly redefined term, and tell them you don’t want to run off and move to Aruba. Nope. You just think they’re one of the good ones. One of the really good ones. They’re someone you feel at that soul level. If they’re your soul mate, they should understand. (If not, forward them this link and my apologies for the confusion.)

Let’s all do ourselves a real solid and expand the meaning of the term, so we can all be #blessed with #soulmates. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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