Monday, June 21, 2010

Myth of the Soul-Mate or "But How Could He DO That To Me?"

How our society worships the "soul-mate". We grow up dreaming of him. Imagining him. And, we think, meeting and marrying him.
We imagine happily ever after. We imagine growing old together. We can't imagine burying our soul-mate, but know that one of us will have to deal with the death of the other.
We watch friends leave husbands for their soul-mate. We watch husband's leave wives for their soul-mate.
And then come the day when our soul-mate betrays us. When, it turns out, he wasn't our soul-mate after all but a total scumbag with the scruples of a tomcat.
And what compounds the pain is that we never saw this coming. Nowhere in the fairy tale we were sold did the princess get betrayed by the prince who was two-timing with a step-sister.
The idea of a soul-mate has done more to distort adult relationships than just about anything apart from the g-spot.
And yet it's a fantasy that won't die.
Why? Phyllis Theroux, author of The Journal Keeper, offers us a clue:
One of the strongest illustions in life is that another person's love will liberate us. The illusion is hard to let go of, even when one Lover after another has disappeared, because while they are present they do set us temporarily "free." We feel a if we are more talented and lovable, and then they turn away and stop loving us, and we realize how much our balloon depending upon their hot air.
Belief in our soul-mate is, essentially, a desire to feel whole. To see a reflection of ourselves – a flattering one – in another's eyes. And when we lose that, it's easy to lose ourselves. Suddenly we can't see ourselves at all. My sense of self was rocked to the core. If I wasn't this adored wife, then who, exactly, was I? And if I couldn't trust this soul-mate...this extension of myself, I thought, then who could I trust.
The process of rebuilding my marriage began with an acceptance that he wasn't my soul-mate. That such a thing likely didn't exist except in the imaginations of song-writers and Nicholas Sparks.
My husband didn't share a perfectly compatible value system. He didn't want exactly what I wanted in life. He didn't feel exactly as I felt – or as I assumed he should feel – about lots of things. And in order for us to piece together our shattered life, I needed to get that through my thick head.
No easy task.
I clung tight to that fantasy. But slowly, I loosened my grip. Slowly, I started giving myself what I always wanted from him. Unconditional acceptance. Non-judgement. A sense of appreciation for who I am and what I stand for. Love. And the more I gave myself those things, the less I needed them from him. The more I was able to accept him as apart from me, but a part of my life out of choice.
It's less romantic, in some ways. Gone is the childhood fantasy of someone who will love me without fail.
But in its place is the recognition that I can be that person for myself. Which is as it always should have been.


  1. Your posts speak to me. Thank you so much for this.

  2. Good luck finding a way to love for love itself and without limitation because of your past.

    You loved blind, you were hurt, and your love is now guarded. Removing that guard might never happen, but at least you'll know why its not as satisfying as it used to be.

  3. I think that's true, certainly in the short term. But what I've learned is that blind love isn't based in reality. It's refusing to see shortcomings, rather than loving in spite of them.
    I've also learned that loving with the expectation of seeing that reflected back is also unrealistic. Though our culture sells us that fantasy, it's unattainable. What is attainable is learning to love ourselves in a way that, in a sense, immunizes us from another's betrayal. Of course, any betrayal will hurt...but when we feel solidly rooted in ourselves, it's easier to see it as the other person's problem, not a wholesale rejection of who WE are. We're able to see that it really has nothing to do with us.
    Of course, this all takes a TON of work and healing. And, depending on the levels of betrayal and trauma in our past, it can be a lifetime's work. Betrayal that leads to trauma (which much does), some studies reveal, literally rewires the brain, leaving us vulnerable. But it is possible to learn new behaviours, even if they feel foreign at first.
    I hope you'll at least consider the possibility of loving again for its own sake. A life hardened against any love isn't much of a's purely survival. Which is all many of us are capable at first...but can make changes long-term.

  4. I so relate to this. I also used to believe that love conquered all. That it didn't matter what obstacle stood in a couple's path (different life goals, different value systems, etc), love was enough. Now I see that it isn't. Love is important, but it can't overcome big basic things that will undermine a marriage in the long run. It won't heal addictions, past traumas, or insecurities. All that takes work, individually, and together. Without the work, love isn't enough.




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