September 15, 2011
Is He My Soul Mate or Just a Good Mate?
I used to believe in soul mates as much as I believe in the New Yorker – which is to say a lot. Not just when I was little but I remember talking to my mom about it not long after I graduated from college and defending the idea that it was fated in the stars that there is only one guy in the world for me and we were meant to be together.
Years later, after a man I loved broke my heart, I stopped believing in soul-mates. It wasn’t a conscience decision but as I was dating a number of different men, I would ask myself, could I see us spending the rest of our lives together? Do we want the same things out of life and should we make a go of it? I settled into this very practical place where I just decided that there were a number of men out there who I could reasonably have a decent life with and I’d just try to make the most educated guess possible. I wasn’t upset by it – in fact the thought that there was more than one possibility for me out there kind of put my mind at ease because if one didn’t work out, there were other fish in the sea.
So a little over six months ago, when Mr. Dreamboat and I started dating, I was still in this practical frame of mind. Is he ambitious? Does he want to live where I want to live? Do we have similar values? Similar interests? Similar priorities when spending money? I was checking all those markers that social researchers say are the best, although still flawed, predictors of a marriage staying together. Naturally, I was excited as it became apparent that many of this man’s answers were my answers. But the notably absent question that I didn’t ask myself was is this guy the one I’m fated to be with? I didn’t ask if he was my soul mate.
Then, a few weeks ago, we saw the movie Crazy.Stupid.Love. together. In the movie, there is a lot of talk about soul mates mainly because the teenage son unreservedly believes in this romantic notion and infuses the idea into all the relationships around him. But even though the movie has an uplifting ending (sorry if that’s a spoiler but did you really think a Steve Carrell Rom Com was not going to have an uplifting ending?), it made me really sad and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.
The more I let it all percolate in my brain, I realized perhaps that I was depressed because by not believing in soul mates, I was essentially saying I don’t think I will ever find my soul mate. And if I did want to believe in them again, was Mr. Dreamboat my soul mate? I didn’t have an answer. Our relationship certainly didn’t start out in the way my teenage self envisioned. I pictured us falling in love at first sight, oftentimes he was an artist who was so obsessed with me that he had to paint me over and over, then we’d have a whirlwind romance that included Paris within a matter of days and a wedding soon after to a man that was perpetually in love with me and possibly fireworks behind the Eiffel Tower. (Cut me some slack, I was a fourteen year old girl.) So that scenario was out as a bellweather, but I didn’t really care much about any of that anymore.
The part I wanted to cling to was the metaphysical part. The idea that God or the universe or the stars made someone out there for me and that once we joined together, we would both be part of something larger than our individual self and we would stay that way eternally. I’m guessing that most of you who are married can’t stop rolling your eyes at this fantasy. I know my mom who is 35 years into a successful marriage is just biding her time waiting for me to be years into a marriage with screaming kids so she can come ask me if I feel connected by the universe to my husband now.
But nonetheless, I can’t eradicate that romantic notion from my head. Recently, someone asked me about Mr. Dreamboat and called him my Beshert. A Beshert is the Jewish term for this idea of soul mates but in more traditional terms it refers to the belief that God has essentially chosen ahead of time the person we are made for and therefore will marry. I told him that was the first time someone had called him that to me. He retorted that I made it seem like he was my Beshert. I thought about the first few months of our relationship. Is it him? I wondered. The thing that bothered me was that I didn’t recognize it instantly. We had started dating and instead of instantly knowing that this man was my soul mate, I instead was focusing on practical reasons we might be right for each other. Doesn’t one just know, when it’s right as opposed to questioning it and trying to reason it out? I started to think that maybe Mr. Dreamboat wasn’t my soul mate. Maybe he was just a good match for me and maybe that should be enough.
This past weekend we were out of town at a wedding. At some point late into the evening, we were dancing a bit out of control. One of the bridesmaids stopped me as I walked by her later and said literally but with endearment he’s a freak and you’re a freak and that’s why you guys were meant to be together. I’m chalking the freak implication up to the fact that we were in the mid-west but the point was not lost me – she was saying there was no one else in the world who would dance like that with me. I looked across the room at Mr. Dreamboat. It wasn’t just the way we danced together. It was all the little things that make up who he is: what he ate, how he was raised, what he believed in, what he cared about, how his brain worked, what he liked to do, what he loved about me. There was no one else in the world like him. All those things that I thought made him perfect for me suddenly stopped being a checklist and became so specific to just him. Like he was made for me. It no longer felt like I was with him because I had made a choice that we matched up along a compatibility test. It felt like it was meant to be.