The concept of a soulmate, the perfect partner who complements you on every level and completes all of your missing pieces, may be destroying your love life.
Not only is the possibility of finding the one, statistically improbable, but the belief in destiny's one true love can create unrealistic expectations that impede the development of a happy, healthy relationship. Reliance on the soulmate as a source of everlasting love is so troublesome and pervasive that it inspired my upcoming TedxVancouver talk on Saturday (Oct. 18) at Vancouver's Queen Elizabeth Theatre, which aims to shake up the way we look at dating and relationships.
From a mathematical standpoint, connecting with your one true soulmate in a world of approximately seven billion people means that the odds are decisively stacked against you. If we assume that 75 per cent of the population is of dating age and you're only interested in half of them (if you're bisexual your chances are even slimmer), you have a one in 2.625 billion chance of finding The One.
Given these odds, dispensing with the fantasy of finding The One, might significantly improve your chances of finding an exceptional one with whom you can live happily ever after.
Beyond the daunting statistical improbability, the soulmate myth tends to perpetuate idealistic beliefs about love and relationships:
Our love is unconditional.
She completes me.
We are perfect for one another.
He just gets me.
As fleeting and romantic thoughts, the above statements are exciting, alluring and comforting. They may even enhance your connection as a couple. As a foundation for a relationship in the real world, however, they alone are insufficient.
Unconditional love sounds like a dream come true. Who wouldn't want a partner who loves them unequivocally? But the reality is that no relationship that is rooted in honesty, equality, and respect is truly without conditions. Every person has a breaking point and a set of non-negotiable expectations and acknowledging these from the onset of a relationship establishes a stronger foundation than any promise of unconditionality ever could.
Similarly, feeling as though your life is complete when you find your life partner makes sense. If you've ever been in love, you know the pleasure of relishing in this comfort. However, when the desire for your lover to complete you is accompanied by the expectation that this one person can fulfill all of your needs, you're setting yourself up for an inevitable letdown.
As for perfection, your partner is human and therefore, imperfect. You will disagree, fight and struggle over the course of your relationship, but this doesn't mean that you're not meant to be together.
People who believe in soulmates claim that they have an unexplainable connection punctuated by the ability to know what the other is thinking and simply "just get one another." This valuable connection and wondrous ability to communicate non-verbally, however, is entirely explainable.
As you spend time with one another, your thought and behaviour patterns become predictable and it makes sense to take comfort in your lover's ability to understand you in profound and unspoken ways. However, leaning on the expectation for your partner to "just get you" can lead to unresolved conflicts and resentment.
No connection is deep enough to pave the way for mind-reading and a renunciation of this soulmate-based fallacy may, in fact, intensify your connection.
Don't get me wrong. I believe in love and am convinced that my marriage will last. I've been with my partner for 13 years and couldn't be happier. He is the most important part of my life, but not because he's the only person on Earth with whom I could possibly love and grow old.
I believe we have a happy marriage, because we don't view one another as predestined soulmates. We acknowledge that love is not unconditional and work to consistently impress and enliven one another.
We accept that we are not perfect and talk about our vulnerabilities.
We feel a special connection, but attribute this not to romantic destiny, but to the time and effort we put into our relationship.
As well as we know one another, we also appreciate that the only way to fully understand one another's needs, thoughts and feelings is to ask and share. Sometimes we communicate remarkably effectively and other times we fail miserably. But we never stop trying.
We believe that romance and chemistry require cultivation and accept that negative emotions (e.g. jealousy and discomfort) are a functional part of the relationship.
In short, we are happy because we know that a successful marriage is not underpinned by fate or an incomprehensible connection, but by hard work and commitment.
Our relationship isn't perfect. And I don't believe that we're soulmates in an ethereal sense. But I am confident that we're going to live (overwhelmingly) happily ever after, because we value and nurture our relationship. In this sense, perhaps you can never find a soulmate, but can become one with the love and support of the right partner.
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