“But, is he my soul mate?”
I asked this question over and over as my dating relationship with my now-husband progressed. After a few months of dating, I had broken up with him because I wasn’t sure I had the right answer.
I regretted that decision for many reasons, and we did in fact get back together, but the question still nagged at me — what if we weren’t soul mates? What if we weren’t meant to be together, predestined by virtue of our matched souls? Sure, we were compatible in many ways … we were both musicians, we both loved the outdoors, and we shared the most important thing in our lives, our faith. But I worried that we were missing some kind of mystical stamp of approval, evidence that our souls were predestined to be together, long before we had ever met.
I wondered in part because there were many ways in which we were total opposites: after a long week, he just wanted to relax at home, and I was ready to see the world. His taste in movies was rather … militaristic; I would rather watch a slow and moving drama. Our relationship was rocky, largely because I had unrealistic expectations of what a perfect relationship should look like. I had filled out an online-dating profile before I met him, and the infinite number of choices for dates had given me the impression that there was always another option just around the corner. Any flaws my husband exhibited — like being a bit shy and reserved when meeting my family — made me think that perhaps a seasoned parental entertainer might be just one click away on Match.com. And what if that guy was “the one,” and this guy wasn’t? I had the feeling I could always better my hand by drawing one more card.
People looking for love today might actually have too many options. They have endless apps and dating sites that enable everything from hook-ups to casual dates to searching for a life partner. Daters can endlessly adjust and re-write their profiles, continually trying to ensure that they will attract the right kind of match. The infinite options for how to present yourself can be overwhelming.
And apps like Tinder can make daters feel like all it takes is one glance and a “swipe” to decide if someone is worthy of a relationship. I wonder if I was guilty of mentally “swiping” — and rejecting — potential mates in the past, always hoping that someone just a little more perfect would come along.
Before I met my husband, my longest relationships lasted only a few months. As soon as I found something even just a bit unlikable about someone, I promptly ended the relationship. If he liked sports too much, or was a loud chewer, or occasionally had greasy hair, he was a goner. I was on a hunt for someone who would ultimately meet my long list of expectations, and the new dating-technology world enabled this fantasy.
“Were they good enough for me?” I would ask. In my mind, I was a good catch — and any guy I dated should be a perfect catch. If I had a long list of criteria for a husband, I thought it was only right: contemporary attitudes about dating imply that everyone had a perfect match; the online dating sites promise to check off every one of those boxes. Needless to say, my pride was a problem. This attitude of “What can they give me?” was harmful and destructive, and is, in fact, lazy. Building a relationship is actually building something. It takes labor. And I had to do my part too, and that meant recognizing that everyone in the world — even a man who looks perfect on a website — has flaws. It meant recognizing that I also have flaws that someone would have to tolerate.
My husband and I reconciled, and I decided, for the first time, to confront the fact that he wasn’t perfect — and that I wasn’t either.
As our relationship grew more serious, and I still struggled with the soul mate question, I sought advice from friends who were older, wiser, and had been happily married for some time. One friend reminded me that of course, there would always be someone better looking, wealthier, funnier, more athletic, more whatever, than her spouse. But they had chosen each other, for life, and the life they were building together would only sweeten with time.
She was absolutely right.
There are seasons in a marriage. Sometimes those seasons are stressful and hectic, like the four times in five years we’ve moved across the country. Sometimes the seasons are full of fun and smooth sailing, and we rejoice in the blessing of our marriage, truly grateful for each other.
Getting to the good times takes hard work, though. They aren’t stumbled upon by accident, especially with careers, children, finances, a home, and the million other obligations that siphon time and energy away from our most important human relationship.
I feel the most connected to my husband when we deliberately take time out for each other — when we make a choice to spend time together, or to work on communicating, or when we tackle a project or a problem together. When we’re actively working to serve each other, love grows. When we go out of our way to do thoughtful things for each other, our feelings of love, and being in love, increase. This work is what brings us, and our souls, closer together.
I can honestly say that I love my husband 10 times more than I did on our wedding day, a mere six years ago. The richness of our relationship has only been enhanced by experiencing the births of our children, making a new life in a new state (more times than we would have liked), working through conflict, and forgiving each other. Sure, there have been plenty of challenging times, and there have even been a few times when I’ve wondered if there may be someone “better” out there for me.
And maybe, on an app, there is. I bet there’s someone out there who’s better at basketball, tells better jokes, or is a more conscientious dish-doer than my husband. There may always be someone, somewhere, that could seem “better,” but these seemingly superior mates would most assuredly come with their own flaws. Perhaps these men wouldn’t be as jolly, as quick to forgive, or as (sometimes) adventurous as my dear man. And besides, he’s mine and I’m his and we committed to working this out. When you get married, you learn that there’s no such thing as soul mates, because a soul mate is an ideal, a perfect partner. And no one in this world is perfect.
The sweetness of our friendship has only grown over time. This is true for many married couples — you know the ones who, after 35 or 45 years of marriage, are stronger than ever. The couples who still hold hands and go on dates and flirt with each other well into their 70s and 80s. I’m not sure it’s possible to say, after only five years of marriage, if my husband is my soul mate. It really is the “sticking it out” — the work to forgive each other’s flaws and try to address our own—that creates a bond and an intimacy that just doesn’t exist from the first “swipe.” We choose to make our life together; we choose to forever link our two souls. That’s what someday will make us soul mates.
I stopped doing this one little thing every day, and it strengthened my marriage