There seems to be a movement in some of the Christian relationship blogs I read to debunk the “myth” of soul mates. The argument can be summed up in this quote from Boundless.org’s article Myths About Soul Mates: “Believing that ‘the one’ is out there, waiting to ‘complete you,’ inevitably leads to discontentment and maybe even divorce.” Another of their articles, Hoping for a Soul Mate, quotes Atlanta psychiatrist Frank Pittman as saying, “Nothing has produced more unhappiness than the concept of a soul mate.” If you’re not familiar with these arguments, I encourage you to glance at one or both links. I’ll wait.
Defining “Soul Mate”
You might now be wondering why I’m writing a post about believing in soul mates, given these compelling arguments about the dangers of having an expectation like this in dating. Just so we’re all on the same page before I write any more, here’s a composite definition of what the articles I referenced above seem to mean when they use the term “soul mate.”
A soul mate is your perfect match, who complements all your weaknesses and strengths and loves you unreservedly for who you are. There is only one soul mate for each person, and you’re on a search to find them so they can “complete you.”
These articles say this is an impossible ideal, and it becomes dangerous when we start holding the person we’re in or considering a relationship with to impossible and unrealistic expectations. And I do acknowledge this is a danger if we’re focused on the idea of finding one perfect mate (see this scene in Ever After for a humorous example of a few problems which can result). I have a slightly different take on the idea of soul mates, though.
My Idea of a Soul Mate
I imagine there are several people out there who have the potential to be our “soul mates.” For me, I think this would look like a relationship where I feel safe sharing my inner thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Someone who can understand, relate to, or at least appreciate the parts of my mind which I so rarely share, and with whom I can connect on a “kindred spirits” level. It almost goes without staying that this kind of connection must have a spiritual/religious component as well — I doubt I could be in this kind of relationship with someone who does not share my faith. I think there’s also a bit of truth in the idea of finding a mate who “completes” you, not in the way that most people might think of it but in the way that God meant when He created a husband and wife to be two parts of a whole.
As I mentioned, in this theory of mine there are multiple people with whom the potential exists for forming this kind of soul mate connection. You might meet several, but your relationship should only reach the level of what I think of as “soul mates” with one of these people. I suspect that there’s a point in a good relationship where the other potential soul mates no longer matter because a “sole soul mate” relationship has been forged.
This is where the idea of commitment comes in. Once you choose to marry someone, you’re also choosing to cultivate a soul mate relationship only with them (the first article I linked to actually touches on this point). This is also why can be dangerous to form deep emotional intimacies with someone of the opposite sex who you don’t intend to marry (or who you’re not sure yet if you will marry) — sharing your heart without the promise of commitment to a sole soul mate relationship seems like a good way to get your heart broken.
I’m sure not everyone will agree with this idea, and really I don’t expect them to. There’s so much variation in our individual personalities, tastes and ideas that it seems ridiculous to expect everyone to want and expect the same thing from a romantic relationship.
When David Keirsey wrote his personality theories based on Myers-Briggs, he suggested that each of his four personality groups would be looking for, and be, a different kind of romantic partner. He describes the Artisans (Myers’ SP types) as Playmates, who are “exciting and fun” and usually end up married to Guardians (SJ types), who are looking to fill a Helpmate role. Rationals (NT types) want a Mindmate with whom they can have intellectual discussions and explore “abstract rather than concrete” ideas. They often marry the Idealists (NF types, like my INFJ personality), who are searching for Soulmates.
What Idealists wish for in their spouse is a Soulmate, a spouse who knows their feelings without being told of them, and who spontaneously expresses words of endearment, words that acknowledge their mate’s unique identity. Idealists want the marital relationship to be, as they put it, “deep and meaningful,” Other types will settle for much less than this. … suffice it to say that Idealists are asking their spouses for something most of them do no understand and do not know how to give. (Please Understand Me II, p.146)
Well, that sounds depressingly unattainable. Honestly, when I was reading this book the first time the beginning of this paragraph had me nodding and thinking it sounded exactly just right, but that final sentence is really discouraging. Still, I don’t think I have such unrealistic expectations as Keirsey typifies Idealists with in other parts of his book (though it does sound idyllic). But maybe he’s right and 80-85% of the population will tell me I’m crazy to hope for a “soul mate.”