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Given the divorce rates in our cultures, it’s time we question the popular but mythical belief that only one “soulmate” exists somewhere out there for each person.
People approach relationships with the view that someday they will meet “the one”—that prince or princess who will allow you to live happily ever after. That’s fine if you live in a two-hour movie—but it’s much better to think realistically about creating a soulmate relationship in a long-term marriage with someone compatible.
Think about what believing in a “soulmate” sets up. As a single person, you have to hunt and hunt in an endless round of encounters or dates, with the constant refrain in your head: Is it him? Is it her? Most people have no substantial clue what or whom they are looking for to even recognize that they have found “the one.” This approach has you focused on the romantic goal of falling in love, with little forethought about what’s important to you in a lifelong mate. Then, once you’ve found someone, how do you turn off the voice in your head that starts second-guessing by asking, “What if I’m wrong?”
It’s very difficult for someone to establish and sustain a relationship or marriage when they are always wondering in a little back-of-the-mind voice whether they maybe made a mistake, and the one person really destined for them is still wandering around somewhere. Maybe he’s in China. Maybe you took a wrong turn a few streets back, and she’s sitting in a different restaurant. This soulmate-hunting is a recipe for unstable relationships, and can even start marriages without full commitment—and with one foot in divorce court already.
The term “soulmate” implies that the partners rise above physical attraction, and that a deep and spiritual bond exists between them. The common belief is that one has to find a soulmate. Of course, we should all involve our souls in the quest for a mate. Praying to be guided through the process of meeting and recognizing a potential mate is a good thing. But, overall, it’s better and wiser to believe that a soulmate relationship is created. The Baha’i teachings encourage couples to focus in this direction:
Baha’i marriage is the commitment of the two parties one to the other, and their mutual attachment of mind and heart. Each must, however, exercise the utmost care to become thoroughly acquainted with the character of the other, that the binding covenant between them may be a tie that will endure forever. Their purpose must be this: to become loving companions and comrades and at one with each other for time and eternity…. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 118.
When you think you’ve found a soulmate, but you have had little opportunity to share life experiences, the relationship is probably based on complementary emotional needs. You may be two survivors of previous bad marriages or troubled childhoods, or maybe just two lonely people overwhelmingly delighted to discover that the other accepts them. These are shaky foundations for a “soulmate” marriage.
Instead, strong marriages thrive when set on a foundation of friendship and the ability to share a life of love and service to others. In spiritual terms, developing a soulmate connection will follow naturally when people marry someone they are friends with, love deeply, and can live with and raise children with peacefully. True, created soulmates take time to discover and develop your spiritual bond, likely with mutual prayer and worship. True, created soulmates practice developing inner qualities of character, such as kindness, compassion, and faithfulness. The possibilities of finding someone to build this type of relationship with are far more realistic than the idea of there being only one person that matches up with you. Consider what it would feel like to be as close as this:
The Lord, peerless is He, hath made woman and man to abide with each other in the closest companionship, and to be even as a single soul. They are two helpmates, two intimate friends, who should be concerned about the welfare of each other. If they live thus, they will pass through this world with perfect contentment, bliss, and peace of heart, and become the object of divine grace and favor in the Kingdom of heaven. – Ibid., p. 122.
Before marriage, exploring and creating a relationship with this type of soulmate harmony is a process that takes time and requires a lot of communication. You can read relationship books together, attend relationship skill-building classes, and more. You can participate in activities together that support your exploration of compatibility and character. None of this requires living together—in fact, research often shows that cohabitation is no predictor of later marital satisfaction and longevity. Becoming soulmates requires that couples do real things together, not just sit in a movie theater or go dancing.
Participating in community service projects together will quickly let you know about each other’s character and ability to sustain marital life through difficulties. Can you have complex discussions with each other and successfully solve problems together? If you spend time with children, can you see that you would be effective parents together? What are your beliefs about educating and disciplining children? Can you cook a meal together peacefully–and serve it to your parents?
When partners become friends and trust, love, and commit to each other, when they learn how to join their lives successfully as marriage partners, they can become each other’s soulmate. Within marriage, you engage in a lifelong process of nurturing your soulmate bond.