I totally believe that my husband and I are soul mates. But what does that mean exactly? To expand on my own ideas, I’m sharing sections of a piece by Ada Calhoun that appeared in TIME. Her recent book is the memoir WEDDING TOASTS I’LL NEVER GIVE.
HISTORY OF THE SOUL MATE CONCEPT
The idea of soul mate goes back to Plato’s Symposium. Zeus, thinking to humble humans, split them in half, forcing us to wander in search of our other half. As Calhoun writes, this mythological concept is VERY ROMANTIC, but has kind of messed us up–as some people keep searching, denying that a happy, healthy relationship fits that bill–and casting about continuously for THE ONE.
Calhoun admits to thinking she had met the magical one–only to discover in the bright light of reality that no–if he was her soul mate, they are definitely over-rated.
ROMANTIC CHIVALRIC TRADITION
J.R.R. Tolkien loved his wife from his teens until her death at the age of 82. But he also had some interesting things to say about our obsession with soul mates and blamed it on the Romantic Tradition. He wrote: “Its weakness is, of course, that it began as an artificial courtly game, a way of enjoying love for its own sake…It takes, or in the past has taken the young man’s eye off women as they are–that is companions in shipwreck…not guiding stars.”
Such a great statement and so realistic. Life can never be all positives. It’s when the loved person is there when things get tough, when there’s some kind of shipwreck, that real love comes through. Long-lasting love affairs, Calhoun writes, are about time, patience and commitment. Possibly years of dating can also develop these ties that bind. In the end, you are a kindred spirit or the soul mate, because of true knowledge of the other, forgiveness, and consistent love and understanding.
ARE WE CREATING A SOUL MATE?
In her piece, Calhoun writes about a friend’s parents who appeared to be soul mates, but really didn’t have much to bind them together. “She was Jewish, and he had a good job. That was enough for the marriage to begin.” But they struggled while raising their family and talked about separating when that part of their lives was completed. But what had happened during that time? When the children were grown, they discovered that neither wanted to leave the marriage.
DIVIDE and CONQUER
I can only speak from the one marriage that has blessed my life. When we started out, we were both working, but SILLY ME insisted that I take over the household chores, because my husband came from a large family and had already had a large share of domestic life. He bought me a washer and dryer a month after our wedding. YAY. We had a small townhouse (thank you Park Forest, Illinois) with hardly any yard to mow. To save money, I made lunches for me to take to my teaching job and he to take to his insurance adjuster job in downtown Chicago.
The lunch thing ended abruptly for my husband when in front of co-workers, he opened a sandwich of liver sausage on raisin bread. I was fired! (That’s all I had in the fridge.) But you see, we were developing a marriage. I was forgiven and yet a fable was born.
I fired him from lawn mowing because “I’ll do it on the weekend” just didn’t work in a Chicago spring when it rained every weekend and the grass was a foot high. GIVE AND TAKE.
Like the saying that a cold with medication lasts two weeks and one without medication lasts 14 days, our marriage is solid. No one could have provided for me better, loved me more and fathered our children with constant care, understanding and humor than he. A photographer, trip planner, universal fixer, wine connoisseur, film partner and of course loving husband–he is mine. A total blessing. We decided a few years ago, that marriage should feel comfortable, like a worn and beloved pair of slippers. Anxiety is out. Our home is warm and companionship reigns and he always remembers to set the light timer and check the smoke detectors!! Good will abides within our home.
THUS COMFORT REIGNS
Tolkien believed “The real soul mate is the one you are actually married to.” That makes sense to me. The years of discovering this person within a marriage–his and her depths, beliefs, weaknesses and strengths–is like water flowing against a rock or a tree growing against a wall. Throughout the years, the give and take forms and shapes us within the relationship. We learn when to push ahead and when to pull back. As Calhoun states in her piece, THE IDEAL PARTNER IS THE ONE YOU CREATE.
Photo: TIME MAGAZINE online