dr.K's tiips

You and Your Soul Mate

Summer is upon us and with it the images of sprawling, manicured lawns and the lush greenery of the countryside. I am reminded of an old question: How do the British manage to have such amazing lawns? The answer is: they do everything needed to start a lawn, they meticulously take care of it, then they wait 400 years and Voila!

Meeting a soul mate is based on the same principle; you meet someone, you cement your bond, you consistently cultivate your relationship through thick and thin, and after some years, voila! You are soul mates.

Now seriously, I think it is hopelessly romantic (which is not bad) and often bitterly disappointing (which it is), to assume that a complete stranger, whom you meet for the first time, can perchance be a soul mate to you. In other words, the chances are slim to none that you can meet your soul mate. Your partner and you can become soul mates but it takes some planning and dedication.

We tend to trust the complex emotions we feel toward our “chosen one” as a sign that this is the right person. Yet, these emotions are not very reliable when identifying a potential soul mate; no love, however intense, can be trusted to continue growing – or even remain strong – without consistent investment. Neglected relationships are doomed to fail – just look around you! We often behave as if our own bond is a self-generating, everlasting mutual fondness. Sadly the reality is quite the opposite: most ignored and unattended relationship, fizzle from volcanic fire to a flimsy candle in the wind, feebly flickering in and out.

You may ask yourself: what is so great about having, and being, a soul mate? The answer is simple; falling in love is the spark that starts a relationship. When that sparks dims, your couple dynamics need to switch from temporary to (hopefully) permanent. The permanent bond is based on a different foundation. After a certain time together, whatever bonded you at the beginning of the relationship does not hold strong any longer. At that point, the risk is that your connection as a couple would devolve into a routine, vague, infrequent feelings of kinship, and the fear of change.

Let me explain: At the beginning of a relationship we all have many fantasies about the future and very few memories together. With time, the weight of our memories outweighs the levity of future fantasies. If you were not attentive to your relationship, the memories can be so painful and distancing, as to burden down any possibility of ever soaring again.

Say you look at your partner, some time after you cemented your relationship, and realize with the first ping of horror that you may have made a fatal mistake: This person is not your soul mate!

I suggest you can relax. Of course he or she is not your soul mate, or “the only one”, or “love of your life” or even your best friend. It is impossible!

You are not a marathoner (yet!) after the first mile of the run. And you cannot even aspire to run a marathon just because you decided to: You need to put in some lengthy and hard slog. Similarly, relationships are among the few aspects of life necessitating consistent work over time to reach and sustain a desirable result. Exercise does come to mind as a metaphor since no mater what level of fitness you reach, you can never rest on your laurels and stop working out. You will lose in a short time what you had built over years.

You may say, “I have settled into second rate, passionless and loveless relationship and I have no problem with it”. That is obviously your choice. And yet, the emotional and physical price of dealing with pent-up aggression and crushing loneliness, when trapped in neglected relationship, is much higher than the investment entailed in creating true soul mates relationship.

So by now we know that you do not meet a soul mate – you create one!

But what exactly is it? In a few words soul mates relationship can be defined as a perpetual and growing love. Let me define what I mean by love. After all there are as many types of love as there are days in one’s life. We love many things: chocolate, our children, a vacation on a beach, the sound of favorite music, a drive in a country road. What we love is constantly changing: The charming resort is not as magical on second visit; Yesteryear’s passionate love is todays forgotten shadow. We may discover that except for our addictions and our children, our ability to love has no permanency over time.

Soul mate is a very special case of love. At its best it is almost akin to the love we feel to our children. Almost, since the love we have for our children, is unconditional and the love for a soul mate is not. It is conditional on the unbroken avowal of the special, unique status that binds both lovers. Paying attention to your relationship can transform them from a bond to a covenant.

You deserve it.

Let’s examine the two most common scenarios: one for those who are searching for a long-term partner but have not found one yet. And the other, for those who are in long-term relationship and would like to improve them to become the covenant they should be.

Our western contemporary culture leaves the search for a mate and the ultimate choice to bond, to the future couple. That freedom to choose a partner is no doubt a great improvement over the arranged marriage practice of past centuries, but it has created new problems. Those who have difficulty deciding can spend years being unsure, and those who tend to be impulsive, might hastily commit to the wrong person. But one basic issue is so universal as to influence every consideration: the preoccupation with finding the perfect person. Even if you logically know that a perfect match is an unfortunate myth, you still secretly hope to find one. If you believe, as I do, that most romantic partnership can be worked into a covenant, then your decision making is likely to be different from the prevailing “gut feeling” considerations that informs current choice of mate in our culture. Instead you might look for someone who would be committed to growing the relationship. Someone, with whom you can partner to avert the fizzling of your bond once the original emotions, burdened by reality, are incapable of carrying you through.

But what do you do if you are already in the “relationship fizzle” phase? You entered your lifelong partnership based on intense and shared fantasy. You promised yourselves that you would “live happily ever after”. Now you trace a sense of bitterness, connection fatigue, and growing estrangement. What can you do?

How you fix it is dependent upon the two of you. You may have crossed already the point of no return, and your relationship is irreversibly broken. The weight of bad memories – the resentment – returns you to the point where you met: two strangers. Only now the past is so heavy as to prevent any renewed closeness and fantasies are not about being together but about breaking up. You must do something. Everything can be improved given one condition: your partner must be willing to do something as well. Otherwise, there is no reason to stay together and spend the precious rest of your life with someone who increasingly dislikes you and vice versa. I do not wish to be flippant about the premise of breaking up. I know how hard it is. But it is the difficulty inherent in breaking up that paralyzes a couple from acting upon it. So the only honest conclusion is: either improve your relationship or consider separation. Staying passively in unattended relationship is often a recipe for growing unhappiness. Whatever the future beckons, is only an illusion. The past may be a repository of growing disappointments. The present is the only time to decide and act on your needs.

If it is time for action I always recommend couple’s therapy. But even more essential is the “couple’s therapy” with yourself. Unless you repair the relationship with yourself, there would always be a voice, telling you from the depth of self loathing, that you do not deserve any better. Disrespect for your own life, provides but a shaky foundation for meaningful relationship with others.

Don’t give up on yourself. Don’t give up on your chance to be in positive and growing relationship.

Remember: you do not meet your soul mate. You create it.

© 2019 The Institute of Integrative Psychiatry. All Rights Reserved.