I'm Rejecting The Idea Of Soulmates, Because There's Something Even Better
While I like to think I’m a special snowflake just as much as the next Millennial, I know that getting distracted by all of the hypothetical options out there is hardly unique. We are living in a time of infinite choice, from the types of toothpaste available in the drugstore to the news sources we consume to, yes, our romantic partners.
I realized recently that the biggest problem my boyfriend and I were having wasn’t how we should decorate our apartment or even if we had the same view of marriage — two issues we’ve definitely discussed a lot. It was the fact that even though we’ve been together for almost three years; even though I love him so fully that he knows I want to be his wife; even though he makes me laugh every day and constantly pushes me to be a better version of myself without making me feel bad about who I already am; I hadn’t chosen him. Not really. I’d said the words and I thought I was living them by committing to monogamy and traveling the world with him, but there was always a tiny part of my brain that was thinking about the infinite other options out there. It was running in the background of my mind without my even realizing it was there, making me doubt what is, hands down, the best relationship I’ve ever had. I was constantly wondering, “Is there someone out there who would be a better fit for me?”
Aziz Ansari outlines just how generational this phenomenon is in his excellent book, Modern Romance , when he describes going into a senior citizen center and asking people how they met their spouses. Most of them say they lived in the same building or block or went to the same synagogue — basically, they married people in their immediate geographical area, which is just one of many options that we have in 2015. But the generational difference is even more stark when he asks the same people to describe what made them decide to get married and they say things like, “He had a nice smile!” or “My mom liked him.” No talk of soulmates or perfect matches or best friends. No talk of their partners “completing” them or being their “everything.” Just a nice guy or gal that they could see building a life with. NBD.
In today’s dating world, though, we’re not limited by the guys or girls with good smiles who our moms approve of. Sure, the traditional dating spaces still exist, but with the increasing popularity of online dating, we can now order up the exact person we think we want. While on one hand that’s awesome — I adore the love stories that come out of great online dating matches — on the other hand, it’s causing a lot of angst. (Because, you know, dating wasn’t angsty enough before Tinder.) When you can swipe through hundreds of smiling faces per day or request a certain appearance down to the inch, it’s almost impossible not to imagine that there really truly is a perfect match for you somewhere out there.
But that perfect match is a fairytale about soulmates that we’ve been sold from a young age, starting with Snow White, enforced by television and rom-coms, and sealed with a kiss from Plato’s Symposium in college. Our culture tells us not to settle for someone who doesn’t “complete” us and act as our best friend, life partner, and only lover. We hear it in friend's marriage vows and it pops up in listicle after listicle on our Facebook news feeds. We're not allowed to like their smile and then work out all the other stuff later anymore. Instead, we're told we're doing love all wrong if we "settle" for someone who isn't all of the things, all of the time.
I realized that fantasy soulmate — the one who fills all of the requirements that my amazing partner just can’t — has been haunting our relationship for far too long, so I made a decision.
I decided that from here on out, I’m consciously choosing my boyfriend and rejecting all of those infinite other possibilities. I’m committing to enjoying the things that work so well about us as a couple and working proactively with him to improve the things that don’t.
I’m actually rejecting the soulmate myth instead of just talking about the fact that I think it’s bullsh*t, and I’m actively choosing my partner instead of passively assuming that things are going to a certain way because that’s how they “should” go.
This man I'm consciously choosing is most definitely not my perfect fit. We’re very, very different people with different interests, different styles; even different nationalities and races. He is not my other half but I’ve come to realize something through this process of actively choosing him: I don’t want another half. I want another whole; a person who is 100 percent him and supports me being my own 100 percent me. And he is, without a doubt, that person.
I think it’s time to leave the soulmate fairytale on the self, next to those old copies of Snow White and Plato. Fairytales are for children, not grown women with minor anxiety problems. I guess this is what they call growing up.
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