The definition of a soul mate varies: Great authors and poets, psychologists and scientists, and lovers describe the concept as anything from a biochemical process to a gift from destiny…or even a connection from a past life.
Whatever school of thought you buy into, a surprising number of us believe in soul mates. In a survey by the Rutgers University National Marriage Project, 94 percent of those aged 20 to 29 said that when they marry, they want their mate to be their soul mate, first and foremost. This may be the idealism of youth, but it’s interesting that so many of us start out with the soul-mate intention.
Just a few decades ago, and certainly for centuries earlier, the idea of marrying for true love was all but unheard of. Finding a man who would be able to provide for a family was the compelling reason many of our grandmothers married. Women in the Middle Ages were married off by their families for social and financial purposes, which made marriage more of a business deal than an affair of the heart. Cavemen and cavewomen paired off to keep the species going as a sort of biological imperative.
Throughout much of history, marriage came first and love followed later. At least that’s what was hoped. However, just as we evolve as a species, so does the institution of marriage continue to transform itself. Today, people wait longer to marry, and they leave marriages they don’t feel are working. Women make the choice to have a career and a family or maybe never to marry at all. We follow our hearts, instead of adhering to notions of duty and neatly carved-out roles.
No doubt, love and marriage is more complicated than it used to be, but I think it’s finding — and waiting for — the right person that allows marriage to live up to its full promise.
Call it soul mates, call it what you will, but I believe you know when you’ve met someone who resonates with you on a very basic level. I was the ultimate skeptic until I met my husband. As a therapist, I thought it was simply romantic or fantastical thinking to believe that you could know instantly if someone was right for you. Then it happened to me.
I’m not saying that there is just one person out there for each of us. In fact, I think timing is a big player in the search for love. It seems to happen when you’ve figured out your priorities, both in your own life and in what you seek in another, that Cupid sends his invisible arrow your way: You often haven’t been expecting it, and your beloved may not be exactly what you imagined either!
Everyone has deal breakers when looking for the ideal mate. The key is staying true to what’s important to you, while being flexible about the little things. You shouldn’t settle for someone who looks good on paper but with whom you have no chemistry. Likewise, carrying around a list of ten highly specific qualities will only act as armor against any love arrows coming your way. In the end, we all have to kiss a few frogs to find our prince. But he’s worth waiting for.
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