By Hayley Doyle
I just asked my husband if he believed in soulmates.
His instant response was, “No.”
So I asked him who I was if I wasn’t his soulmate. He simply said, “my wife.” Let’s just be clear here; if he had answered anything other than these two responses, I would have dropped dead. And I loved his response. It wasn’t fluffy. It was simple. 11 years ago, he made a choice to get to know me better. To invest. And today, he continues to make that choice. Maybe we have moulded into what people believe are soulmates. As Michael (Ted Danson) from The Good Place says, “If soulmates do exist, they're not found, they're made. People meet, they get a good feeling, and they get to work building a relationship.”
Okay, so words like “invest” sound a bit grey. A bit corporate. But it’s not a case of eyes meeting across the room. Let’s not forget, Romeo and Juliet were teenagers who just really, really fancied each other. Books, movies, pop culture and religion has made us all bumble about in a rather confused state of delusion about finding The One. We get sucked into the fantasy, hoping that it will happen to us one day. But the basic truth gets glossed over by perfect hair and spine-tingly music. These characters have to go through an epic journey - ranging from self-discovery to saving humanity - and witness the strengths and weaknesses of each other under immense pressure, before making that choice to invest. When Harry first met Sally, they hated each other, and the second time they met, he didn’t even recognise her. When Rose met Jack, he was saving her from committing suicide overboard the Titanic. And who can forget the heated arguments between Noah and Ally, all documented in that notebook?
Many moons ago, I went on a date with a guy who was cynical about soulmates. It drove him crazy when people banged on about The One, yet they just so happened to find The One in their local pub or in student halls at uni. Hmm. What a coincidence! He was knee-deep in wedding season, spending a fortune on travelling to one every weekend, only to hear the same speeches rewritten and having to raise a glass to the soulmates who had so luckily found one another… at work. I remember leaving that date feeling disappointed. Not because things weren’t going to work out between Mr Cynic and me, but because I reluctantly agreed with him. I’d hoped I might just bump into my soulmate on the street or find myself sitting beside him one day on a plane. I’d been telling myself there was someone out there, so right for me, who would just “get” me. We’d have endless in-jokes and weird joint quirks. It would be us against the world. But I had to admit, Mr Cynic had a point.
Once people start to hit their late twenties to early thirties, it can feel like soulmates are popping up all over the place. Biological clocks start to tick. Mortgage payments are lighter with two incomes rather than one. Career opportunities look rosy. Partying takes its toll. Meal boxes are more affordable for two, and of course, one can cook while the other cleans up. If you feel like you’re failing to find your soulmate, perhaps it’s not a case of you being unfairly left out of the game. Maybe you’re making a decision not to invest in somebody to share your life with. Soulmates are not pre-determined. It’s what two people can become by developing over time.
Look. There’s a whopping 8 billion people on this planet. If there is supposedly only one person out there for you to truly connect with, well, the sheer statistical probability that you’ll find them is astronomically low. It’s a rather damaging idea, too, holding you back from the power of everyday possibilities. To believe that two people are supposed to be together before they’ve even met is just illogical. Every time you go out, you will be seeking packaged perfection, discarding - or sabotaging - potential perfection because you didn’t give it a chance. Do you really want the best moment of your life to happen in a flash and then be over with? Forever? If you connect so deeply, so suddenly, where do you go from there? How do you grow? Spending time getting to know each other is the magic that can make a relationship become meaningful.
Since I’ve entered my forties, the conversation about divorce is becoming more common among friends and acquaintances. The reasons for parting ways being on the horizon differ greatly from couple to couple. Once, it was a different story for them. They had believed they were soulmates or had grown to become connected with each other, soul to soul. So because they’re now separating, deciding for a new chapter to begin, one that aligns with the person they are in this present day, does that mean game over in ever finding a soulmate again?
According to Dr. Michael Tobin, a soulmate is someone who you feel deeply connected to, but not in a dependent or needy way. Can you have more than one soulmate in your life? Of course. We change. We adapt. But does this mean that all soulmates are romantic partners? Not all all. You can enjoy that beautiful spark with a friend, a family member, a mentor, or even a stranger. You can have more than one soulmate for different parts of yourself. Have you ever gone out to dinner with a great friend, had the most wonderful catch up and gone home feeling like you’ve truly digested soul food? Your heart happy. Your spirit light. Yes! You’ve experienced a connection and felt completely understood. But hey, it doesn’t mean you need to drag that friend down the aisle!
We don’t build lasting foundations with those who are unkind, unfaithful, or just not interested. If you’ve got your heart set on that love-at-first-sight meeting, you might be setting yourself up for a major fall. I mean, we’ve all been there. I used to dress up for a night out and think, tonight’s the night. I thought I was being positive. Open-minded. I was always prepared for a lightening bolt chance meeting. But this brought endless disappointment. I couldn’t enjoy my reality because I was hoping for a fantasy… Until, one night, it did happen. I got it. Ping! Our eyes met across a crowded room. Our first conversation brought flutters, giggles and pink cheeks. It was easy to be tactile, to touch hands, to lean into one another. We talked. And talked. We loved the same films. We had both just read the exact same book. I’d never heard of his favourite band, but oh, he just knew that I’d love them and sent me the songs with confidence. We showed every angle of our good sides, pouring such effort into this chance meeting, which… ended in absolute tears. We were not the person we each believed we might be for one another and the romance turned sour very quickly. I spent longer than I care to admit agonising over what went wrong; what did I do wrong? The answer is, nothing. The investment wasn’t there. We learnt enough to know that whatever we were wasn’t right for each other. And in time, I began to understand that without that experience, I wouldn’t have realised what was right for me in the future.
So I might not believe in soulmates. But I believe in making a choice to go on a journey with someone. Because what’s more romantic than witnessing somebody become your person? Even if it takes a while to warm up. Before we ever dated, my husband and I were mates. For months. At some point, yeah, the penny dropped and we wanted to get to know each other better, but there was no lightening bolt. No eyes meeting through a fish-tank. It’s a wonderful thing for a person to invest in you, learn all about you, and want to make memories with you. You have been chosen. And of course, it’s up to you to make that choice in return, too.