It doesn’t take too long of listening to popular culture before you hear people talking about the one or a soulmate; the person who they are meant for and who compliments them in every way. The person they were destined to be with (by God, Fate, the Universe, Madam Cleo, etc).
I’ve been happily married to the same woman for a little over a decade, but I think it’s time to just come out and say I don’t think she’s my soulmate. That would mean that of the over 3 billion women on the planet, I happen to have found the perfect match. Unlikely.
“But wait!” I hear you say, “some of those are already married or too young or old. And you’ve never met any women from Mongolia, so you can’t count them.”
This is true. So let’s narrow it down a bit. Some general traits that are important to me with a rough numerical estimate:
- A woman (3.75 billion)
- Shorter than I am (99% of women)
- ±3 years of my age (120 million or so)
- Speaks English (~380 million)
- Shares my faith heritage (~1 million)
- Is interesting to me (?)
- Is attractive to me (?)
- Isn’t psychotic
There are, of course, more specific criterion that are important to me, but you get the idea. Add to this a few key points:
- She and I would have to meet (~10,000 or so)
- She is interested and attracted to me (quite small I’m sure)
Even if one were to limit my options to the women at the small, faith-based, private University I went to, that’s still several hundred choices. I didn’t even know half their names.
What I can safely say with confidence is that of all the girls I’ve known (and especially of those I’ve dated), my wife is the best choice of all of them.
So at the risk of sounding cynical, it seems highly improbable that my life circumstances have brought me into contact with the perfect person for me. If there even is a perfect person for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my wife and am very happy with my decision and our life together. It’s that I think the one thinking and language (prominent in pop songs and romantic comedies) is detrimental to healthy relationships. Here’s why:
- Basing the relationship on mutual choice rather than some metaphysical compatibility puts the emphasis on commitment to the other person rather than to a relationship ideal. You have a spouse because you consciously choose to love them; not because it was meant to be.
- You realize there are hundreds or thousands of people you might be equally happy with (or happier in some regards, less in others), but that there would be rocky times too. Removing “the one” ideal from a relationship puts your current relationship on par with hypothetical ones.
- You realize that in some sense you “settle” for who you get in a relationship. This can be liberating.
- If your soulmate were to change their mind and run off (as happens with frequency) then they either weren’t your soulmate or, worse yet, the person most meant for you turned on you (ouch).
I look forward to many more decades of marriage to my bride. She’s still the one I want to be with the rest of my life. And our relationship will get better because we work on it and make it better. I’m sure there’s some equally good matches for me out there (even in my limited life experience), but they haven’t been with me the last decade. And that counts for a lot.