Educational Psychologist
by Tamarin Epstein, Educational Psychologist

What are Soulmates?

The concept of soulmates is a spiritual belief that, for each person in the world, there is an ideally suited mate, whom one is predestined to unite with in marriage. The result is a spiritually perfect, compatible “match made in heaven” by the Creator. Some religions believe that your soulmate is your spiritual compliment (your soul’s “other half”), and that you are predestined by God to unite with this individual, in your earthly life. The biblical notion of a soulmate can be traced back as far as Adam and Eve, when God created only one mate who was suited for Adam.

Some spiritual beliefs conceptualize soulmates as a group of people whose souls were born at the same time, and whose lives are linked, with each soul predestined to play a role in the lives of their soulmates – whether it be as a parent, family member, friend, lover, partner, teacher, or someone we talk to only once in our lives. Some beliefs further entail reincarnation – the notion that we have more than one life, and reconnect with the same souls, in some way, over and over again.

Do Soulmates really exist?

As human beings, it is natural for us to need and desire a close attachment to a life partner. We deeply yearn to feel known, understood, accepted, wanted, and loved. We need someone to love, and in whom to invest our life energy.

It is perhaps unsurprising that the theme of soulmates is so deeply embedded in our consciousness and beliefs, and that we are raised and socialized to expect life to provide us with a soulmate. Because it is a romantic concept, it is likely to appeal to people, especially women, particularly in a society which assigns and supports gender-based expectations and roles, relating to romance. Movies – like books and art – reflect popular human beliefs, wishes, hopes, achievements, struggles, and dreams – hence the “Romcoms” and love stories that take centre stage, in many films.

The hard truth is that nobody can prove whether soulmates exist, or not. At the end of the day, it is a belief, and – like all beliefs – it resonates as true for some people, but false for others. As we go through life, our beliefs may shift and change, in accordance with how we perceive our own experiences.

Only you can decide what feels right for you, and resonates with you, in terms of your beliefs about love and life. You are the best “expert” on you.

Are Soulmates perfect?

The notion of soulmates presents a number of dilemmas, relating to relationships. The choices we make, as with all our choices, can either harm or heal us, on all levels – mind, body, and soul.

In my opinion, it would be a mistake to assume that a soulmate is a perfect person, as human beings are always flawed and have more life lessons to learn. It is completely unrealistic to think that this person should put in all the work to make us happy, always put our needs first, sacrifice everything for us, or read our thoughts. Placing unrealistic expectations on our partners can only lead to disappointment and conflict. We cannot expect any one person to meet our every need and want, all the time, and it is unhealthy for us to become completely enmeshed with one person. Our partner should compliment us, not complete us – we are already complete, as human beings. We also need to develop and grow ourselves as individuals, and include friends, and personal interests and activities, in our lives (as long as these friends and activities do not threaten our relationship, of course, as we serve our relationships by fulfilling our individual potential, but not by engaging in activities that undermine our partner or relationship).

Should we stay with our Soulmate, no matter what?

We should not assume that, because we are soulmates, both partners do not have to put a lot of effort and honest communication into the relationship. Relationships – loving and caring for one another – demand ongoing effort and attention, from both partners. Our partners should not be expected to read our thoughts, we need to express ourselves.

In my opinion, older couples who have been married for many years and still feel lucky to have found “the one” are blessed. But, older couples who are unhappy, and have been miserable and unfulfilled for years, have made a poor choice, in remaining together. I do not believe that we deserve to suffer at the hands of our partners (or any other person, for that matter), for any reason.

It is unhealthy for us to remain in a relationship in which we feel unfulfilled, unhappy, or even used/abused. We sometimes confuse infatuation and lust with love, but they are not the same things. We may fixate on a person who is actually unsuitable for us, or who does not return our feelings. If your partner is not invested in your happiness and wellbeing, it is time to question whether this person is a soulmate or a mistake. Surely a soulmate should return our respect, feelings and efforts, share similar values, and be “on the same page”? How else can we walk a journey of life hand in hand?

How do I know if s/he is “the one”?

Personally, I believe we have many soulmates, although not all of them are romantic soulmates (partners). Regardless of our beliefs, the important focus in all our human relationships should be on building and maintaining caring, respectful, honest, mutually beneficial bonds.

We should not live in fear of overlooking people in our lives who may be potentially great partners. For you to be “great partners”, you surely both need to feel a connection (affinity), at the same time.

Someone is “right” for you if you both want the same things from your relationship (are on the “same page”), have one another’s best interests at heart, are prepared to work hard, communicate honestly, and act in service of the relationship, have a deep affinity, caring, liking and respect for one another, have compatible values, and are comfortable and satisfied by one another’s company and love. You both have to fulfil the important role of life partners to one another, with all the responsibility, effort, nurturance, thoughtfulness, and care, that comes with the benefits of loving and being loved.

You should ask yourself whether this person makes you feel loved, valued, and respected, and whether you truly feel these things for him/her.

What if I haven’t found “the one”?

I believe that we should not assume that we will necessarily meet and marry our soulmates, or that this will happen early in life. We may have a number of relationships, before we meet someone compatible. In fact, we may only meet a suitable mate in middle, or even late, adulthood. Perhaps, our soulmate will even take the form of a parent, child, or special friendship, and our life’s journey does not include a romantic soulmate. We simply cannot forsee what our future life path holds, or its greater purpose.

In my opinion, your task is to approach your own life with the mindfulness and self-respect you deserve. Be 100% present in your own life. Avoid feeling distracted and bogged down by what you do not have, move away from people who make you unhappy, and focus on the opportunities for love and pleasure that your life already gives. Often, we already have that which we seek, in a different form. Perhaps you do not have a romantic soulmate, but you have love in your life, friends and family who make you smile.

Happiness is always a choice we make for ourselves, no matter what our relationship status is, at any given moment in this ever changing journey of life. Why should you love yourself with less passion, than you would love any partner? Smile, laugh, believe, hope, be gentle and kind to yourself, and buy yourself flowers, for your most lasting and essential soul connection is ultimately with yourself.

For counselling or guidance relating to your love life, contact PsychMatters Centre: (011) 450-3576.

E-mail us: info@psychmatters.co.za
Visit our website: www.psychmatters.co.za

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