This article is specifically for those who are in a long-term romantic relationship, and is wondering if you’ve found your “soulmate” — the person to spend the rest of your life with. A lot of fear and trepidation goes into that consideration. These guidelines can cut through the haze and help you figure out what your heart is telling you.
Speak out if you do, you’re not easy to find
Is it possible Mr. Lovable is already in my life?
Right in front of me of maybe you’re in disguise
Love is blind, they say. No wonder so many people struggle in finding a soulmate.
For the purpose of this discussion, I’m going to define a soulmate as “the significant other” with whom you fully intend to spend the rest of your life with. I realize that marriage is not for everyone, nor are long-term romantic relationships. But it’s also safe to say that a lot of people desire this, and find it difficult. I don’t know if it’s our cultural infatuation or law of the nature, but finding and keeping a life-long relationship based on mutual love (romantic and otherwise) and compatibility remains a formidable challenge.
There are two types of challenges people face in finding a soulmate:
- people who can get dates and even fairly long-term relationships, but still can’t decide whether the person they’re seeing is the soulmate, and
- people who have a hard time finding and/or forming a romantic relationship.
While it may sound like the people in the category #1 are farther along the path in finding a soulmate, the process isn’t all the linear. The #2 people often have inner roadblocks from forming (starting) a relationship, but once those obstacles are overcome, they know how to maintain a lasting relationship. People with fewer choices (for better or worse) don’t have to wonder as much about whether the person they’re seeing is right for them.
But for the scope of this article, I’ll primarily address the people in group #1.
So, you’re seeing someone, and you’re wondering if you’ve found the “right one.”
If I were talking to someone who is asking that question, I would explore these criteria.
1. How your significant other feels to you.
All right, you’re probably going, “how lame. I’m asking the question because I can’t tell how I feel.”
Well, if you’re asking that question — if you’re not sure — then the person isn’t your soulmate. Promptly end the relationship and vacate his/her seat, so that there’s an empty chair waiting for someone better to enter your life.
Your soulmate doesn’t need any rationalization. Doesn’t need any reasons. When you’re with him/her, you feel that you’re better person than when you’re by yourself or with any one else.
Let me restate that. When you’re with your soulmate, you feel that you’re better “you” than in any other situation.
Now, that’s not to say that an ideal relationship won’t compromise you in any way. All relationship does. Plus, there’s too much of a good thing, too. Even if you’re seeing your soulmate, if you’re spending too much time with him/her, it may cloud your appreciation of how empowering that relationship is.
Are you getting confused? Let’s throw in another factor. Often times relationships take strain because of external factors — money or job troubles, for example. If you or your significant other are under some stress, then both of you are not at your optimum self.
But when all is said and done, your soulmate will make you a better you than when you’re by yourself or with anyone else. He/she does precisely what you need for you to achieve this height — he/she may be nurturing or caring or possibly challenging in good ways.
Nobody is perfect, of course, he/she falls short somewhere on your list of what makes an ideal soulmate. Or he/she doesn’t look like what you envisioned your soulmate to be. But none of that matters. You simply feel better about yourself when you’re with that person. His/her company completes and fulfills you.
So, with all the external factors and distractions, how do you put yourself in situations where you can evaluate your feelings correctly?
I suggest one or both of the following: go on a vacation together, or take a break from the relationship.
By going on a vacation together, you remove yourself from the daily grind and strain and have a better chance of isolating just your relationship. Do whatever you can to completely leave your regular life behind — don’t talk or think about it. There, you can examine your own feelings better — do you feel more “you” when you’re with your partner?
The second idea, taking a break, will test your relationship. All relationships have an ideal distance. The one to your soulmate will probably want to be a fairly close one (though there is such a thing as being too close). Spend a few weeks without seeing or talking to the other person. How does it feel? Do you feel a nudge to see the other person, or do you feel free and unburdened?
I can tell you that in my personal relationship to my wife, there have been times our distance was too close. I would say my wife and I aren’t destined to run businesses together — as some married couples do — because that is too much time together, too close of a distance. I feel that when we started dividing our time — she and I spending most of our day separately and coming together in mornings and nights — we really hit our stride. When I’m too close to her, I yearned for more time away, and that made me worry that maybe I wasn’t in the right relationship. It was simply a sign that our distance wasn’t ideal. Because when we are apart for a while — more than 1-2 days, I’d say — then my longing for separation disappears and I begin to long for her instead. After 12 years of marriage and over 14 years of being together, a thought that there is a better mate out there for me seldom enters my mind.
2. Which option are you defending?
Another indication of whether you’re with your soulmate or not can be found in your rationalization.
Most people fear either the commitment of a long-term relationship and/or the decision to end a relationship. They both seem scary big decisions, and would rather stay in the limbo land. But prolonging such a state can definitely cloud and confuse your feelings.
Know that the right decision is always the scarier one. If you find yourself defending one decision over the other — that’s probably the wrong direction.
Let’s say you’re a single mother and seeing someone. You’re talking to your friend about your man and you find yourself saying “Oh, he is good with my child — he has a good, stable job — his house is big and beautiful” then that relationship is not right for you.
There is a clear difference between spewing out your enthusiasm for the other person out of sheer excitement, and rationalizing or talking yourself into that relationship. If you’re with your soulmate, naturally you can’t stop talking about him/her, because you’re excited, at least in the initial stage of the relationship. But there is absolutely no need to defend your decision.
Similarly, if you’re going “but he doesn’t have a good job — I’m not sure if I want to be the one taking care of him — I always thought of marrying a man with 6-figure income….” This is your fear talking. If you’re trying to talk yourself into leaving him/her, you’re about to let go of a potential soulmate because of your own inner fear. If you do that, you’re bound to wonder later if you let go of a relationship that was good enough, because you’re likely to face the same questions in your next relationship. I suppose it’s possible that when you remove your fears of commitment, you’ll still realize that the particular person you’re seeing isn’t the one. But don’t let your fear make your decisions
Remember that the right decision is scarier, so you spend a lot of time defending and rationalizing wrong ones, so you can justify choosing to go that way. Explore your fears and figure out which one stirs up more fear (but don’t confuse fear with loathing or ambivalence; when you’re in that state, you’re not afraid of the outcome, but you just don’t find yourself excited or enthused). Toss all your reasons out the window and embrace that choice.
3. Explore the common ground
All relationships depend on common grounds. As much as we’d like to believe that we value our differences, if there is nothing common between two people, it is impossible to form and maintain a close relationship.
Make a list of the things you and your significant other have in common. List everything you can think of, from religious faith to hobby to the ideas about how to raise children to favorite movies. On this list, give each item two ratings: one for how closely matched they are, and how important that common ground is for you.
For example, let’s say a portion of your list looked like this:
|Love action movies||very compatible||not very important|
|Our religion||Somewhat compatible. We both go to church but we’re from different denominations||Somewhat important. I’m not that attached to my denomination anyway.|
|Children||Not very compatible. I want 3, he wants none.||Very important.|
Obviously, this table is starting to indicate that you’re not as compatible with your significant other as you thought. Lasting relationship needs the initial spark of passion to get started and fire up the commitment, but needs more to last. If you don’t find common grounds in major areas of your life — particularly, examine the issues of religion/spirituality, family, affection, politics, and sex.
As you discover the common grounds (or lack thereof) among your important issues, it will start to reveal true feelings about your partner. It’s fun to go out and do meaningless things for a while, but what makes who you are is not the choice of your movies, but your values and beliefs. If he/she compromises you in the key areas, you obviously don’t feel that you’re better “you” in his/her company. Or on the other hand, perhaps you’re downplaying how compatible you are based on surface, shallow, unimportant differences. So you like to get up early and he/she is a late riser. When you agree on your religion/spirituality, family values, and moral/political opinions, you’ll overcome those petty differences.
Another question to ask in this area is “can I accept him/her without a single change?” It’s been said elsewhere, but it is worth repeating that you shouldn’t enter a relationship with the intention to change the other person. Make him/her a better person than who he/she is. Evaluate your soulmate on who he/she is right now. Make certain that you can accept that person without tweaks or changes.
Even couples who seem so dissimilar from each other, often have deeper, inner connections between them. Personality types, habits, and interests can clash and collide. But look for a strong bond of deeper qualities beneath the surface. That is the tie that can bind the two of you.
4. Observe the other family
This is more of an apocryphal pointer — the criteria 1 and 2 should be sufficient to make the determinations. But if you’re considering a marriage — a commitment to make a family — it is helpful to observe his/her family of origin. Because the chances are, your significant other will mirror and repeat many of the rituals and habits found in his/her own family.
Funny things happen in families. Families are expected to stay together (even in this day and age of family units breaking down left and right). Families are supposed to be bonded, not based on affections or liking each other but simply because they are related to each other by blood. Now, obviously the two spouses aren’t related to each other by blood. By forming a family, however, you start to act like you’re related to each other. And that is a big difference from being in a dating relationship.
All the sudden it becomes immensely easier to take each other for granted. Being together becomes normal and the “default” state, instead of a treat or something you consciously choose to do.
We all learn how to be a family from our original families. If you’re a man, how your father treated his wife and children is a blueprint of your own role in your new family. The same goes to women. And seeing how the spouses relate to each other — that becomes your foundation for your own spousal relationship.
No matter how self-aware you are, you and your significant other will bring assumptions, habits and customs from your own family, and many times you’re not even aware that you’re doing that. It’s safe to assume that once you start your family, both you and your spouse will bring in pieces of the original families into the new union.
So, observe the both families. Observe differences and common grounds. Observe how your in-laws-to-be treat each other, and their children. Because your spouse is going to do a lot of the same things. And it can be quite different from how he/she was before the marriage.
Do you like what you see? If not, what bothers you?
This shouldn’t be a make-or-break factor — especially if you considered the previous factors. But it is helpful to know. If you like your significant other pre-marriage, but don’t like how his/her original family is, carefully explore the issues with your soulmate. A mature and self-aware person can overcome bad habits and poor influences received from his/her original family. But there will be some struggles. Knowing this will prepare you for the process if you do decide to form a family. On the other hand, if you’re ambivalent about who he/she is and really don’t like his/her original family, then that should put the nails on this coffin. You don’t want to start a family with that person.
To summarize, two key factors emerge from this evaluation of a potential soulmate:
- Your soulmate will complete you. Being with your soulmate makes you a better you than any other circumstances.
- The right decision is scarier than the other one. Wrong decision needs defending.
If you’re over-thinking or over-analyzing, return to these two principles. Do not settle. If a soulmate is what you’re after, you deserve nothing less. Having found my own and knowing many others who have, I can promise you this: it’s possible. And you do deserve a soulmate. Most of us are not meant to be alone.
Trying to figure out whether who you’re seeing is your soulmate or not can be very confusing and distressing process. But the end is definitely worth all the troubles. Be honest about your situation and your significant other, and make a courageous decision.
Many of us have, and succeeded. So can you.