On the matter of true love, is there one soul mate out there destined for you, and if so, how do you find them? The truth is, no one really knows. There are as many stories as there are couples. Is there only one true love out there for all of us, or is that just a romantic myth? How will you know it’s the one? There are more questions than definitive answers when it comes to finding our soul mates. But let’s see if we can make some sense of this ancient conundrum.
This topic came to mind after recently spending five days in San Miguel, Mexico at my son’s wedding. John was standing in line for the men’s room at a bar on Halloween night four years ago when he bumped into Isa in the women’s line. She was dressed up in a costume depicting the pregnant character Juno from the movie Juno. It truly was love at first sight, and four years later they tied the knot. I was studying in the medical school library when a cute girl sat at my table. We struck up a conversation after she asked me a medical question that I couldn’t answer, and before you knew it, we were having coffee in the cafeteria. I wrote her phone number in my OG-GYN textbook, and that was the start of Anne and my now 38-year-old marriage. Two different scripts with the same result, true love.
In her book Marriage: A History, Stephanie Coontz lays out how the whole concept of dating and marriage has changed throughout the years. Prior to the late 1700’s, marriage was about getting good in-laws and for political and economic advancement. By 1800 people started adopting the idea that young people should be free to choose their partner based on love. Until that time, partner’s skills and resources were more important than their looks or personality. From 1750-1950, the older system of arranged, patriarchal marriage was replaced by a love-based male bread-winner partnership with it’s ideal of lifelong intimacy and monogamy. Many of those beliefs started being questioned in the 1960’s. Today, Americans have elevated their expectations for marriage such that it requires an unprecedented high level of time and energy. People today tend to look to matrimony for self-discovery, self-esteem, and personal fulfillment.
When it comes to finding your soul mate, I believe there is truth in the adage that in order to attract more you must become more. Research has shown that we tend to gravitate to a partner of the same ethnic and socio-economic background, the same level of intelligence, education, and good looks, and who shares our values & reproductive goals. Thus, our soul mate is equal to who we are. This quote by Charles Glassman fits well here: Before you find your soulmate, you must first find your soul. I advise young adults to make a list of the qualities of their ideal mate, and then to become the list in order to attract that person. It also seems to be true that when the timing is right, we tend to be attracted to someone who is around. That seems to be true for my wife and I and our son John and Isa.
True love often comes when we least expect it and when we’re not trying to find it. Yet I believe it pays to do as much personal growth work as possible to clear out any unhealthy baggage that might get in the way of our attracting a healthy mate. Through retreats, books, classes, or counseling, increase your self-awareness and acquire good tools for communication and conflict resolution. Whether you are in a bathroom line at a bar or studying in the library, you’ll be much more likely to find your soul mate if you have already found yourself.