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July 1, 2015

Your Sole Mate

Hal photo outside Feb2012“Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly both partners might find more ‘suitable’ mates. But the real soul-mate is the one you are actually married to.” (J. R. R. Tolkien, Letter to Michael Tolkien, March 1941)

In my experience as a marriage therapist, I have seen few faulty ideas die harder than that of the “soulmate”. You know, the idea that God, or the Universe, or the Fates have selected that one special person just for you. Your job, and, therefore, the real hard work of marriage, is finding that person.

Those of us with some marital experience and wisdom usually laugh off this notion eventually, but it is an idea embedded within our culture. Every romantic movie is about the difficulty of finding someone—and thus portrays the wedding at the end of the movie as the end of the journey. “Ahh, we have finally found each other! Now the hard work is over! The relaxing can begin!”

Even among the already married, and even among the educated, I still find this idea at play. It creeps in like a lying serpent, whispering to us “It’s not you, it’s not even your spouse—you’re just a bad match. You were never supposed to be together in the first place. There is another out there, and with that one it’ll be so much easier…”

But as my guru Rabbi Edwin Friedman always said, the grass is always greener when you’re not tending to your own lawn. Allow your current marriage to do its work on you—it is asking you to love the real person in front of you, rather than the fantasy person who doesn’t exist.

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