A lot of pastors and other marriage ministers have a very strong, negative opinion of the word, “soulmate.” I can understand where they’re coming from. For many couples, finding a soulmate implies that they should never have problems again. Of course, this can become a huge concern if and when this couple hits difficulties in their relationship. After all, soulmates shouldn’t argue–or at least, argue this much–should they?
Soulmates Less Happy Than Sojourners
Some new research highlights the potential problems with the idea of searching for (or finding) a soulmate.
“Our findings corroborate prior research showing that people who implicitly think of relationships as perfect unity between soulmates have worse relationships than people who implicitly think of relationships as a journey of growing and working things out,” says Lee.
“Apparently, different ways of talking and thinking about love relationship lead to different ways of evaluating it.”
In one experiment, Lee and Schwarz had people in long-term relationships complete a knowledge quiz that included expressions related to either unity or journey, then recall either conflicts or celebrations with their romantic partner, and finally evaluate their relationship.
As predicted, recalling conflicts leads people to feel less satisfied with their relationship — but only with the unity frame in mind, not with the journey frame in mind. READ MORE.
Throwing the Baby Out with the Bathwater
I agree that understanding the idea of “soulmate” in these terms is seriously problematic, but I’m not ready to throw the word out just yet. I do believe that God puts us together with our spouse and that he does so for more reasons than his warped sense of humor. I think Pope St. John Paul the Great’s Theology of the Body can shed some light on a healthy sense of soulmate. Pope JPII used to tell people, “Become what you are.” In other words, we are not the people we see when we look in the mirror. We are the people that God sees when he looks at us–the perfect, grace-filled, godly people we are to spend our life becoming. This is our authentic self and God roots for us to achieve this identity in him. Become what you are!
Reclaiming the Soulmate
I believe that soulmates are also called to become what they are; namely, they are to be each other’s best hope for helping each other become everything God created them to be in this life and preparing each other to arrive properly attired at the Eternal Wedding Feast. I believe that God gave you this husband or this wife because he knows that you will have a better chance of becoming everything he created you to be with this person in your life than you even would on your own. Sometimes you will grow because of them, sometimes you will grow in spite of them, but you will grow better and faster with them in your life than you would without them. I believe that’s why God hates divorce. He knows that it makes it infinitely harder for us to fulfill his plan for our life without our soulmate than with him or her–even when there are problems in the marriage.
Seen through the lens of the Theology of the Body, a soulmate isn’t a celebration of compatibility. It is a promise of transformation. “I choose you to help me fulfill God’s plan for my life and to help you fulfill God’s plan for your life in sickness and health, for richer and poorer, in good times and bad, for as long as we both shall live.”
The idea of a soulmate is an ancient one. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, it goes back thousands of years to the idea of the “bashert” (“chosen one”). The answer for the Christian minister wrestling with the Disneyfication of the soulmate is not to throw it under the bus. Rather, we need to reclaim the deeper meaning of the term. It is God’s will that we become what we are–what he wants us to be. Our bashert (or basherta for the feminine), our soulmate, is our helpmate on the journey to God.
To discover how and your mate can become the soulmates that you are, check out For Better…FOREVER! A Catholic Guide to Lifelong Marriage and Just Married: The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First 5 Years of Marriage.