Never Marry Your Soulmate

You may have heard the old adage “never meet your heroes.”  Some may instinctively wonder why this would be considered good advice.  After all doesn’t everyone want to meet their hero?  But many who have actually had the opportunity to meet some famous person whom they strongly admired have been sorely disappointed.

There have been numerous stories told that illustrate this experience.  Sometimes the renowned person who is esteemed as unique and amazing can actually come off as very average and underwhelming when met in person.  What happens when you discover that the hero you idolized for years actually proves to be rude, or annoying, or shallow, or dramatic, or quirky, or boring, or… whatever?  It can leave one feel cheated and disillusioned.

The reason for this is because it is impossible for anyone to live up to idealized expectations.  We have a tendency to romanticize about our “heroes”.  We think about them and describe them in an unrealistic fashion making them seem much more appealing than is truly the case if we really knew them.  So when one does get the opportunity to meet a “hero” it can be unsatisfying or even depressing.

Believe it or not a very similar phenomenon is common in personal romantic relationships.

When two people meet and fall in love their initial perceptions are not generally very realistic.  This is especially true when one desperately wants to believe that they have found their “soulmate” or perfect companion.  Such people often subconsciously engage a confirmation bias that filters everything through rose colored glasses.  The perceived positive qualities of one each other and of the relationship are maximized or exaggerated while any negative aspects are minimized or ignored.

Almost all new relationships already have a significant obstacle to overcome due to what is known as illusionary intimacy.  Fledgling love is commonly characterized by romanticism and infatuation.  But invariably with time the bondedness and intimacy dynamics regress to more realistic levels.  This can be an eye-opening and scary experience.  Some relationships are more successful at navigating through these revelations than others.  And, of course many do not survive this stage.  [See related article]

But when we add the myth of “soulmates” in to the equation the problem is exacerbated even further.  While the concept of soulmates has its roots in astrology and mysticism the contemporary application is somewhat broad and loose.  But it’s generally understood that soulmates are two people uniquely and/or mystically fated to be together.  Some even believe that their supposed soulmate is the one and only person in the world whom they are destined to love and marry.  In all cases supposed soulmates see the relationship as somehow special and extraordinary.

The problem with this unrealistic expectation is that unwittingly places tremendous pressure on both individuals and on the relationship itself.  What happens when the predictable and inevitable regression of bondedness and intimacy takes place?  What happens when the previously undiscovered negative characteristics of both partners begin to surface?  What happens when the mundanity of life begins to take its toll?  At best, the couple will discover that their mate and their relationship is a lot more normal and average than previously thought – which can be deflating and upsetting.  At worst, one or both partners will begin to believe that they made a mistake and maybe the person they are with is not their soulmate after all.  [See related article]

The reason, then, that one should never try to marry their soulmate is very simple.  Soulmates don’t exist.  A soulmate is a fantasy concocted by the collective imagination of mankind.  It represents an idealized view of love and relationships that can never live up to the impossible expectations.  When we buy into the soulmate hype all we do is setup ourselves for disappointment and potential failure.  You don’t need to pursue the myth of soulmates to have a loving, happy, and fulfilling marriage.

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