It’s a Trap
You’ll never be happy if you’re always convinced you could be happier.
By Alina Shaikh, University of Toronto
I don’t want to come off as some jaded teenager, bitter and heartbroken over a breakup with some supposed soulmate, but I want the record set straight about this whole “other half” idea.
Recently, I’ve heard one too many of my friends crying about how “He wasn’t the one.” More specifically, a friend of mine just broke up with the best thing that ever happened to him, simply because “Sometimes, you just know they’re not the one, you know?”
I don’t know. I don’t really want to know. It was as if their seven-year relationship was just a holding pattern until someone better came along, and I couldn’t understand why the hell that ship crashed and burned, especially since from the outside looking in it was everyone’s OTP.
What the Nicholas Sparks movies and John Green novels don’t tell you is that, sometimes, love is a choice. With two exceptions—your sexual orientation and the affection that you have for your family (sorry mom, but we’re environmentally conditioned to love you)—you choose who you love. You sit down and think to yourself, “I am going to make this work.”
Now, college relationships aren’t exactly a paragon of commitment, but I’d think that several years in a meaningful relationship would discourage the idea that you’re soulmates with someone else. I hear this way of thinking is called “loyalty,” but what the fuck ever, right?
As I go from friend to friend as they explain the whole “made for each other” concept, I notice that they also happen to be dating someone else in the meantime, just in case.
The people I know that believe in soulmates explain that there won’t be any arguments in their ideal relationship, no fights or disputes, not even a hint of a heated debate, which begs the question: This relationship, is it actually with another individual?
A total absence of disagreement would suggest an absence of beliefs, and you really don’t want to be dating a vanilla wafer. With personality comes differences in personality—that’s a fact of life. So if finding a soulmate means finding someone you’ll never disagree with, you’ll never stop looking.
Unfortunately, despite the irrationality of the soulmate concept, people still routinely cut ties with their long-term romantic partners in hopes of finding their “other half” out there waiting for them. Personally, I am more of the persuasion that individuals are already whole, and that they don’t need anyone else to fulfill them, and the “other half” theory, the ideological bedrock of soulmate-ism, implies that people without relationships are incomplete.
The idea springs from a well-known Greek myth in which Zeus splits early humans—four-legged, four-armed and two-headed—down the middle with lightning bolts. As a result, our life’s purpose becomes finding and reconnecting with the person from whom we were all symbolically split asunder.
Unfortunately, the result of this myth of original twin is the delusion that everyone has a partner with whom they’ll align seamlessly. In addition to establishing some hopelessly high standards, the “other half” theory also neglects anyone who’s aromantic or uninterested in conventional relationships.
Rejecting the idea of soulmates doesn’t mean that a failing relationship shouldn’t be abandoned though. Loving someone is a choice, yes, but choosing the right person to love comes first and is arguably just as important.
Instead of using the “other half” idea as a lazy excuse to jettison out of an inconvenient relationship, if you and boo hit a bumpy patch, step back and assess it. First, decide if what you two have is worth the work. If it is, then get to it.
On the other hand, if you don’t have grossly impractical standards for a partner and you think you can do better, then go for it.
If you’re single, then at least you have the benefit of deciding who’s best for you without some mysterious homewrecker on the backburner.
In other words, if you’re thinking of ditching your sneakerhead boytoy for someone of the Doc Martens’ persuasion, make sure you’re not subsuming your identity into theirs just for compatibility’s sake. Not that good taste (if he has Docs, he’s a keeper) and shared interests aren’t great for a budding romance—just make sure that you compliment, not mirror each other.
Because despite your disagreements, Sneakerhead cuties might be the best thing that ever happened to you. The insignificant details that never match up between the two of you could evolve into a compromise—and eventually maybe even a genuine interest.
A relationship built on avoiding differences and fretting over petty likes and dislikes forces your romance into a procrustean bed, one that breeds co-dependency out of uniformity. Co-dependent relationships are never easy to end, so it’s definitely less of a burden to just avoid them in the first place. One helpful tip to prevent this habit: love yourself, love other people and take your differences in stride.
I still don’t know if soulmates exist, or if I simply don’t want them to exist, but I do know that finding someone, a person who makes your eyes light up and your smile come easier, is pretty fucking magical in and of itself.
Also, I’m getting my friends back together if it’s the last thing I do.