The Hard Truth
Twenty-nine-year-old Gina, who’s been in a relationship for the past 4 years, has given up on looking for Mr Perfect. At the age of 28, she’d already come to the conclusion that “this whole Jerry Maguire ‘you complete me’ stuff is really no guarantee to Happily-Ever-After”.
“Some of my friends might call me cynical, but I think it’s high time women wake up to the fact that nobody’s perfect. Not yourself, and not the guy you’re hoping to end up with,” she continues.
“My current boyfriend Heng is definitely not my soulmate – he hates the yoga classes, art-house movies, champagne brunches, existentialist philosophy and flea-market shopping that I love so much, and thinks, when I wonder aloud about the meaning of life, that I’m just asking useless questions. But we love and trust each other, have fun together, and support each other through rough times. And sex is great. I could be wishing for more, the way I could wish to be richer or prettier. But the secret to happiness is appreciating what you have going for you.”
Sometimes, Gina misses what she had with her 2 ex-boyfriends, whom she says were her soulmates who shared her passions. “But one was too possessive and wanted me all to himself, while the other cheated on me and then threatened suicide after I dumped him. I’ve learnt that true love is more about trust, honesty, friendship and a willingness to accommodate and respect each other’s differences than about having everything in common.”
Rose is another non-believer in the soulmate debate. “When I met Rick, it was like I was struck by lightning. But even as I fell head over heels in love, there wasn’t much evidence that we had a lot in common.” The crunch came when she dragged Rick, who was her fiance by then, to her school reunion, where she bumped into her ex, David, the one who shared her passion for Broadway musicals, and who finished her sentences – but whom she broke up with because the spark faded.
“At the reunion, it was like old times for me and David, so we had such a good time talking about all the books and plays we’d seen. It was a blast.” But later that night, Rick complained that he’d found the entire evening a bore, and Rose was hurt and surprised. “Our experiences that night were so different, it was almost as if he and I had been at two different partties altogether, and I felt so hurt, surprised, and lonely that someone so close could have felt world’s apart.”
Still, that didn’t stop Rose and Rick from getting – and remaining – married. “We made a pact to occasionally come along for activities that the other doesn’t care much about. So I now know the finer points of hockey, while he’s started to hum along to my Andrew Lloyd Webber CDs.”
Susan Page, author The 8 Essential Truths of Couples Who Thrive, explains that this refocusing is crucial in a relationship between partners who have different passions and interests. “You have a choice about what you focus on, what you think about. You are not at the mercy of your thoughts; you can decide to dwell upon it and let it consume you. Or you can decide to think about something else. Couples who thrive focus on what they love about each other and their relationship, and pay less attention to what they don’t like.”
Psychologist in private practice at the Camden Medical Centre, Anne Hammond, who counsels individuals and couples, explains that happily-ever-after is achieved by couples who are willing to work on their marriages, to resolve differences and constantly find common ground.
“The soulmate concept is one that comes into play at the start. Two people are drawn together by some shared pastime, some kind of connection based on their interests or inclinations. But it’s not a guarantee for success. If there is any recipe for success, it’s a willingness to participate at a deeper level. It is respecting and honouring each other’s growth. A relationship has to be tended to, just like anything else. Like a plant left in a corner, if you don’t nourish it, it will die,” she says.
Soulmates Have Problems, Too
Clearly, conflict and compromise are not the monopoly of non-soulmate couples. As ideal as a romance between soulmates might seem, at the end of the day, it’s still a relationship like any other.
In the case of Serena, now married to Paul, their shared passion for career has led to some unexpected problems in their marriage. Both are still successful fast-trackers in large multinational companies in their respective industries, but now they live in different cities, maintaining a commuting marriage. “I truly didn’t expect this, and it has caused a lot of conflict,” Serena admits. “It’s been a trying time, but we are working it out.”
It stands to reason, too, that to find your soulmate, you must know your soul. Easier said than done. As American novelist Jane Smiley, says in her essay, Why Marriage?, “Now that marriage is about being everything to one another, courtship takes a long time and can break down at any point. It is difficult to find a mate who is equally good at every function, and it is also difficult to know oneself well enough to know which function you care about more than the others. As life moves through its stages, the functions you once cared about change or evolve. The great lover who can’t manage to get a dirty dish into the dishwasher becomes more annoying than exciting, and so on. But change promotes learning and flexibility. Those who do, not only find mates who suit them, but also find out how to value and cherish those mates.”
It’s an ideal. But you can still have a happy relationship or marriage without the ideal. Being soulmates – that’s just one thing. Seven years and 2 children into my own constantly worked-at, happy marriage, I can’t quite say that my husband is my soulmate in that romantic magic Hollywood way. We value the same things, yes, but we have different tastes. Still, as the song goes: love is a mystery. And we do have love – that I will say.
In the long run of life, you may find, like my grandma did, that you and the one you love may not have begun as soul-mates, but have, through a lot of patience and understanding, ended up becoming soulmates after all.
Authors Details: Natalie Chan – Reproduced courtesy of ELLE Singapore