Saturday, 15 June 2013

Soul mates, by choice.

There is a popular romantic notion that each person has a 'soul mate', some special one and only person with whom they can have a perfect, life long romance.  Find and marry this person and you will live happily ever after, marry somebody else and it will end badly.  It helps create drama in romantic comedies, but as a guiding principle of relationships here in the real world it can be a hindrance, or even a destructive force.

There are 7 billion people in the world, the vast majority of them you will never ever meet.  Most of those you do meet will be in fleeting, short term encounters.  The person driving your bus, that stranger that asked for directions.  Only a tiny percentage of humanity will ever establish some kind of relationship with you, so from a statistical view, if there were soul mates almost nobody would run into them let alone marry them.

Of course you could take the view that an all knowing Heavenly Father will arrange things so soul mates do meet.  Fine, what happens then if this person dumps you, or is hit by a drunk driver and killed?  How do you cope with failing your one and only shot at bliss?  You could take Heavenly Father's intervention even further, claiming that He would set things up so you are sure to not fail or be thwarted, but that takes you into the territory of mimicking Satan's plan,  restricting everybody's freedom to choose so that specific outcomes are achieved.

The danger lies in the fact that there is no objective way of determining if somebody is your soul mate or not, it's purely emotional.  It can be amusing when some teenaged girl makes monthly announcements of finding her new soul mate, but more than one marriage has ended because one spouse came to believe that the person they married was not actually their 'soul mate' and somebody else was.  That opens the door to having an affair, and even feeling justified in doing so. 

The Church actively discourages the idea of soul mates as well.  President Kimball stated: "‘Soul mates’ are a fiction and an illusion" and Elder Boyd K. Packer said: "I do not believe in predestined love... You must do the choosing, rather than to seek for some one-and-only so-called soul mate, chosen for you by someone else and waiting for you."

At the same time however, many married couples, both in and out of the church, have experienced being directed toward marrying a specific person.  I've experienced this myself.

I met my wife at a Youth Conference dance when we were both teenagers.  Neither one of us knew many people there so she was trying to meet as many guys as she could, and I was trying to dance with as many pretty girls as I could.  I hadn't noticed her at any of the events before the dance, but the second I laid eyes on her that still small voice told me very clearly that I should go and meet her, which I gladly did.  There was an instant connection and we hung out with each other for the rest of the dance and talked about everything. By the end of that dance we were in love.

As I watched her leave, that still, small voice interupted my thoughts again and told me "She is the one".  I really liked the idea of things turning out like that, but I didn't want the pressure of knowing she was 'the one', especially since she lived a hundred miles from my home in another Stake.  Not ideal conditions for a long term relationship.

I had to be told she was the one three times that night to get past that fear. My fear of failure made me refuse to take it as guaranteed that we would marry, instead I took that revelation as an obligation to do all I could to pursue that outcome, which I did.  After years of dealing with the obstacles of a long distance relationship I popped the question soon after I returned home from my mission nearly 25 years ago.

So, how is it that I can be told she was 'the one' when there is no such thing as soul mates?

The answer is in the difference between predestination and foreordination.  I have no doubt that my wife and I are continuing a relationship that began before the world was, but if I had chosen to jump off the straight and narrow, or if she had, then she would not have been the one for me and I would not have been the one for her.  Instead we would both have been 'the one' for somebody else.  Both of us had our agency, but we both chose paths that made her the one for me and me the one for her.  We are soul mates by choice, not by destiny or fate.

The same can be true of any couple that strive for that kind of relationship in their marriage.  Nobody is a victim or pawn of fate, we are all agents in our marriage.  The choices we made resulted in the marriage we are in, and the choices we make will shape that relationship for good or ill.  While this gives each spouse the power to harm the marriage, it also gives each spouse the power to make the marriage better.  If the feeling that your spouse is 'the one' has been absent lately, perhaps it is time to make some new choices and bring that back.

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