I think the whole soul mate thing is sort of silly. I was dating this guy once, and we discovered very early on that we ate the same chocolate chip cookies, these really obscure ones, for breakfast. And we had the same weird flat-screen TV that nobody else had. And it was like, “Oh my God, we’re soul mates.” But it wasn’t that we were soul mates. It was that we had really poor nutritional habits and an interest in this strange aesthetic. I think people attribute commonalities to the fact that they’re soul mates. We want the soul mate thing to happen and so we look for ways to say to ourselves that it has.
So you don’t believe in soul mates?
Well, the rational part of me doesn’t. But despite what people may think after reading my piece, I really am a romantic. I still would like to meet a guy that I have this very visceral connection with, and that, to me, is a soul mate. But do I actually think there’s one person who’s my soul mate out there? Absolutely not. I think there are several people that any one of us could be with. Which makes me seem like more of a loser, because if there are dozens of soul mates out there, or potential guys I could be perfectly happy with, and I haven’t even married one of them, what does that say about me? If there’s just one and you haven’t found him, there’s a reason you’re still single. He’s a needle in a haystack.
Our culture has this view that you should just know if someone’s right for you. And that when you just know you’ll have no ambivalence or reservations, and you’ll never wonder if you’re truly in love, even if you fight all the time and you break up 17 times the way Rachel and Ross did in Friends or Carrie and Big did in Sex and the City. And so often you’ll hear in fiction or film or TV, or even at people’s weddings, these accounts of “We knew from the very first date, or after two weeks, that we would end up together.”
I have trouble with that because I’ve felt that certainty with boyfriends when I first met them. I’ve felt that incredible He’s the one or I just know. But then six months or a year or two years later we discovered we weren’t right for each other. It reminds me of the old Chris Rock joke that goes something like: “In the first three months of a relationship, you’re not you, you’re the ambassador of you.” How can you “just know” as soon as you meet someone? You have to peel the onion of who that person is and figure out if you work together.
So is one-stop shopping counterproductive, like Voltaire’s “the best is the enemy of the good”?
No one person is going to have all of the qualities you’re looking for, so if you’re always worried about what’s missing, you’re going to be perpetually lonely and frustrated. It’s human to think, I wonder if there’s something better out there. But it’s also crazy-making, because you can’t stop comparing. Like So-and-so wasn’t as creative as my last boyfriend. Or So-and-so doesn’t excite me the way this person does.
The question becomes: Are you willing to risk what you have in order to hold out for what either may not exist or, equally important, may not be attainable to you, even if it did exist? It’s nice to have high ideals, but the reality is, you may not be attractive to what you consider the best.
Feeling as you do now, what would you have done differently?
I would have considered dating guys I never gave a chance. Platonic guy-friends, or guys I met who asked me out but I turned them down, or guys I went on just one date with because I didn’t feel any chemistry or whatever I thought I was supposed to feel. I was looking for a spark when I should have been looking for a solid life partner.
....Don’t hold out for the thing that’s going to really rock your world—that’s the message. It’s about a lot more than that.