image by sarah mccoy photo

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Happily Ever After: By Hook or By Crook

Know what I think?  One of the most insidious lies a person can believe is that a soul mate, a one true match, exists.

I know this is a romantic notion on which the hopes of many are pinned, and I’m busting it up.  But only because I think there’s something much, much better.  And you have to give up the romantic notion to get the goods.

The problems with believing in soul mates are many.

1. Believing in soul mates means you could make the wrong choice the first time around.

If you think your significant other is your magical, cosmic match, but then you meet someone who sets your heart aflutter even MORE, you now have a real problem.  Did you marry the wrong guy?  If so, are you perfectly justified in pursuing this new love, due to its even more magical, cosmic nature?  How can you ever be sure—and how long should you hold out?

Conversely, I can be content, like big-time, in marriage not because I think there aren’t any guys out there in the universe equally or better suited to me, but because I know there probably are.  And it’s totally irrelevant to my marital bliss.  If I don’t believe in soul mates, I don't set myself up for the shock of an exciting new someone’s appearance.  Which leaves me free to be happy forever right where I am.

2. Believing in soul mates means you leave the work to chemistry, forgetting that chemistry IS the work.

I think your odds of happiness with a spouse are almost (almost!) unconnected to the particular qualities of that person.  This is super unromantic, yes?  Of course it’s great to choose a person with whom you have something in common and all.  It’s likely that’s what first attracted you anyway.  But it’s not essential to your ultimate happiness.

What is essential is that both of you work to secure not your own interests, but those of your spouse.  Even if you love extreme dirt bike racing and he prefers a quiet read on the patio, you can each prioritize finding ways to make the other feel understood and appreciated.  Loving overtures yield loving feelings over the long term, and not the other way around.  Good looks, common interests and sparkling charisma may win you over initially, but only this love-legwork creates a future. 

(Don’t panic. The work is often fun and usually pays well.)

3. Believing in soul mates means you put too much stock in butterflies.

Butterflies are not the best part.  Butterflies are NOT the best part.  So don’t read so much into them.  Enjoy them, but expect even more. 

Ever walk by a newly landscaped lawn?  It’s grabs your attention; the lines are sharp and the colors vibrant.  But the plants are spaced out to accommodate future growth, so its potential is yet to be realized.  If it’s left to grow unattended, no brilliance of design or quality of materials will keep it from becoming a wilderness.  But if it’s cared for, fed, watered, pruned, in a few years even a garden full of discount nursery castoffs will be spectacular. 

I like butterflies and romance as much as the next girl.  But I’m most dazzled by assurances: that the right formula of work and commitment (and prayer) can weather what comes.  Maybe soul mates do exist.  But they’re made, not found.