If I hear one more person talk about what they want in their their friggin' "soulmate," I think I'm gonna start ripping wings off of butteflies, pulling legs off grasshoppers or something equally dysfunctional.
Soulmate, hell - most times, at least around this country today, people want someone that will be their mirror-image, only with a little airbrushing - they're looking for someone that will mold themselves to the life of the searcher.
The majority of "lookers," especially the narsicisstic young, want someone to validate their own feelings, their own behaviors, their own preferences. It's little more than projected masturbation. The thought that some of this genetic overspill might actually have to contribute something of themselves to the effort would be terrifying, should they ever go so far as to contemplate it. And the behaviors they want validated? Take your pick, close your eyes and point - you'll hit on something for which they long for approval.
It takes work, and sometimes it takes a hell of a lot of work, to be someone's full-time romantic, in-love companion. And if your time and work efforts are focused elsewhere, the relationship will suffer. There's no auto pilot, no cruise control, that lets you turn away from the cockpit and step back in first class to sample the premium booze.
Hoo boy. I open my own can of worms when I get into this topic because my marriage ended by my wife's death six years ago, not our divorce. But few people know it could have and might have ended otherwise had she lived.
There were a number of things that pulled us apart. She worked on her master's degree while our son was little and I was working at a law firm. Before that, I was in law school full time while she was doing shift work at a local hospital. I am intimately familiar with what that experience can do to a couple. The time required to handle the curriculum was time away from spouse, and sometimes I had to forcefully remind her that I needed time with the books. This got me through law school but did not endear myself to her, I'm pretty sure of that.
We went to marital counseling not long before she got sick. There was probably only two things I took away from that thing, but they, to me, were critical things.They may have . . . well, I was going to say 'saved our marriage.' They may have made it last until she died, that's a better way of putting it.
First thing was that no matter how hard you work and how perfectly you try to do things, the person that thought your outstanding character trait was endearing when they married you will be at best annoyed by it several years down the road and at worst find it absolutely maddening. Same is true for trying to be laid back and accepting about things (me). To a class-A personality (her), this seems a good thing at first, complimentary to her own behaviors - and a lazy, irresponsible way to handle life years later.
One's characteristics are always going to rub someone else raw over time. Always. Maybe not all behaviors will do that, but some of them will. Perhaps that's one reason why I've chosen not to get married again. Maybe it's my aversion to hard work when it comes to relationships. Then, it may be that I just like my "me" time. But it's true - the thing about rubbing another raw - it's really true.
The second thing, and it's more important than the first - communication is not the most important thing in a relationship. You hear that over and over, but it's not communication. Forgiveness is. Each and every day, when someone's edges rub you raw, you can swallow it and keep going without saying anything, or you can bring it up and in the spirit of working things out, the other can apologize and tell them they will try to keep that to a minimum for your sake. And then you forgive him or her. Probably twenty times a day, but you do it.
This was part of our marital counseling contract with each other. We knew there were things about each other that were bothersome, annoying, or outright angering /pissing-off maddening to the other person. If we forced ourselves to make an inventory of what sorts of behaviors pushed us away from the other, we found that we could do it without much effort.
Regardless of how important that character trait was to ourselves, we knew it had this effect on the other. And to that point in our lives, we stuffed it and acted like it didn't happen, only to either break out in huge arguments when it got to be too much - or get away and not speak to each other for days or weeks at a time.
Instead, we agreed to bring it up the moment it happened, the behavior only and not any alleged motive behind it, and the other agreed not to get defensive, because we both knew we were imperfect, and if we brought it up in a non-angry, non-derogatory way, the other was to acknowledge that it happened and that it affected the other person badly, and apologize in the name of healing the relationship. And then the person who brought it up was to forgive, in the old-time religious sense, 'not remembering the sin' as it were, putting the relationship ahead of personal considerations about identity and being oneself, etc.
That philosophy kind of flies in the face of many ideas about living life that are important today, one being of course that you're to be your own person, establish your own identity and not let anyone take away the things that make you, you. That is all well and good, but people are raised differently, every single one of em, and in the making and evolving of ourselves we develop edges that naturally scrape against others who are different than ourselves - which is, of course, everyone else. Everyone. Else.
In the past, I often thought that a true soulmate was one who would understand my differences, my faults, my characteristics, and accept them joyfully. By god, it was her joy simply to find someone like me. In that arrangement, of course, there was no need for me to change or develop or adapt myself to any of her preferences. How convenient for me. I was always in search of this tremendously compliant, adaptable and accepting person, and of course never found her.
And women, I've noticed, often talk about how their men are changing and adapting and giving in to the woman's wishes about - everything. All I can say to the woman is - sex is a strong playing card. Second thing I can say: that playing card will eventually fray around the edges, along with that compliant male's attitude. Sooner or later, you're going to have to work at it. Or give it up.
Since those times my idea of "soulmate" has evolved to one that (1) concludes there's no such thing, or in the alternative (2) a person who may in fact understand my eccentricities, my faults, my weak spots and my differences - and understand her own as well - and puts our relationship on a high enough priority that she is willing to work on smoothing down the rough edges of herself, to admit there may be parts of her that irritate me or make me mad, so that she and I can be a couple.
And if I wanted to be a soulmate too, then I would have those same priorities - placing her rights and feelings above my own, and being willing to admit how my own behaviors may irritate her or make her mad - however important I thought those behaviors might be in terms of defining me as a person. It might be even harder to find this sort of person than it would be to look for the person that understands me and accepts me for what I am, and is willing to mold themselves to fit my jagged edges.
Oh, hell - I'm not denying that there's strong chemistry between some people, and that some people seem to hit it off really well and understand each other without a lot of effort. Sure, that happens, and maybe those people are soulmate material.
But understanding each other and getting along are two different things. I understood, perfectly well, what things wife was doing that pissed me off. She understood them too. What's more, she understood that I understood them. See, we had perfect understanding. That didn't mean there was any motivation on her part to do anything about the behavior. For that, more than understanding or chemistry was required. There had to be the desire to put the relationship ahead of the behavior. And sometimes, that behavior might be a cherished thing, something that a person feels defines them.
I don't know. I just don't know. I've got a slew of butterflies just out the door, ready for mutilation. And as for the types of people I mentioned, the worker or the molder, I haven't found either yet -- just a hot woman here and there that makes me feel all warm and frisky for various, and sometimes very different, reasons. I suppose that's a first step.