Why You Shouldn’t Believe in Soulmates

Our brains can’t help but compare the imperfect human snoring beside us to the ideal hunk in our heads. But around the corner there isn’t someone better—only someone different.

Illustration by Sébastien Thibault

Shaun Cassidy, teen singing idol and one of TV’s sexy Hardy Boys, was my soulmate. There I was clad in the kilt and knee socks of a private school girl, lusting over this blue-eyed heartthrob and completely convinced we would fall in love. He would meet my deepest desires (and based on the surprisingly explicit fantasies I penned starring him and me, those desires needed meeting). When he whisked me away to his Beverly Hills mansion I would know and be known. Mated at the soul level, I would never feel alone again.

Turns out Shaun was not my soulmate. I look back at the confused girl I was with a mixture of amusement and compassion. I was suffering. I thought my perfect mate existed. You did, too. Back then we all believed if we could only find that one special person he or she would make us happy, ever after.

The problem is that now I’m 51, not 13, and yet traces of that longing still invade my mind and bedevil my relationship. ‘Cause I love my sweetheart but he is definitely not my soulmate, either. He hasn’t yet swept me off to live in a Beverly Hills mansion, and he can’t sing “Da Doo Ron Ron” worth a darn. And I am willing to admit that I freak out and become convinced that I have committed to the wrong person—my “real” partner is still out there. That guy writes books on neurocognition, creates nonprofits to save every street dog, and plays polo in between Kama Sutra training sessions.

Oh, sorry, I’m back. I got lost in a juicy fantasy there for a minute. Because deep down I still carry a subconscious soulmate template—updated frequently as my own interests and values evolve—and when I am not paying attention, my mind compares the imperfect human, who is currently snoring in the bedroom, to the ideal hunk in my head. I mean, c’mon—here I sit, working on a weekend, drinking the tea I had to brew all by myself, and he isn’t even massaging my tootsies or spoon-feeding me kale smoothies. Sheesh. Clearly I can do better.

Funny? Perhaps. Our minds are fairly ridiculous. But it’s a lot less funny if I indulge these thoughts, inviting them to hijack the present moment and sweep me into the emotionally booby-trapped land of What If.

What if I leave my partner and seek the man who is really meant for me? Well, here is what I would find if I looked: Not someone better, but someone different. A person with strengths in areas my partner lacks. And by unexamined, ludicrous, and dangerous assumption—someone who would make me happier than I currently am.

What if I leave my partner and seek the man who is really meant for me? Well, here is what I would find if I looked: Not someone better, but someone different.

This soulmate trap is subconscious and powerful. Like a shark, it lurks until a moment of disgruntlement invites it to take a chomp out of your contentment. So what to do? We must kill the soulmate.

Mindfulness can help us embrace others, flaws and all. In meditation, a thought arises. Examine it. Is it true? Is it real? Blast it with the lightsaber of awareness and it disappears. Then we are left with the bare experience of what is actually occurring, not our concept or storyline.

On our cushion we learn we have a choice to either indulge an illusion or dismiss it and embrace reality. Now apply this to love. We can clearly look at our sweetheart and focus on the many joys they bring to our life. And each time our mind flips a middle finger at the lovely, full, shining truth of the now and zips off to soulmate land, we can practice letting go of the fantasy person and, instead, simply choose to love the one we are with. After all, no human can live up to the perfect paramour we create in our head. With mindfulness we learn we don’t need the intellectual polo sex dude to make things better. Happiness is available right here and now. In fact, reality is pretty great. Even when reality is snoring.

Tips for Mindful Loving

Look for what you love about your mate, not the ways you think they fall short. Seek and ye shall find.



This article also appeared in the June 2016 issue of Mindful magazine.