Throughout life, most people embark on one specific, overlapping journey. Together, we search for an elusive partnership that promises to make all our dreams come true and protect and safeguard us until “death do us part.” Holidays such as Valentine’s Day and anniversaries are centered around it. Thousands of songs, poems, books, movies, and plays tell of these journeys and the ensuing success or heartbreak. Social media and dating sites attempt to fast-track us along on this adventure and all the experiences that lead to finding one specific person:
Where did this concept of a true love– a person destined to be with us and connect to us perfectly on every level– come from? Is it real? How do we find such a person? What happens if we cannot find this person or wind up with someone we feel is not our actual soulmate? These questions and many others have plagued humanity for centuries and have certainly increased the popularity of such discussions within late night talk shows, online “find your true love” quizzes, and probably on many therapists’ couches. Tolkien speaks of it in one of his letters by saying, “The idea still dazzles us, catches us by the throat: poems and stories in multitudes have been written on the theme, more, probably, than the total of such loves in real life (yet the greatest of these tales do not tell of the happy marriage of such great lovers, but of their tragic separation; as if even in this sphere the truly great and splendid in this fallen world is more nearly achieved by ‘failure’ and suffering).” ¹
The idea of a soulmate or “split soul theory” dates back to the ancient Egyptians, more specifically to their Heliopolis creation myth found within the Book of the Dead.² In that myth, the gods Shu and Tefnut (to mean Air and Water) were two halves of one god soul, Atum. This myth changed throughout time, but one of the most popular versions depicted one dual-gender human body and one soul that was later split into two souls and two bodies (male and female) as punishment by the gods. Thereafter, the two split souls wandered the earth, forever searching for their soulmate.
It seems unlikely that an actual split of ourselves is floating around with the same adoration (in my personal case) for Pad Thai, bird-watching, and discovering unique inscriptions in old books. Yet studies show that 74% of American men and 71% of women believe in the concept of soulmates. ³ Today’s view of soulmate is best depicted by Thomas Moore, who said, “A soulmate is someone to whom we feel profoundly connected, as though the communicating and communing that take place between us were not the product of intentional efforts, but rather a divine grace.” At the end of the day, the idea of a romantic soulmate centers around a partnered belief in destiny. We are either destined for one specific person who will complete us, or we are compatible with many people and merely select one to grow and change with during our lives.
“But look at all the amazing couples in the Bible!” you say. “Weren’t they soulmates? Were they not destined by God to be together?” In a word: no, at least not because of some innate chemistry and connection that forged their spirits and souls into one for some greater good. When we look to the Bible, we certainly see much wisdom concerning love and marriage. Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” This verse implies that the connection between spouses is far more encompassing than merely having chemistry; the two become one being in the eyes of God through a covenant made to each before Him, but not necessarily because they were predestined to do so. Better known as “the love chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13 describes all the ways we can foster love with those in our lives, forming a connection that is made holy and good in the sight of God (Proverbs 3:3-4). Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, urged them to “…put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity,” (Colossians 3:14). We see that a godly love can unify nearly everyone under the grace of God, but nowhere do we see that romantic love and marriage should be based on the idea that we are meant for “just one person” or that God has only one spouse in mind for us.
In times past within America and still in some countries today, marriage was an arrangement for political, economic, and and social purposes. Today within Western societies, we see that women generally stand on equal footing with men. They can provide for themselves and their children, choose their spouses, dress how they want, display themselves on social media however they wish, and no longer have a need to be “kept” women. In my opinion, this shift has only encouraged the belief and desire to find a “soulmate”: as both men and women find that they can care for themselves, their desire to find someone to fill their emotional and sexual needs surges. They want the spark, the passion, the butterflies, and the magical connection that they think will fill the one gap in their lives that they cannot seem to fulfill themselves: a soulmate. Unfortunately, this often leads to a succession of failed relationships as problems arise and people find the excuse of “if they were my soulmate, it wouldn’t be this difficult” an easy way to back out of the relationship. Tolkien discussed this in one of his letters by saying, “When the glamour wears off, or merely works a bit thin, they think they have made a mistake, and that the real soul-mate is still to find. The real soul-mate too often proves to be the next sexually attractive person that comes along. Someone whom they might indeed have very profitably have married, if only — .”
Despite the lack of evidence, both scientific and biblical, that proves we are destined for one romantic partner, there is no denying that connections do exist. There are people we meet in life who can stimulate our minds, make our hearts lurch with emotion, inspire us to immediately respond to their text or call, and provide a loyalty and stability that no one else can. I posit that these connections can and should exist within a marital relationship, but I believe we find them in much more common, everyday ways… through our friendships. In his book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis writes,
“Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one… It is when two such persons discover one another, when, whether with immense difficulties and semi-articulate fumblings or with what would seem to us amazing and elliptical speed, they share their vision – it is then that Friendship is born. And instantly they stand together in an immense solitude.”
From a biblical perspective, we see the deep adoration and love that David and Jonathan had for one another in the book of 1 Samuel 18:1, which says that “… the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” Within my own experiences, I have found this deep yearning for a connection fulfilled by my relationship with God and within my marriage, but I have also found it within my friendships. There is no singular “soulmate” in my life, but rather a few of them, and each one challenges, uplifts, drives, and impassions me in ways that none of the others do. Each one could crush my heart if they chose. Each one forces me to refine myself in ways that none of the others do. Each one makes me yearn for their presence, feel a need to celebrate their successes in life, mourn through their trials, and grow spiritually with them. All of them connect to my mind and heart, and I cannot imagine life without them. To me, that is the true definition of a soulmate. No one person can perfectly fulfill all of those qualifications, and it is selfish and foolish to expect anyone to.
So how do we find these people? How do we retain them in our lives? I think that we first need to realize that these connections often take time to develop. While it is possible to feel an instant “spark” with someone, the reality is that a friendship and love that deep must be fostered through honesty, kindness, memorable shared experiences and discussions, and a desire to grow together within the relationship, even if the people themselves change through time. When you have that, you will find that all the humanistic needs for connection and understanding are fulfilled, and you will have found that relationship that will last forever, regardless of age, distance, beliefs, or experiences. You will have found a soulmate.