The Stuff of Fairytales

You know what’s weird? The concept of soulmates.

Did you know it originated from a tale told by Aristophanes about two-headed hermaphroditic giants? I didn’t either. You can thank Psychology Today for that fun fact.

The idea that there is a person out in the world somewhere who is our exact match, our perfect complement, is the stuff of fairytales—literally—and it makes for great happily-ever-after-type stories. The characters find each other, go through a series of plot twists that tear them apart before finally reuniting them just in time for their ride off into the sunset, and because the story ends there, we as readers or watchers are left to assume they lived the rest of their lives in peaceful, harmonic bliss.

We may have moved away from the term “soulmates,” but there’s still a pervasive notion in our culture that we have to find “the one.” (Have you watched even a single episode of The Bachelor/ette?) I think maybe this idea appeals to us because laziness is an epidemic no one seems to know how or care to combat (because that would require effort, probably. I’m not a cynic, what makes you think that? Don’t @ me). It’s a tough idea to grapple with, that lasting relationships require intentionality and energy expenditure (and why bother with that, when a relationship still might end and you could just be using Tinder to have no-strings-attached sex with as many strangers as you like? I’m not going to talk about brain chemistry right now. I’m not I’m not I’m not).

You can poke any number of holes in the soulmate theory, but the easiest one is that it assumes stagnancy. If your personality and attributes aren’t fixed, you could meet and miss your fated partner because you were the wrong person at the time and the connection didn’t happen. And then what? Are you just SOL for…the rest of your life?

“People just choose to marry people, they’re not ever meant or destined to marry them,” my friend texted me recently, and I agreed. Say what you like about fate or free will, I think moving away from the idea of destiny changes the landscape drastically, and for the better. It’s freeing. It takes the pressure off. Anyone could be “the one” if you’re willing to put in work and understand that the ride into the sunset is not likely a smooth one, but it can be a joyful one. If it doesn’t work out with one person, it’s okay. The world hasn’t ended, you didn’t miss your one chance. If it isn’t sunshine and rainbows all the time, that’s okay too. I’ve never been married, so I can only conjecture here, but I think a lot of people view marriage as kind of a finish line—you make it there, you’re good, all your premarital relationship problems will vanish when you say “I do.” But then…they don’t. Huh.

And here I find I have waded out of my depth, and far away from the point I meant to make, which was just that maybe we would all benefit from some deep breaths and the reminder that [most] mistakes aren’t fatal and it is okay if you don’t find your missing hermaphroditic giant half. You can still learn and grow a whole lot regardless. And who would want to be stuck as the same person for their whole life anyway?

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