In continuation of my Soul Mate series, the concept of Soul Mates is a fantasy we are spoon-fed on a daily basis. What does that do to a marriage?
Satan convinces them they married the wrong person. He tells them that their previous boyfriend or girlfriend was actually their soul mate (whoops!). Or he convinces them that this new person they’ve met is actually their soul mate. He convinces people that their spouse isn’t worth their time and effort anymore, because why would they waste time with someone who is not their soul mate?!
In other marriages, there is this idea that marriage should be perfect. “If my husband/wife is my soul mate, then we shouldn’t ever argue.” or “If my spouse is my one true love, then s/he would read my mind a bit better and contemplate my needs more often.” and, a favorite: “If my spouse is my soul mate, then our marriage shouldn’t take any kind of work whatsoever.”
My non-LDS therapist said this to me (in general –I’m not quoting word for word, here):
“The longer I’ve been a therapist, the more I’ve seen that movies and books have played a huge part in the dismantling of romantic relationships. They create an unrealistic and unattainable version, and when people can’t get their lives to match that version, they think they are broken and that their relationship is doomed.
It makes me angry –not at the people this affects, but at the people who create it. I tell people that if they want to start healing their relationships, they need to reduce their time watching and reading the things that aren’t real.”
She is not the only professional in a marriage and family setting to lament the rise of unrealistic expectations, either. If you internet search “unrealistic expectations can destroy marriage” you will find many, many, many who agree with this sentiment.
One reason I feel so strongly about this is because it has affected my own marriage relationship, too. I have spent hours upon hours fighting (and often losing) the temptations of Satan to compare my marriage, compare my husband, and compare our love to what I have seen on TV, social media, or read about in novels.
And I watch good TV! I read clean novels! And these novels are not bad. They are not dirty or inappropriate. They are clean, sweet, and romantic.
They tell the first tiny part of a love story –the beginning. They usually all end at the proposal or the wedding. Don’t all fairy tales? But they have given me great feelings of inadequacy because they paint a picture of what I experienced at the beginning of the relationship with my husband, and then for some reason, I feel like I need to have it back.
It’s so easy to forget that marriage is not meant to be the beginning part. The passion and romance are not the end result we are seeking! It is the beginning. And being in the middle, during the refining part, it is easy to lose sight of what were are truly seeking in a marriage.
Does this mean there can’t be passion and romance in the middle of a marriage? Of course not! But the purpose of marriage goes beyond passion and romance. Marriage is so much more. It needs to have the patience, respect, and loyalty it deserves in order to thrive.
Here is another quote from President Uchtdorf (from the same talk I mentioned in the previous post) and probably the most important thing you will read in this post:
Since you won’t find perfection in your partner, and your partner won’t find it in you, your only chance at perfection is in creating perfection together. That is the secret. There are those who do not marry because they feel a lack of magic in relationships. By magic, I assume they mean sparks of attraction.
Falling in love is a wonderful feeling, and I would never counsel you to marry someone you don’t love. Nevertheless, and here’s another thing that is sometimes hard to accept, that magic sparkle needs continued polishing. When the magic endures in a relationship, it’s because the couple made it happen, not because it mystically appeared due to some cosmic force. Frankly, it takes even work.
For any relationship to survive, both parties bring their own magic with them and use that to sustain their love. Although I have said that I do not believe in a one and only soul mate for anyone, I do know this. Once you commit to being married, your spouse becomes your soul mate. And it is your duty and responsibility to work every day to keep it that way. Once you have committed, the search for a soul mate is over. Our thoughts and actions turn from looking to creating.
I have constantly told my children (and piano students) that anything worth having in this life is going to take work. Anything. We value what we’ve worked for, friends. Those good grades? That scholarship? That game-winning goal? The flawless music recital? All of it takes hard work. Why in the world would marriage be any different?
Marriage, in LDS doctrine, is central to God’s plan. Central! That sounds pretty important to me and sounds like it’s worth a lot. I know my marriage is worth a lot to me, and it’s been worth all the work we’ve put into it.
So, friends, do yourself a favor: ditch the idea of a soul mate, be realistic about relationships, love others, seek for truth, and work hard at your marriage. Like President Thomas S. Monson said so simply not long ago:
Choose a companion carefully and prayerfully; and when you are married, be fiercely loyal one to another. Priceless advice comes from a small framed plaque I once saw in the home of an uncle and aunt. It read, “Choose your love; love your choice.” There is great wisdom in those few words. Commitment in marriage is absolutely essential. (“Priesthood Power,” April 2011)
Cheryl S. Savage
Cheryl S. Savage has one incredible husband and seven sensational kids. Since earning her bachelor's degree in marriage and family studies at BYU many years ago, she spends her time raising the kids, teaching piano lessons, voraciously reading, traveling, romanticizing, writing, and learning. She and her husband have moved their family from coast to coast, but currently reside in Kansas.