A friend asked, after reading Part 1 of this series, if Part 2 would discuss how people can get over the idea of a soul mate. It wasn’t –Part 2 was about how the myth of the soul mate could kill marriages. So, I decided to write Part 3 and Part 4! Part 3 will deal with how we re-write our fantasies and our “lists.” Part 4 will talk about how the opposite side of the pendulum –how to avoid lack of preparation.
Getting over any false idea takes some time and rewiring of how we think. We need to eradicate the false ideas and then replace them with true ones. For this to work, I’d like to replace “Soul Mate” with “Chosen Companion.”
The false ideas usually consist of creating fantasies and lists in our minds (or even on paper) of what our soul mate will be (or should be). Sometimes, though, it also includes not thinking about it at all. The logic behind this is a thought process that goes something like this, “I will know it when we meet. It will be love at first sight because s/he will be everything I’ve ever dreamed of because they will match the list!” or “I don’t need to prepare for it, think about it, or date, because a soul mate will know me and love me without me having to do anything about it.”
Let’s tackle the fantasy and the lists.
(We’ll talk about the other one in Part 4.)
My first piece of advice is to re-write all of your lists. In some instances, throw them away! Just rip them up and toss them. We’re going to learn how to write one that makes sense!
The wrong list is common. Many people have them, whether or not they are actually written down. Some are simply in our heads and affect us greatly as we make dating choices. Here’s an example of what a wrong list looks like (this is a short portion from an actual female list, written when she was 15 years old. And this girl was… is… ahem… me!). This would be “The Soul Mate List” :
- He must be a returned missionary
- He will dance in the rain with me
- He will be at least 6’4″ with brown hair and brown eyes
- He will speak a foreign language, play a musical instrument, play sports, and love art
- He will want a really large family (10 kids, at least!)
- He will be rich
- He will take me dancing, traveling, and to museums and concerts
- He will sweep me off my feet and be incredibly romantic
A lot of these things are not bad. What’s wrong with a tall guy who likes to dance? What’s wrong with a rich guy who wants a large family? Or a romantic guy that speaks a foreign language? Absolutely nothing! But putting them all together, it’s probably rare that this type of man exists. And even if he did –are these the things that build a lasting (eternal) marriage? Think about this: when you are both 80 years old, will it matter if he was tall? Or even romantic or rich?
Our lists need to reflect what really matters in a marriage, especially one founded upon eternity.
Well, dear reader, it might not surprise you that I didn’t find quite what I was looking for. The truth is, I found somebody much better because he is real! My husband happens to be a returned missionary, yes, but he’s 6’0″ with blond hair (well, it’s pretty dark blond and turned brown over time) and piercing blue eyes.
He doesn’t speak a foreign language, but he does play the piano. He wasn’t (still isn’t) rich, doesn’t like the rain, nor does he really like to dance, but he also wanted a large family (we have 7 children). We travel and enjoy museums and concerts, but he’s also from California (gasp!), and when we first met, he most certainly did not sweep me off my feet (at least not until the next day!).
But he’s wonderful. And so much better than a fantasy!
So, how do we write better lists?
A friend of mine has told her children to look for two things in a person when they are considering marriage. First, is the person temple worthy? Second, does the person know how to work hard? She said these two questions are so important because in a temple marriage you need someone who will keep their covenants and know how to work alongside you.
Her list is right on the mark! And church leaders would agree with her, too.
This past August, the Ensign had an article entitled, “Inquire Well to Marry Well.” You can read the article in its entirety, here. Although this article focuses mostly on what questions we can ask in order to ensure we are marrying somebody we understand and know well (to help eliminate future divorce), it also can help us make a better list of what we want in a future spouse.
Here are those questions (with my own commentary added in parenthesis). I would call this “The Chosen Companion List”:
- Is the person worthy to go with me to the temple? (This is so much more important than “does she have a temple recommend?” or “Is he a returned missionary?” because neither of those things guarantee worthiness.)
- Have I paid attention to the person’s inward character, or have I been focusing solely on the outward personality? (Or their outward looks? Physical attraction is important, but not nearly as important as what is on the inside. Inward character can also differ from the persona portrayed in public.)
- How does the person treat the Sabbath day? (In other words, do they take prophetic counsel seriously? Does their family dynamic match with mine, meaning –will our future family have trouble establishing our own rules or traditions because of our ideas of things, like Sabbath Observance, are in opposition to each other?)
- How does the person publicly and privately observe the commandments? (Do they take a day off from keeping covenants? Which commandments do they believe are better than others? How do they treat sacred things?)
- How does the person treat family members, roommates, and strangers? (Especially waiters! When you are on a date, observe very carefully how they treat those who are in service. Are they gracious and understanding? Or do they complain and berate?)
Elder Richard G. Scott said:
“There is more to a foundation of eternal marriage than a pretty face or an attractive figure. There is more to consider than popularity or charisma. As you seek an eternal companion, look for someone who is developing the essential attributes that bring happiness: a deep love of the Lord and of His commandments, a determination to live them, one that is kindly understanding, forgiving of others, and willing to give of self, with the desire to have a family crowned with beautiful children and a commitment to teach them the principles of truth in the home.”
I can testify, with my entire soul, that having a husband who is truly forgiving, willing to work, and worthy of his temple covenants makes marriage and life better. It doesn’t matter what his eye color happens to be, nor his past athletic accomplishments! What really matters, what really makes a marriage work, is found deep inside, where work ethic, character, and devotion to God is found.
Now, just for fun, here are some other things you could add to your “Chosen Companion” list (if you want to get particular):
*Does he get my sense of humor?
*Is she willing to help others even if it’s inconvenient?
*Do we enjoy some of the same activities?
*What does he believe politically, and how important are those politics to him?
So, dear reader, toss your Soul Mate list and then write your Chosen Companion list! It will be better, I promise.
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.