We’ve thrown away the unrealistic soul mate lists, so now we are ready to learn how to stop using the soul mate myth to halt effort and preparation!
“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.”
Not many people say this out loud. I’m pretty sure many don’t even realize they are doing this –either because they believe they are the exception, or, more often than not, they word it differently. Here are some other ways to say the same thing:
- “I refuse to change myself in any way for someone else.”
- “When it’s supposed to happen, it will happen.”
- “There’s nothing I can do about it if the men won’t ask me on dates” and the flip side, “Women need to do the asking, too. Isn’t this a modern society?”
- “If it’s not perfect during the first date, I’m not going to waste my time.”
- “True love shouldn’t have to take so much work.”
Let’s take a look at each one.
“I refuse to change myself in any way for someone else.”
This isn’t a bad thought if the intentions are pure. We shouldn’t be changing who we are for others, especially our core beliefs. We are unique individuals with tastes, talents, opinions, and experiences, and if a person expects us to change important things about our uniqueness, we have a very good reason to be wary and refuse!
But this isn’t always what people mean. It is being used as a defense mechanism against improvement and growth, as well as against making forth the effort to work in a relationship. It is also used as an excuse for rude, mean, cruel, selfish, and abusive behavior.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we know that we were sent to the Earth to progress. We are here to learn and grow! With the help of our Savior, we are supposed to change. We want Him to change our hearts! That is the best way to change, anyway. We don’t want to change for someone else –we want to change for Him. The beautiful fallout of this change is that it will also bless the people around us, including (and especially), our chosen companion.
Also: why would someone else want to be married to a person unwilling to progress? If you want a great companion, you need to be a great companion, too.
So, if you are a kind of a jerk, you need to change. If you are selfish, work on changing! If you find yourself not knowing how to work hard, support others, serve willingly, etc. etc. and so forth, you might want to pray for the ability to change. And then get to work.
“When it’s supposed to happen, it will happen.”
This is also true –sort of. Finding a marriage partner can definitely have timing involved. Heavenly Father does guide us to be where we need to be a lot of the time! But there’s a catch –we need to be following the Holy Ghost. We can’t be in the right place at the right time if we aren’t obeying promptings, dear reader. God cannot steer a parked car!
Sometimes this means we have to do things we aren’t excited to do, like go to a dance, take a job out of state, or move out of one apartment into another one. Sometimes this means transferring schools, quitting a job, going back for more education, serving a mission, or getting up the nerve to ask that person out on a date. Elder Rasband said in our most recent General Conference (October 2017):
When we are righteous, willing, and able, when we are striving to be worthy and qualified, we progress to places we never imagined and become part of Heavenly Father’s “divine design.” Each of us has divinity within us. When we see God working through us and with us, may we be encouraged, even grateful for that guidance. When our Father in Heaven said, “This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man,” He was talking about all of His children—you in particular.
“There’s nothing I can do about it if men won’t ask me on dates” and “Women need to do the asking, too. Isn’t this a modern society?”
Both of these statements represent the frustration many people feel when they are making attempts to find a marriage companion. We cannot control other people, and I know, especially for women, waiting to be asked out on a date can be very frustrating, especially if they have done some asking, themselves. Men, I know, can also feel frustrated when they feel they are spending a lot of money and time on women who don’t seem interested and would like to see the favor returned occasionally.
So, what can a man or woman do about this?
Simply put, do all you can. Continue to ask people out on dates. Plan group dates where individual couples will still have time to talk to one another. Consider planning dating events, go to dances and other events where you can meet people. Keep trying! But if even that feels too hard, you can at least keep working on yourself.
In a devotional address given at BYU-Hawaii on September 7, 2006, Elder Eric B. Shumway said:
Regardless of your present dating prospects, you can spend this precious time of preparation developing qualities that will prepare you for marriage. This is a plea to sincerely prepare, to seek to acquire the personal attributes that will sustain a happy marriage.
You can still prepare for marriage even if you feel you have no opportunity. When you show God that you are willing to improve yourself, follow promptings, and put forth some effort, you can be assured that you are doing all that you can. Elder Shumway also suggested these things to work on as you search for a spouse (numbers added):
- First, love God with all your heart, might, mind, and strength…
- In looking forward to marriage, do not assume a wait-and-see posture. This is not just a period for marking time or treading water. Seek to become a happy, productive person in your own right. If you have been unsuccessful in love or hurt or betrayed or ignored, break away from complaining and self-pity. Fill your life with all the things that will improve the head, the heart, and the hand…
- Cultivate a cheerful attitude and the ability to laugh, even at yourself…
- …Become an expert in friendship: respectful, loyal, and fun. Be quick to lift others and to forgive offenses.
- As you prepare for marriage, develop a sense, even a passion, for order in your life…
- Practicing consistent acts of service and kindness… Many of us serve, but are we willing when it is inconvenient? Serving in our families is seldom convenient…
- A most critical preparation for marriage is striving for moral purity, reserving sexual intimacy only for a covenanted loved one in the sacred bonds of marriage…
- Live worthy of the temple’s promises. Go back to the temple regularly…
“If it’s not perfect during the first date, I’m not going to waste my time.”
Many first dates flop. Not all go well, this is true! Blind dates turn out weird, embarrassing moments can occur, and the conversation can be stilted or forced. First dates are just hard all the way around! But the problem with this statement is that it’s simply unfair and doesn’t allow room for compassion or forgiveness. Marriage is the essence of compassion and forgiveness. If you can’t even give that to a first date, what makes you think you can do it for an eternity?
Here are some real-life examples from happily married couples who had a rocky start to their relationship:
The first date was totally awkward. Then after we were engaged I almost called it off because I wasn’t feeling “butterflies.” That would have been such a huge mistake.
I was not very interested in dating him. Not my “type” at all! I tried to set him up with my best friend. Things were very awkward for a while because I knew he liked me but I didn’t want him to. He became a good friend, and I grew in love with him. Now he is my perfect “type.”
The first date was unremarkable. I didn’t even think he was that cute! But after each subsequent date, I would tell myself that he was the most interesting person I had ever met so I would give him another chance. 10 years later….
On our first date I was so sick I almost had to call it off and then a few things went wrong — like we went to the wrong place for the dance! On our third date, multiple things went wrong; our ride fell through and we had to walk around the mall for an hour in the cold (I was still sick). Thankfully we really clicked and made it through everything!
I would suggest that if there is even an inkling of interest, go out at least two or three times before calling it quits. Just try!
“True love shouldn’t take so much work.”
Many people use this as a reason to break up with a potential marriage companion. True, not every relationship is going to end up in marriage, and there are many that probably shouldn’t! (Please note, too, that any kind of abuse in a relationship should never be tolerated.) But using “this shouldn’t take work if it was true love” is kind of ridiculous.
It’s actually the epitome of the soul mate myth.
In Part 2, I wrote that anything worth having is going to take hard work. True love –an eternal marriage –is worth more than anything else in this world. We are talking about eternity, are we not? Exaltation? Family? Then this is something that will take the most work –not necessarily the hardest work, but definitely the most.
We need to be invested! We need to practice loyalty, forgiveness, compassion, respect, compromise, humility, repentance, charity, sacrifice, and kindness. If a couple can apply these concepts and practice them regularly, they will look forward to their “hard work” and it will be worth every effort.
So, dear reader, don’t wait around for a soul mate (that doesn’t really exist, anyway). You don’t have to obsess about true love in order to make choices that will bring you closer to finding a companion you can feel good about choosing to marry. Ask God to help you, and then get to work. Remember, again, God cannot steer a parked car! Give Him something to work with.
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.