Q I am in my 30’s and just went on a date with a really great guy, the first good one I’ve met in a long time. But I’m not sure if he is “The One”. I don’t want to settle if he isn’t my Soulmate. Am I being too picky?
A Sometimes I think the women of the world should file a class-action lawsuit against Mr. Walt Disney. Why? Because even 78 years after the movie Snow White hit the big screen, generations of little girls weaned on princess movies still truly believe someday their Prince will come. And any guy who isn’t everything she ever dreamed of gets booted straight into the frog-pond.
And don’t fool yourself into thinking the Soulmate myth is only held by little girls. Male or female, gay straight or bi, most of us are walking around seeking the perfect mate. Wake up people. There is no such thing as a “Soulmate”. No human can live up to the picture that you have created in your head. This fiction is buried in your subconscious, influencing your “ideal mate” template. My advice? Mr. Great may be right in front of you, if you ditch the idea of the Soulmate. Show up with mindful awareness and discover who he really is, here and now.
What the heck does Soulmate mean, anyway? Well, the term comes from Aristotle’s maudlin concept that each soul is split apart, so we humans are made of half a soul. Yuck. We are doomed to wander the planet attempting to find our other half. Now I ask you. Does that sound healthy to you? And talk about pressure on whoever you date!
Here is my dating prescription. Whether you’re looking to get married or are divorced and looking to start over: consciously make a mate-shopping list. Research by John Gottman shows that the true predictors of long-term marital happiness include having shared goals and values, cultivating communication and learning to manage conflict, and partnering with someone with whom you share a great friendship. John himself went on many many dates, armed with pen and paper, when he was searching for long-term love. But most people take more care listing the features they want in a car or a microwave oven than those they want in a partner. Sheesh.
So here is some homework. Get mindful about what you really need (and please notice when you are in a fantasy land with a superhighway to love hell). First, list every quality that your ideal guy would have, from the ridiculous (he has fuzzy socks and I can steal) to the sublime (he looks like Bradley Cooper, has the mind of Steven Hawking, the heart of the Dalai Lama…and oh yah, he makes love like the guy in that 50 shades-of-confused-messages-about-sexuality movie). Then ruthlessly cut the list down to the top ten. These qualities are the core things you need in a partner. Your list might include generosity (he gives freely of his heart and time), or that he wants children and would be an involved, loving dad, or he supports your commitment to meditation and a healthy emotional lifestyle.
But remember, keep it real. Because in reality the Perfect 10 partner doesn’t exist. That is the mythical Soulmate. He is a fiction created by screenwriters and portrayed by unrealistically gorgeous actors who can’t hold their own marriages together off camera. Don’t you think it’s wiser to choose your beloved based on truth, not Hollywood?
Next step? Armed with your list, spend time with men who have 7 of the key qualities. Stop looking for perfection, and look for happiness instead. The great news is that you will find many potential mates who have most of your key criteria, and you can create a healthy loving relationship with the one you choose. Just remember not to rely solely on “chemistry”. If the wild rush of this-could-be-him hits you, enjoy the ride, but know that that it is a temporary hormonal cocktail. That thrilling feeling is created by oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine and adrenaline stewed together with hopes, and dreams – and a little Walt Disney. It often has little to do with reality. One recent study showed that being “madly in love” mimics the brain chemistry seen in Obsessive Compulsive disorder. And it passes. If what is left includes those shared love-list items you identified before you were got high on endorphins, you’ve got the basis of a wonderful, sustainable relationship.
By the way, married people, these same rules apply to you. If you’re ever facing uncertainty about your marriage and decide to make your own list, cut your partner some slack. Of course they aren’t perfect; nor are you. When you choose to create passion rather than expect it to take care of itself, you can actually see your froggy mate for the Prince or Princess Charming they truly are. You just might fall in love with them all over again…all 7 great qualities of them. So sit on your meditation cushion. Take a mindful breath. The kill the Soulmate, and save your relationship.
Mindful Loving Tip – Look for what you love about your mate, not the ways you think they fall short. Seek and ye shall find.
For the sake of all beings – Wisdom, ComPassion, and Mindful Loving