And now for something completely different: relationships!

I was inspired to write this because of someone whom I follow on Twitter. She posted a poll asking if people believe in soulmates, with this justification.

So, on this poll, I voted for the option that was, and I am paraphrasing it in my own words: ‘There are a small set of people with whom you can have wonderfully close, special, meaningful relationships, but no, we don’t have soulmates per se,’ as in, we don’t have one single person out there with whom we can form a special bond. Maybe the actual option was not exactly that, but you get the point.

Let me explain, and also address the stuff mentioned in the video that Sarah linked.

First, let me talk about my own personal situation. I have been married for almost twelve years. My wife and I have had ups and downs in our relationship, including dealing with me going through some fairly severe problems. We love each other and communicate with one another, and today, I think we are in our best place ever, and we are totally what some people would call ‘soulmates.’ But we do not think of ourselves that way, and there are a few reasons for this.

One reason is that in my opinion, relationships don’t just ‘happen,’ and they are not the result of some pre-existing chemistry. Relationships require a high degree of compatibility, sure. You won’t be able to form a relationship with just anyone. In fact, you won’t be able to have a close, special, romantic, relationship with most people. However, there are probably numerous people with whom you can have such a relationship, if you put in the work to have one. In fact, this is something that I think a lot of people in today’s culture do not understand: relationships require actual work. You will have times when a relationship feels like it is draining you. You will have times when a relationship feels like it is keeping you from something else you really want. The question is, do you want to make the relationship work enough, that you will work for it, or choose it above something else? The rewards which the relationship can give you will, if it is a good relationship, far outweigh that other thing. But how many people today are willing to accept that a relationship is amazing, if it requires any effort on their part? So many people just think that a relationship, to be really good, has to be, essentially, effortless, and require no sacrifice at all. Now, maybe, once in a while, such a relationship occurs. But that is hardly the only way good relationships happen! It’s definitely not even the way most good relationships happen! Even relationships that are like the ones described in the above video that Sarah linked are likely to involve a lot of work from the people involved.

Second, I do not believe (and neither does my wife) that there is ‘just one person out there for you.’ I’m not religious, or superstitious, and I believe that there is no guiding force to give meaning to our lives. My wife is religious (a MacDonald style christian, though a little leaning toward agnosticism), but does not believe in that level of control over our lives. If you believe we all have just one person with whom we can form such a special relationship… what if that person does not live near us? What if we don’t meet them? What if we do meet them, but brush them aside because we are too busy? What if that person lived at a different time period from us?

But on top of that, just think about it for a moment: to be capable of having this kind of ‘soulmate’ relationship, two people need only share certain views, or certain emotional characteristics, as well as caring about one another in a certain way. Or, in fact, not share the views and characteristics, but have complementary characteristics. And the number of people who share your views and characteristics, or have complementary views and characteristics, is surely variable from person to person, as is the number who care in a certain manner. Maybe, occasionally, for a given person, the number of people with compatible/complementary views/characteristics is exactly one, but that is surely not true in general!

I believe that the truth is, you get this kind of relationship by finding someone whom you can love and respect, and who can love and respect you, and by committing yourselves to always sticking by one another, no matter what comes up. You communicate your feelings with one another, you accept each other, and you work through any problems that come up by going through them together.

To put it another way, I believe that soulmates are not born, but made, when two people, who share much in common, choose to work together, to achieve something together. I will end with a quotation, possibly slightly paraphrased from memory.

‘Love is not an emotion, love is a choice.’ – the Doctor (of course, love is both, but the choice to continue love is a choice, not simply an emotion).

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