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Articles on Love
Are Soulmates a Myth or a Reality?
Most People Dream about Having
The idea of a soulmate has both conscious or unconscious elements. Even if we do not intellectually believe in soulmates, we are still affected.
Many people openly and consciously yearn for a soulmate. They may even believe one person is out there for them, that "right" person.
In Rutgers University's 2001 National Marriage Project Survey, 94% of 20-to-29-year-olds said: "When you marry, you want your spouse to be your soul mate, first and foremost." Another 88% said: "There is a special person, a soulmate, waiting for you out there."
But even those who don't believe in soulmates consciously are just as affected by a similar idea that operates unconsciously and more powerfully.
We all hold some unconscious list of notions describing an "ideal" relationship partner. Often we recite parts of this list as what we want in a partner.
But reality inevitably fails to match our ideals. And we judge and react to real people according to our ideals.
As a result, many relationships that have potential are blocked, if not lost. And dissatisfaction, unhappiness and upsets are unconsciously generated.
Is the very notion of "soulmate" (conscious or unconscious) just a self-limiting fantasy an idealization which only keeps us from ever feeling truly satisfied with a real-life human partner?
Or are we not seeing a positive potential here?
What I will tell you about soulmates is a paradox that goes beyond fantasies, myths, empty hopes or hype. It may get you to realize something vital about relationships, no matter what you believe about soulmates.
Perhaps I have nothing more useful to say than the next guy, if all you want to talk about is belief systems or occult theories. But I'm not going to discuss beliefs or theories here. They do not interest me at all.
I'm only interested in practical results that you can see, hear, touch and feel something that you can live!
Day in and day out I work with couples in all situations and predicaments.
I witness what builds true, lasting, and profoundly satisfying love.
This is a love which sometimes fills couples when they are starting out. They say they feel just like "soulmates" so enormous and enveloping is the love they feel.
It's easy to feel like you are soulmates in the midst of a passionate and seemingly endless honeymoon.
When you feel like soulmates at the end of a decade, something else is involved. It is not a fantasy, but a realization based on a real-world track record, already well tested by time.
Meeting Your Soulmate vs. Becoming Soulmates
I wrote a book Relationship Tools for Positive Change about what I saw with clients who struggled through their tests to find unanticipated levels of happiness together. The contents of the book reveal various tools that couples can use to transform their upsets, differences, troubles, problems and difficulties into a stronger, more solid foundation for love to flourish.
I figure this — that you don't just meet a "soulmate" and live happily ever after, like the myth that we all would prefer to believe says. Instead, I have observed that real world soulmates become that by growing together in certain ways and working through challenges successfully as contrasted with how many other couples get stuck in less fulfilling, impoverished relationships.
Putting this together, the following formula occurred to me:
I define real-world soulmates as two partners who engage in overcoming challenges that test their relationship.
This is not something you can forecast in advance, when you initially fall in love. So, in a real sense, whether you feel like "soulmates" or not at the start of a relationship does not tell you how you will end up a decade later.
Real-world soulmates are tempered by time, like metal by fire. Time reveals that they persistently chose to learn and grow when confronted by challenges.
All relationships get tested and challenged, simply because all of us have some personal growth to do no matter who your partner is. Soulmates are partners who actually do their growth in the face of a challenge.
Many couples start off with great hopes and dreams, are potential soulmates, but then falter when challenges arise.
As a relationship coach, I help people learn new tools and strategies to move through challenges instead of being thrown off track. That is the subject matter of the book Relationship Tools for Positive Change.
With today's high rate of relationship dissatisfaction and divorce it's time for major change. Regardless of intellectual beliefs, most of us unconsciously hold onto a fantasy-based soulmate myth.
The danger with this soulmate ideal whether we subscribe consciously, or unconsciosly is that in times of challenge, we usually find our real-world partner comes up short of our internal idealized, hoped-for mate. And then we, ourselves, start to think and act in ways that hurt our real-world relationship.
I find it critical to turn the myth inside-out, to create an inspiring and useful approach to longterm happiness in love.
When couples first fall in love, it is the honeymoon a time of magic and wonder. Hearts open. Spirits soar. In this expansive state, with ecstatic feelings of being in love, couples may feel they are soulmates.
Here is the sense I make of this. The feeling of "being soulmates" is all about the incredible openness and receptivity, the expansion so far beyond our norm and comfort zone, the heightened clear access to energy and passion.
This is our internal state. We assume it comes from outside of us from the other person we are with. In a word, we call them our "soulmate". But what we are really talking about is our own internal state of expansion
Some say the honeymoon is like a spiritual experience. But reality says the honeymoon does not last forever. So it's important to refine our thinking about soulmates, true love, and what is essential for a lasting relationship.
Love is everything, right? We want the honeymoon to last forever. If you find your soulmate, you live happily ever after, right? It's predestined, right?
What every honeymoon lover hopes for, and wants to believe, is that famous song verse is going to be true for them: "All you need is love..."
Love is Not Enough
It takes more than just love or that incomparable opening and expansion in the honeymoon to have a lasting relationship. Countless couples start with total positive feelings of being in love, and then somewhere down the road, they painfully split up. What does this reality tell us?
In the honeymoon, we coast along in a purely receptive role. There is nothing we have to do. We just enjoy all those great honeymoon feelings of being in love. During this phase, we feel our partner inspires and uplifts us.
Yet when differences or upset feelings arise in a relationship, as inevitably they will, we find ourselves without our source of inspiration. Both partners want that missing uplift, and neither is able to inspire it.
Finding a "Soulmate" is Not Enough
There is the moment in all relationships when a couple turns from the bliss of the honeymoon and encounters their first problem, issue, difference or upset. This is a shock, and may lead to disappointment or doubts. The expansion and openness of the honeymoon reverses, and there is a contraction.
Just like the intial opening, the contraction the closing down is an internal state. Yet, just as before, it is blamed on the other person. Now, we think, "This is not the right person after all..."
That is the soulmate myth coming alive inside of us, effecting us to think and possibly act in ways that will take our relationship down a negative path. In this sense, the common myth of soulmates is a very dangerous one indeed because it usually ends up being a relationship-breaker.
Often people cannot see what to do when their relationship gets challenged or tested by time. Each partner hopes the other will reinspire all those great "in love" feelings of opening and expanding. This way of thinking is a trap. You make it the other person's job to open you. Cannot be done. When you get right down to it, couples in this trap are being passive and out of touch with their own true power of loving.
The trap is this. Each person is depending on the other person to make things better again. That's called co-dependency. As it never works, each ends up resenting the other person.
In the honeymoon, the relationship theme is: "You make me feel great!"
But when challenges arise, in the next phase of love and if couples remain passive the next theme becomes: "You make me feel bad."
Deepening Love Beyond the Honeymoon
There is that next phase to love, the one beyond the honeymoon. If we want a great relationship to deepen and last, we need to realize that "happily ever after" includes feelings other than happiness.
There will be challenges.
We are the ones who must realize it is our own openness that is the key to keeping a relationship great and growing and then learn to re-open ourselves even when there are challenges. Especially when there are challenges!
The myth of "soulmates" is about a relationship that is blue sky forever. Always sunny, and that sunshine pours down on us, brightens us up, lifts us.
In a real-world relationship, challenges come. The sky occasionally clouds. We are asked to stay present with what is not run and hide, waiting for the rainy day to pass. We are challenged to put aside limiting beliefs and embrace the rain, realizing that even rain has a positive purpose.
Relationship is our greatest teacher. It tells us what we need to learn next in life for our personal growth. In love we are called on to do work to become more skillful in relating, move beyond our past wounds and limits, and grow as human beings. This personal growth will include learning new tools and strategies in how we communicate, behave, and process emotions.
Soulmates Engage in Personal
In the most challenging case, relationship work means showing up in a new way when both partners are stuck in negativity. It means embracing the upsets and learning how to expand and elevate the situation.
Couples who are becoming soulmates are willing to learn how to open themselves, even when the going gets rough. They commit to learn to bring out their best, instead of passively giving way to their habitual reactions. They refuse to simply close down into fear, withdrawal, self-defensiveness, resentment, blame, criticism, or the many other common ways we destroy our own relationships.
As a Japanese proverb suggests: "The Obstacle is the Path."
You are called on to instigate positive transformation. Each partner needs to come forward in times of challenge and expand to the occasion, rather than closing down.
What prevents us from doing this work is the lack of a good model for how to do it. How many couples did you witness doing this when you were growing up?
Did We Learn to Do the Work of Relationship?
We were told "Relationships take work." But, we are sadly lacking in useful guidelines, strategies or models for doing that work. We are have few tools or understandings that lift us to transform, much less resolve, our upsets.
Most of us were raised in families which did not model how to do the work. We have seldom seen it done well, and may not even know a couple that can do it at all. For over three decades, our society has had persistently poor statistics on the lasting success of love, relationship or marriage.
It is becoming clear that if we want to beat the odds and succeed in a great, long-term relationship, we need to learn to do the work of relationship ourselves. We need to pioneer a new path.
Let's start this work now, by consciously proposing a real-world definition for the word "soulmates." A useful definition...
How Do You Know if You Are True "Soulmates"?
You are real-world soulmates if you're both doing your personal growth work in the face of challenges.
You cannot know it by the honeymoon phase alone. To know you are real-world soulmates, you need to see how you both show up to work with real-world upsets, sensitivities, differences and challenges.
Some couples start with all the magic feelings about being soulmates and then it fizzles. Continuing to want a passive solution to love, they conclude their partner was not the "right" person after all. They then look for the next honeymoon high, hitch the next passive ride until it crashes.
Other couples do not even think the word soulmate, nor do they believe in magic. But they commit to personal growth and face each lesson that love brings up. After awhile, doing the work of relationship over the years, they can see the solid trust and intimacy they have built, and there is little doubt in their hearts they are soulmates, in the sense that they are now experiencing a solidity in their love which has never occurred previously in their lives.
The solidity and clarity of this feeling of being "soulmates" is based on the personal growth which enables you, yourself, to stay open even in the face of a challenge, problem or emotionally-charged issue. It is in that openness that these difficulties resolve and love grows even stronger.
Thus the subtitle of the book: How to Transform Issues or Upsets into Opportunities to Strengthen Love. Quite a mystifying mouth full. But if you get it, you understand a paradoxical secret of soulmates. In many ways, the expectations of the normal myth of soulmates is what keeps us from opening to our real-world mate once we feel closed, upset, disappointed, or any other negative feeling.
But paradoxically, it is in the willingness to open, and re-open again as often as needed and embrace the obstacle directly in front of you that you finally get to a more continual and expanded state, a reliable fullness of love, and the deep core sense of being soulmates.
This is very different than the early sense of openness and expansiveness in the honeymoon, where you get your first glimpse of the feeling of being soulmates. It is based on real world experience, and passing the tests where most couples fail. And you know that. There is no longer doubt.
Soulmates happen, of course, when both partners are simultaneously doing this. Becoming soulmates is not a solitary process. It is the result of two people opening, even in the face of challenges.
You know you are with a "soulmate" if you are both doing your soulwork together. Soulwork is that courageous self-opening, expanding and growing as a chosen response to challenges that close down most people.
In doing that work, you evolve yourself and your soul matures.
The requirement is being willing to take a challenge to heart and respond to it by learning new tools, strategies or understandings to overcome it.
Doing that enables you to succeed in building a partnership so unparalleled that the best way you have to describe that in words is that you are soulmates.
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