On Soulmates

by F.

Having found one—or maybe “mine” is the better way to say it—and having been told by mine that she has found hers, too, and having it appear to be me who is her soul-mate, and having enough time on my hands to think about such things, I sometimes wonder—I say I sometimes wonder what it means to have a soul-mate and, less importantly, how long of a dependent clause I can stack on the front of a sentence without overloading the reader.

But first things first. Soul-mates. Probably it’s a combination of (i) sexual attraction, (ii) temperamental compatibility, and, of course, (iii) “other,” which includes things like sense of humor, strange historical accidents, circumstances, biochemistry, pheromones and similar taste in chocolate. I’m not aware of any very good theory about soul-mates, although even an average psychologist has probably forgotten more than I’ll ever know about the topic. So, free of any fettering data, I can speculate randomly, sort of like the Pope does.

How likely is it that you have found your soul-mate, even if you think you have? I mean, there are 6 billion people in this world. How exhaustive was your mate search? Probably not very. Opportunity probably played a big role in your hook-up, which sometimes makes one think, “What if there is that one person out there—in Antarctica, say—who is really, truly perfect for me? Shouldn’t I switch horses in order to maximize my happiness?” Looked at this way, it seems like any conclusion that one has found one’s soul-mate is likely to be false. The soul-mate is still out there. Somewhere. Maybe on Mars. Or maybe your soul-mate is a penguin or a sheep or an iguana. But whatever it is—or whoever it is—you should, perhaps, get busy searching. Right?

Of course, I think this is wrong, for a couple reasons—reasons with which my soul-mate agrees, by the way. The most interesting is that people—and probably some other animals—don’t operate like that. Mating is progressive, not on/off. The longer you are together, the more mated you become. Initial selection is on/off. Sort of. But after a while, it’s really impossible to think seriously of swapping out this mate for that one. It wouldn’t be as good. It couldn’t. And this is not just a result of “going through the bad times together.” Uh-uh. Even if there are no bad times, I think mating is progressive, directly proportional to the length of the relationship.

A shared life is a huge asset, not one that should be thrown away without a lot of analysis, though I should admit I have thrown away shared lives a couple times and, while it was painful, I still feel I made the right decision in each case. Sometimes you have to cut and run, with the Pavoni espresso maker you got from your father-in-law under your arm. But provided the initial conditions are reasonably good, after a certain amount of time, I don’t know how long, you are sort of grafted together with your mate, and no amount of Googelian search-power is going to provide a better result than the one sleeping next to you.