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3 Surprising Reasons Not to Marry Your Soulmate
Before you walk down the aisle, you might wonder if you’re about to marry your soulmate. But, should you?
One of the most memorable lines in Hollywood history has to be in Jerry Maguire, when Tom Cruise tells a teary Renée Zellweger, “You complete me,” and she stops him with, “You had me at ‘Hello’.” The scene resonates because we all want to find that special person who will fit into the hole in our hearts that’s exactly his or her size. Our other half, who will finally fulfil our lives by understanding us as no one else ever will. That one person, whom you just know that you were meant to be with, the moment you meet and exchange hellos.
But what if happiness lies in NOT marrying your soulmate? The idea of soulmates dates back to Plato’s Symposium, when the philosopher Aristophanes presented the concept of two people coming from one. The story is that Zeus, fearing that humans (then androgynous and powerful) would rise against him, split human beings into male and female halves, who then spend their lives searching for their counterpart to feel whole again. Aristotle puts it this way, “Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.” Psychologists reveal three surprising reasons why you shouldn’t believe him.Victoria and Kris’ Breathtaking Bali Wedding with an Overwater Aisle by Terralogical
1. Having a “Soulmate” Could Be Less Satisfying
Studies show that thinking of your spouse as your soulmate can actually leave you dissatisfied with your marriage. Believing that soulmates are perfectly compatible for each other can give rise to unrealistic expectations. After all, if you’re perfect for each other, there should be no unhappiness in your relationship, right?
In a study of long-married couples, Dr. Ted Hudson of the University of Texas found that there was no difference in the objective compatibility of couples who were happy and those who were unhappy. The couples who felt satisfied and happy with their relationships said that it was them who made the relationships work, not the compatibility of their personalities. On the other hand, the unhappy couples believed that compatibility was extremely important to a successful marriage, and that they didn’t think they were compatible with their partners.
Reflecting on this study, research psychologist Luis Valadez wrote, “That’s where the issue arises with compatibility—everyone who is unhappy naturally blames it on the façade of compatibility.” Rather than stay committed, couples wonder if their lack of perfect harmony means they made a mistake marrying someone they’re not compatible with. Instead of doing the hard work of opening their hearts or understanding and respecting another human being, they leave the marriage to look for their other half, the soulmate who will be a better and easier fit than their current spouse.Clara and Tim’s Ethereal Hokkaido Pre Wedding Photography Session by Adrian Seetho Photography
2. Thinking of Marriage as a Journey Makes It More Successful
So if measures of personality compatibility can’t predict marriage success, what can? A study conducted by psychologists Spike W. S. Lee and Nobert Schwartz sheds some light. They compared relationship satisfaction between couples who thought of love as perfect unity between soulmates, and couples who thought of love as a journey. The study found that couples who used the “love-as-unity” metaphorical frame to view their relationship think that “relational differences signal the lack of perfect harmony and call into question whether she is really his perfect match and the two hearts really beat as one.”
In the study, couples showed a higher level of relationship satisfaction when using a different metaphorical frame to think about love—a journey as depicted through the traditional wedding vows: “I take you to be my wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death do us part.”
The researchers found that thinking of love as a journey “emphasises the progress and the purpose of the love relationship and the difficulties involved. In this frame, relational difficulties are inherent to any relationship and are meaningful as lovers sharing their ride recount how far they have come.” In contrast with the “soulmate” couples, the “love-as-journey” couples saw difficulties as obstacles to triumph over and to serve as progress markers for their relationship, making them feel happier about their relationship and how far they have come together.
Dr. John Gottman, founder of The Gottman Institute, sees relationship difficulties as a chance for couples to grow. He says, “Conflict is inevitable in all relationships. Furthermore, conflict is there for a reason—to improve our understanding of our partner. Conflict usually arises from missed attempts to communicate, especially in one person attempting to get emotionally closer to the other. Conflict also emerges from discrepancies between partners in expectations. These are worth talking about.” Rather than a sign of incompatibility, conflict offers you a chance to understand each other better.Jiayi and Javi’s Lush Botanical Wedding at Masons at Gillman Barracks by Bloc Memoire Photography
3. The Secret to Success is in Everyday Moments
Dr. Gottman discovered that far from compatibility, it’s the way a couple interacts that is the most fundamental aspect of building a successful relationship. He stresses the importance of continually working to turn towards each other in everyday moments, to intentionally make romance and adventure a priority, and to genuinely support each other’s life dreams. Lisa Diamond, assistant professor of psychology and gender studies, University of Utah, says that couples see what they look for in each other, and that those who expect to be happy together are those who are happiest: “The most satisfied couples are those with overly rosy views of each other.”
So, if you’re having doubts before you walk down the aisle, banish them! It doesn’t matter how “compatible” the both of you are. What matters is that you’ve both chosen to spend forever with each other. There might be some ups and downs, but disagreements don’t point to your unsuitability. For a happier marriage, take these psychologists’ advice and look at each other with rose-coloured glasses, remembering why you fell in love with each other, and focusing on each other’s good qualities. In your everyday interactions, intentionally turn toward each other and respond to each other’s needs.
Perhaps it’s not about finding the other half that was torn from you, but about two whole individuals who love each other and grow to become one.
Credits: Feature image from Deborah and Nicholas’ Rustic Wedding at Pan Pacific Singapore by Antelope Studios.
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