The myth of the soul mate originated in ancient Greece when the philosopher Plato wrote, “The Symposium.”
He details a dinner conversation between Socrates and his peers, but it is what his one friend Aristophanes had to say that gave us all a permanent case of “Cinderella story syndrome.”
He tells the story of how humans, were originally “composed of large round bodies with two faces and two sets of limbs, facing each other.”
He describes how we were comprised of three sexes (male, female and androgynous).
The myth states that during this time, the humans were so frustrated about not being able to walk around without tumbling over that they decided to declare a war on the Gods.
This resulted in Zeus declaring a punishment on his people, and the effects of this “realistic” myth are still somehow lingering today.
Zeus then separated each “human” into two different individuals, which caused his people to spend the rest of their lives searching for their one and only soul mate who could complete them (literally).
Considering that this text was written between 385-370 BC, can we let this definition of a soul mate go?
I am in no way advocating that there is not someone out there who can drastically change your life for the better. And I am in no way advocating that you cannot fall in love with your “soul mate” and spend the rest of your lives together.
But, what I do advocate is a change in our definition of the term “soul mate,” since the ancient Greek myth appears to be a bit outdated.
As a young girl, I openly admitted to wanting the Cinderella story in its entirety, as most women in Generation-Y do.
And, to be honest, a part of me still wants to live that story because I identify myself as a hopeless romantic, and that is not something that I am willing to give up on or settle for. But, I am willing to change my definition of a soul mate.
Have you ever had a relationship so perfect that you could have sworn that he or she was the one?
The chemistry was there, you got along and you were even invested in becoming a part of his or her family?
Then, all of a sudden, from something completely unavoidable, the relationship gets swept away from your under your feet and before you can even process what is happening, the astounding chemistry that you and your significant other once had is just no longer there.
After all of the endless time and effort you put into that relationship, you find yourself sitting at home on a Friday night, single and dumbfounded.
I’ve definitely had one of these relationships. For the longest time after this individual and I broke up, I couldn’t understand how something so loving and honest could suddenly just diminish.
It wasn’t until I was watching TV one Sunday morning when I came across an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, that I began to understand.
Gilbert is the author of the memoir “Eat, Pray, Love,” which was on the New York Times bestseller list for more than 200 weeks and turned into an acclaimed film.
In the novel, Gilbert illustrates her true story of how she leaves her current life to travel around the world in order to escape a divorce from a man with whom she no longer felt that special connection.
Understandably, when anyone tells all friends and family that they have found “the one” and everyone pitches in to buy you all of the house-warming gifts on your registry, no one wants to then stoop down and admit that that they chose the wrong person.
Therefore, in order to escape, Gilbert traveled to Italy, India and Indonesia alone, and through learning an abundant amount of life lessons on her travels, she was able to find NOT her soul mate, but her life partner.
So, right now you’re probably wondering, what’s the difference between a soul mate and a life partner?
People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.
A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.
A soul mates purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master.
After reading this, it dawned on me that this individual was my sole mate. I was able to confirm that we did, in fact, meet for a reason.
To this day, this relationship has been one my one of my greatest teachers. Through the years, when it was good, he taught me that I should have high standards when it comes to love.
He taught me that I should truly believe that I deserve the utmost respect from a partner. But, when our chemistry was taken from us, for the first time in my life, I had to learn to accept a difficult situation that I couldn’t fix.
I am a perfectionist and a believer that you can do anything you put your mind to, so this was hard for me, to say the least.
I couldn’t listen when we figured out that our time together was over, but today, I am thankful that he was more accepting to the reality of it than I was.
We were adjusting into our young adulthood and were becoming two different people. But at the time, I couldn’t understand why we were growing apart.
Exactly as Gilbert’s definition states, he was my soul mate. Our breakup was the mirror that woke me up and showed me everything that was holding me back in life.
Don’t get me wrong; during the years when this relationship was good, I grew in so many positive ways, but it was the loss of this person that truly made me who I am today.
During the last year of our relationship, I was having a difficult time finding happiness in my college setting. His friendship was one of the few things that kept me going.
I’ve always been a self-sufficient person, but for the first time in my life, I was in a situation where I was completely alone and wasn’t sure where to turn.
I was forced to learn how to provide happiness for myself, even when I had no one else and even if it meant doing something that made me feel uncomfortable.
Due to the difficult time that I was having in college and the realization that the relationship that I treasured so much was ending, I felt like I just wanted to escape.
Coincidentally, I did exactly what Gilbert did and took off on an adventure. I decided to study abroad and leave my current situation behind, just as Gilbert did.
I am not advertising travel as the solution to every problem, but it can definitely help soothe the soul.
Before I knew it, I was standing in another continent, alone. I had time to process my current life situation, and for the first time in years, I did not have to associate my identity with someone else. Life lessons began smacking me in the face, left and right.
As Gilbert’s definition states, trying to navigate Europe alone shook me up and forced me to find myself again.
All of my walls came down and I had nothing to hide behind. I was just vulnerable in the best way and I learned about new layers of myself that I didn’t even know existed.
If it wasn’t for the failure of this relationship, I wouldn’t be anywhere near as self-loving, confident and independent as I am today.
In the past three years, I have traveled to 22 countries, become an author for four established magazines, become a teacher to many and revamped my life as a vegan and fitness fanatic.
Since I truly believe that I found myself amongst all of this madness, I am now looking for what Gilbert calls a life-partner.
She explains the concept by saying, “That’s your friend. My husband is my best friend. He’s not the mirror that holds up my flaws. He’s just the guy who’s like, ‘I think you’re terrific’… It’s just simple, showing up for each other.”
I no longer need someone who will teach me about what it means to love or how to stand up for myself (even in a loving relationship). I also no longer need someone who will tear down my walls and introduce me to myself. I can do this all on my own now.
I am now looking for someone who can truly serve as a life-partner, someone who is like-minded and someone who I don’t have to hold so tightly in fear that we might lose our spark.
Having a life-partner should come naturally. There are no games involved.
Exactly as Gilbert explains the concept, a soul mate often can’t come without their “fire and intensity. Whatever they fired up in you, you might have needed fired up. And then you might need them to go, so that you can go on your journey.”
So, if you feel like this is exactly the type of relationship that you have lost, then trust me, you are going to gain so much more.
If you are reading this article and just came out of a relationship where you could have sworn that he or she was the one, maybe he or she was.
Maybe you needed this person to come into your life and teach you about love, heartbreak and even an undiscovered layer to yourself that you will now be able to share with your life partner.
During our first relationships, we are always so worried about whether we are doing too much or too little, and at the same time, we’re trying to decipher what we should and shouldn’t sacrifice for the sake of a relationship.
– These lessons could take weeks, months or even years to learn.-
Even though you can’t see it now, know that being single at this time is the best thing for you, and you will be able to thank your soul mate later when you finally see why.
And, if you’re currently in a relationship, try to see your partnership as a learning tool and realize that working on your communication skills and accepting that you may make mistakes is essential for building any successful relationship.
Although there are a few of those couples out there who met at their sixth-grade dances and are celebrating their 10th anniversaries on their wedding days, that is usually not the case.
More times than not, we need to meet a soul mate — or two — to prepare us so we can be our best selves for our life partner.
This is not to say that you weren’t a great person before you met your soul mate, but no one knows how to be a perfect partner the first time around.