The downside of the soul mate / fairy tale view of relationships


Husband and wife doing some woodworking together

(Image: Husband and wife doing some woodworking together)

Astonishing article from the leftist Huffington Post, of all places. (links removed)


As millennial women, we were groomed for a white knight fantasy. From childhood favorites such as Snow White to adult rom-com staples such as How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days or Sleepless in Seattle, the media perpetuates a romantic storyline in which compatibility and lasting romance is something effortless, built on chance, sustained by good looks, fun dates and electric sexual chemistry. These story lines shape our expectations for romantic happiness. It is not enough to find someone with whom we are mostly compatible, who would make a good parent, with whom we could learn and grow wrinkly; now, we expect a perfect fit and an easy, instantaneous “connection.” In short, we want a soul mate. But it is this desire for a soul mate that is actually the undoing of our happy ending.

A “soul mate” is defined as one who is ideally suited to us, perfectly completes us, one with whom the relationship feels easy and natural. With them, a relationship is just “meant to be”… A survey of young adults conducted by the National Marriage Project found that while 84% of young adults report finding a marriage partner “very important,” a full 94% of young adults say they would like to marry a soul mate, and 73% of people ages 18 – 29 believe that there is a soul mate out there for them.

Wow. That doesn’t sound like a good approach to me. My approach has always been to pick the girl who was most willing to learn new things. And then to explain to her my vision for marriage and see if I could get her to work independently on that plan before I married her. I don’t favor this soul mate approach at all.

Does the “soul mate” approach work?

We heard that those who get married later and possess a college degree have fewer divorces and more stable marriages. So we spend our twenties trying to find ourselves through travel, accumulating degrees and building a career. Marriage will be the capstone of our achievements, and nothing less than tying the knot with a soul mate will suffice. But the tragic irony is that soul mate thinking makes us increasingly likely to divorce. A study of 1,400 married men and women shows that people who hold soul mate orientations are 150% more likely to end up divorced than those who do not.

The widespread cultural belief in “soul mate ideology” undermines our chances at happiness because it makes us passive receivers of idyllic romantic expectations. Further, it fosters self-centeredness; one rarely longs to be a soul mate for someone else, which would require effort. For this reason, believing in soul mates is one of the most dis-empowering belief systems we can adopt. As millennials, we pride ourselves on actively pursuing the life we want to live, rather than simply accepting whatever hand we are dealt. We are innovative, passionate, proactive and not afraid to take risks. Yet, there is a disconnect when it comes to our desire for lasting love. Though there are prospects around us, we forgo taking the concrete steps needed to build happy compatible relationships because we do not “feel a spark.” We are passively waiting on the sidelines for love to “happen,” and then wonder why it is so difficult.

I’ve always felt that the soul mate approach was like the evil villain in opposition to my noble plan-based approach. My approach is to pick a woman who wants to learn and work hard. Explain your marriage plan to her, and how your marriage plan serves God. My marriage plan accomplishes four goals, for example. 1) Influence the university with apologetics, 2) influence the church with apologetics, 3) provide a model of a good marriage to people in the community, including co-workers, college students and neighbors, and 4) raise effective, influential children who will have an impact for God. Now if you are a Christian woman raised in a church that affirms the soul mate / fairy tale view of marriage with this “God has a wonderful plan for your life” stuff, then a specific, non-emotional plan from a man is the last thing you want to hear about.

Their solution is for people to work at compatibility:

Compatibility is something co-created through intentionality and conscious choice. It involves mutual sacrifice, effort and commitment for the sake of the other’s benefit. A recent study found that of the couples who demonstrate above average daily generosity, 50% of them report being “very happy” in marriage; among the low generosity scores, only 14% can say the same. As studies indicate, selflessness is required to create mutual compatibility. It is not instantaneous, nor does it usually begin with true love’s kiss.

We both know from experience that there are some you naturally connect with and others you do not. This is not a call towards forced attraction or companionship. But, our romantic futures should not be placed in the hands of blind chance. It is time we roll up our sleeves and shift our expectations from unattainable perfection to realistic romance, one that accounts for imperfection. We must understand that work in a relationship is a necessary key to success, rather than an indication of imminent failure. We will be letting go of a tired plot line that sets us up for disappointment and embracing an active role in our own unique story.

How refreshing to know that we do not have to be perfect to be lovable, and that our romantic success is not solely dependent on finding the “right” fit, but instead built through cultivating daily moments of generosity, sacrifice and conscious coupling.

So in my case, I am looking for a woman who listens to the plan, develops the skills for the plan and then independently engages in activities to achieve the goals of the plan. In the past, I have had women listen to the plan carefully, including my motivations and experiences that caused me to choose this plan. And they have been willing to read books, listen to lectures, watch debates, to gain the skills needed to make a difference. And they have even engaged independently with activities like public speaking, teaching classes, and so forth. But none of the women who had done that accepted the soul mate / fairy tale view of marriage. They all wanted to hear a good plan, learn useful skills and then get to work. Big difference.

9 thoughts on “The downside of the soul mate / fairy tale view of relationships”

    1. The soul mate is the person always makes you feel good, and never expects you to do anything for the relationship that you don’t feel like doing. It’s an illusion, a real committed relationship isn’t effortless and free. There are constraints, there are obligations.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Wow, I was actually considering writing a post on something regarding this as I was driving to work this morning. I had decided to shelf it, but now I might have to go ahead with it.

    Soul mate theology is garbage and has caused nothing but trouble. I’ll go into more detail when I get around to writing my post, but, yeah, garbage.


  2. So many have the fantasy of the “perfect partner” and in this instant gratification, I want what I want right NOW society, if your partner has flaws, many just throw them out like garbage! Whatever happened to the desire to fix a relationship and accept the differences between you and your partner? The root of the issue is a bunch of entitled, impatient people who only wish to take of someone, but never sacrifice or give, or have the grace to love someone “warts and all”. You can find a soulmate, it just takes selflessness, patience, and acceptance of another person to love regardless of petty flaws and human imperfections. Your soulmate isn’t your perfect little servant there just to dote on you! It’s the person you’re willing to spend a lifetime with and love unconditionally even with their human weaknesses.


  3. The version of soulmate theology I’ve always heard is “someone who’s not perfect, but is perfect for you”. In other words, their strengths and weaknesses complement yours and vice versa. Not so sure about even that. I think you find someone whom you enjoy talking to at the deepest level, who shares your convictions, and then commit to love them no matter what. That’s what makes it work.

    The one quality above any other that I look for in a gal? Brokenness. Willingness to listen to God when he starts talking into her life. May God make me better at it, too. When two such people marry, God can do a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s probably a good idea to look for evidence of commitment in the person’s life. If the person isnt able to complete what they start or doesn’t stick to things that are hard, then they probably won’t be good at marriage.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Unfortunately, many Christians are teaching what some have dubbed “the Relationship Prosperity Gospel.” Unlike the regular prosperity gospel which teaches that you will become healthy and wealthy by becoming a Christian, the relationship prosperity gospel teaches that God has selected a mate for you and will reveal this person to you once you are spiritually mature enough. This is really just the soulmate delusion, wrapped up in fancy spiritual words. I have challenged several Christians who hold this view to provide Biblical evidence for their view, and all of them have simply dismissed me claiming I must not really be a believer. I feel bad for saying it, but I almost can’t help but feel a sense of satisfaction when I see these people’s relationships fail. It may be the only thing that can wake other Christians up from this delusion.

    Liked by 1 person

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