I recently asked several people if they believe in soul mates. I was surprised to find that the majority were convinced that soul mates are real. Of course, without a precise definition, it is difficult to know what people consider to be a "soul mate." One definition I found in Wikipedia is that, "a soul mate is a person with whom one has a feeling of deep and natural affinity, love, intimacy, sexuality, spirituality, and/or compatibility." Unfortunately, this definition may qualify quite a few people throughout our life as soul mates. The notion I carry, and I assume many of you do as well, is that a soul mate is a unique person who is mysteriously designated for you, fulfilling your life and making it complete. With this definition in mind, I ask you to consider my quest to find the answer to this intriguing question.
In the (Australian) winter of 1987, I met someone whom I believed to be my perfect mate. She later became my wife. I had no concept of "soul mate" at that time, but when I saw her everything inside of me said "YES!" We had a brief courtship before I proposed to her. Even though she accepted, I sensed that she was not feeling the same devotion for me as I had for her.
This intuition proved to be true. Four months later, on a trip to the vast region of Western Australia, she left me for another man. I was devastated, hurt and disoriented. For several days I could not trust myself to safely cross the street because of the depth of depression I found myself in.
After she left, I was alone in my Nissan van, sleeping and camping wherever I pulled up for the night. I travelled along the remote north west Australian coastline. It is one of the most isolated coastal areas in the world. I was as alone as I could possibly be.
One evening I built a camp in the sand dunes on a beautiful beach. That night I cooked my favorite camp fire meal - Japanese pizza. It was a simple recipe made by lightly frying shredded cabbage and carrot, mixed with egg, flour and garlic. After the delicious meal, I grabbed my book Illusions – The Adventures of the Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach (as the name suggests it is about seeing through the illusions of many things we consider real). I loved this book and couldn't put it down.
I was restless and could not sleep that night. My mind was busy with endless thoughts. I gazed at the brilliant starry night sky and all of the chatter in my mind slowly fell away revealing a deep insight.
I realized that the woman I thought was my soul mate was not the cause of my depression. The unbearable emotional pain came from my desire that she be different from whom she was.This was a devastating and yet liberating realization. The lofty and romantic ideal of finding my soul mate and living happily ever after, I realized, was coming from a controlling and selfish place in me. That night a huge weight lifted from my soul. But I still wondered if there was indeed a soul mate whom I was destined to meet?
During the next fourteen years I had one serious relationship followed by a decade where I did not have any relationships at all. For much of the time, I was confused and disillusioned. I wanted to figure out the mystery of relationship. Were soul mates fact or fiction? During this time of abstinence, I reflected upon my experience and met others–friends, teachers, mentors–who helped shed light on this subtle question.
I became aware of how many people, like myself, expend enormous energy in hoping the perfect mate will one day appear and take care of all of their needs. By the time I reached my late forties, I had found answers to many of the questions that had plagued me since that fateful day twenty years earlier when my first wife left me. I was ready to be with a woman again, but in a different way. I did not need her to fulfill my needs and wants. Self-reliance was the greatest gift I could give and receive in a relationship. I knew that my "soul mate" would be someone who was free to be herself and live her destiny and give me the freedom to do the same.
Finally, eleven years ago I met my current wife Jessica. I consider her my "life mate". We are partners whose bond is wrought from shared values. Remembering to respect each other's talents, beauty and gifts is the commitment that keeps the bond between us vital. Years of pondering this question had revealed the futility of believing that there was a uniquely designated other who would make me whole. Instead, I began to realize that a "mate for the soul" can only be found once we know who we are and are complete in ourselves. Then we are ready to commit, to be open and honest, allowing each other's fullest potentials to flower.
I don't think I need to tell you this, but my "investment" in your Life Coaching as a gift for my wife has been close to the best thing I have ever done with or for her, and ultimately for our relationship.Thank you so much. (C. Binder – Oregon)
"Lawrence Carroll's workshop on personal stress management, which he conducted with my Columbia Grad School class
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Neal Pilson, Columbia University, Former President, CBS Sports