soul mates


I tepidly tip-toed into the Al and Tipper split angst at my mommy gig.  Basically falling back on the whole “marriage is work” and that successful marriages – and I am taking the gold standard of “til death do we part”* – are made up of two committed people.  Commitment being key and something that a couple must do over and over again as their relationship rolls on and time/circumstances change them and it.

But I ran across a piece by Leslie Bennets at The Daily Beast that I really wanted to comment on, but didn’t.  Bennets is the author of The Feminine Mistake, which takes to task women who drop out of the workplace to raise children. In Bennets’ opinion, this is idiotic at best and suicidal at worst but as she is working for a world-view model that places material wealth as the most important thing – her arguments make sense.

The Beast post talked about the myriad of ways that marriages die.

There are so many ways a marriage can die.

Some are blown up in a fateful instant; a couple might have been married for years, might appear the ideal couple to everyone who knows them, even believe it themselves—and one day a stranger walks into a room and one partner is struck by acoup de foudre as decisive as a mortal blow. When this happens—and it sometimes does—even the most devoted spouse hasn’t got a chance. Other marriages take years to wither, with love seeping away, bit by bit, as if leaking from a small, fatal hole that can drain an enormous reservoir.

I won’t argue the “withering, fatal hole” position. I have my own theories but won’t share them here as I have done so already in past posts. But I call bullshit on the statement in bold.

The idea that a happily married person or sometimes two lock eyes across a crowded patio at a neighborhood barbeque and are struck by kismet is utter crap. The rationalizing that has to gone on to justify anything so Hollywood High School makes me wonder whether to laugh in someone’s face or just give a patronizing eye-roll.

No one is fated to be with just one other person. Sorry. And any person who has used this sorry-ass excuse on a partner to justify abandoning that person is engaging in classic denial of personal responsibility and was probably the lazy end of the duo in terms of anything requiring heavy-lifting skills to begin with.

Leaving your spouse for someone else is an avoidance tactic of the highest magnitude. It’s one thing to decide – as perhaps the Gores did – that effort, reaffirmation of love and commitment to a partnership aren’t worth the work anymore – but it’s quite another to cop out with “kismet” and “soul-mates” and “this can’t be denied” excusing of one’s very bad, infantile and supremo-selfish behavior.

You’re being harsh, Anniegirl. How would you know even?

Yeah, I heard that. You out there who’s probably pulled this cheesy escape hatch once or twice.

Rob and I couldn’t be more well-matched. In a lot of ways, he suits me better than Will could ever have done. I feel that I have known him always – that we’ve spent the better part of our early existences involved with each other – probably intimately. You can’t get more “kismet” than us.

But, if he and I had met by chance – at one of these across the room affairs – back in the mid-90’s when he, Shelley and the girls were living in Kansas, would it have led to a soul-implosion?

No.

Why?

Because he was a devoted married man who loved his wife and his daughters and knew that marriage wasn’t a trivial thing to be tossed aside to chase sexually fueled mirages. In fact, dollars to donuts that he wouldn’t have noticed me beyond a shared interest in Star Trek and a half-hour’s worth of nerdy conversation.

And me? I didn’t note married men beyond “too bad he’s married”.

There are rules to engagement, and people who disregard boundaries like “marriage” are the least likely to stick with you later on when the going gets tough – and it does for everyone at some time or another.

Those couples exist though, Anniegirl. You’ve heard the stories of the cousin’s sister’s co-workers mom and stepdad, or the neighbor’s best friend’s uncle who left their spouse for a random stranger and spent 30 wonderful years together, right?

Anecdotal urban myths.

People like that exist in so few a number that they might as well be the Lost Ark or the Holy Grail. They are like believing in Disney Princess stories. Most people who leave a partner for someone else – eventually leave that person too. That’s the rule. Haven’t we talked about “exceptions” versus “rule” before, people?

It’s irritating that people like, Bennets – who are quick to chastise people about their relationship choices in general – so willingly feed the mythology of failed marriages by promoting ridiculous ideas like “destiny” and “eyes locking across a crowded PTA meeting”. Marriage is a one of many relationship vehicles that we are presented with in life to work on ourselves in some way or to assist others in their life journey – mostly the latter, but that’s my opinion only.

*Knowing fully well that an awful lot of widowed folk call bs on that as it’s not a standard part of the vows, which can vary a lot depending on religion and civil standards. Although, my personal opinion is that anyone going into marriage thinking they can call the ball on length are living in the Magic Kingdom too.


I was blog surfing among the widowed recently and came across a very touching, heartfelt post about soul mates. As my regular readers know, I don’t really believe in the concept. The idea there is just one perfect counterpart for us in all of existence as we suppose we know it just seems ridiculous especially in light of the fact that many people lose partners go on to happy and fulfilling relationships.

My great-grandfather lost his first wife in childbirth after ten years of marriage. He was crushed. He literally gave away their five children and wandered like a Hebrew for over twenty years. Never settled anywhere for long. Went into and fell out of numerous careers. Spent years on end so out of touch with his family that no one can say for sure where he was or what he was up to for at least half of the twenty years he spent on his own before meeting his second wife, my great-grandmother, and the mother of  his six youngest children. When she died of breast cancer not long after their 19 year old daughter also died of breast cancer, Granddaddy simply allowed himself to be shuffled between my grandfather and his remaining sisters*. Her death snuffed the spirit she’d rekindled with her love.

Who was Granddaddy Christie’s soul mate? Based on his reaction to the losses and my understanding of the term, I would have to say both women were. It flies in the Disney princess theory of soul mates so heavily marketed in our society, the notion that we have just the one shot. It defies the reality that many, many people never mate at all. The numbers of single people who have never married have never been higher and are increasing all the time. Is there a soul mate shortage, perhaps? Does the creator play favorites?**

The blogger, and one of the commenter’s, seemed to think that only a very select group of people are blessed with soulmates, leaving me to wonder what they think the rest of us have in terms of relationships. Are we simply filling voids with warm bodies? Settling? And does this mean that people who never marry at all are lesser beings in the eyes of whatever god they espouse? Is there an unworthiness factor in play?

Not wanting to pursue remarriage does not confer special status on one’s former union, nor  does it mean that, if one chose, one couldn’t find another mate who fits seamlessly – and I understand from experience the difficulties in play. It simply means that, for whatever reason, a person isn’t interested in a future that includes marrying again. It’s not mystical. Why the need to dress it up with soul mate mumbo jumbo? And by doing so make assumptions about other people’s relationships? Is it just the grief talking? Or a Queen Gertrude thing? Protesting too much because maybe the soul mate thing is just a Madison Avenue invention and it’s too hard to go there after a loss?

I am touchy where this topic is concerned. When this “soul mate” thing is bandied about, it feels like judgement. The same way the second class widow status conferred on remarried widowed people by so many of our small peer group is judgement. Either Will wasn’t my soul mate at all or Rob is me just settling, and it’s so much more complicated than that. And it doesn’t take me – the person I was or the person I have become – into account at all. I become a passive princess. Snow White. Sleeping Beauty. Life assesses and assigns based on a mysterious set of criteria that have nothing to do with who I am.

And it also judges Rob and I in terms of our commitments to Shelley and Will, questioning them at best and nullifying them at worst.

I don’t think anyone means to denigrate other people’s choices or lives when they bring up the soul mate topic or go on about being unable to “replace” perfection. When one loses a mate, one wants to feel there was meaning and a point to the other’s life and that their union counted for something more. It’s natural to latch onto ideas like soul mates and heaven. It’s comforting. But the soul mates idea limits and denies and it seems like cold comfort, but that’s just my opinion.

 

*By this point the breach caused by his abandonment of his older children had been healed, in a large part due to intervention by Johanna, my great-grandmother. She made the effort to include them and saw to it that her children had unlimited contact with the children of her step-children (some of the older boys were actually older than Johanna and married with kids by then). Some of my dad’s best friends growing up and as a young man were his uncles’ children and grandchildren. Odd, I suppose, but this is my model and probably why I don’t find remarriage and blending as abhorrent as many seem to. Nothing is impossible where good parenting, respect and love are concerned.

**I actually think that he does. And if you believe in the “created in God’s image” thing, I wonder how he managed to pull off such a image of perfection because a perfect God couldn’t possible create imperfect beings. But then I also don’t believe that perfection was what he was going for.