Choosing to be Soulmates – or what is love, actually?

I think that I have recently realised something that is extremely important – no, desperately important about love. That is this:  that as a person I really want to find and marry a true soulmate.  And yet, I always subconsciously thought that a soulmate was someone that had to be found. That is, that there was someone out there who was already my soulmate, and I simply had to find him. In practice, what that meant was that I went around with a romantically open mind, waiting to see if there was anyone with whom the soulmate spark would spontaneously spring into life.  However, I think I understand now that a soulmate connection is not found, rather it is developed.  What this means I now believe is that you first of all find someone suitable and compatible to marry.  And then you work between the two of you on developing your soulmate connection.  It will be messy at times, and crazily awkward.  However that all contributes to the value and strength of your connection.

In practice, there might well be some people that you spontaneously “spark” with, without seeming to apply any effort whatsoever.  This might be for a number of reasons, such as a seemingly effortless emotional connection, or a strong physical attraction.  And yet you might have to consciously tamp down those feelings, or extinguish those sparks, because for whatever reason the people are not suitable.  Perhaps, for instance, they are already married. Or they do not share your faith.  Or whatever else it might be.  I believe that the capacity for any individual human being to experience strong attraction for a number of people is necessary for the continuation of the human race, as this is what ultimately propels us to procreate.  However, I now see that my previous approach of being open by default to the possibility of falling for someone is wrong, and by default I should understand that attraction will come as a necessary part of being human, but I have to systematically squash it, until I find someone who would be right.  Perhaps strong attraction can be a guide as to what I find attractive, or what to look for in marriage…

Let’s consider the “cue cards on the doorstep” scene from the film “Love Actually”.  There a character professed his love for a woman on her doorstep…but she unfortunately happened to already be married to his best friend.
Actually, the way I got onto this was because a pair of comedians recently made a hilarious parody video imagining what would have happened if the husband opened the door instead of the woman, available here. If you have seen “Love Actually”, this parody video is a must watch. Honestly, I laughed and laughed! If you have not seen “Love Actually”, or need a refresher, as I did, the original cue cards scene is available here. Sincerely, I don’t think that this original scene is poignant or tender in the slightest. Rather it demonstrates how society subtly teaches that we almost have a moral imperative to act on strong feelings of attraction no matter how much pain or heartbreak so doing might cause to other people, and sometimes even ourselves. But this woman had married her husband literally just a couple of months ago. She stood up in a church (?) and declared her ongoing commitment to this particular individual. Who was not just anyone, but happened to be Mr Lovelorn’s best friend! If anything, why did Mr Lovelorn not say something before she married someone else?! Showing up on her doorstep shows flagrant disrespect for her publicly stated declaration – this in itself is not loving. If you love me, you would respect me, and that includes respecting my decisions, even if they work out unfavourably to you. Remember that a central tenet of love is that it is supposed to be self-sacrifical. If you truly loved someone who was already committed to someone else in marriage, then you would be willing to sacrifice your own happiness for theirs, so you would pray that their existing marriage would succeed. “But Tosin, it’s only a movie!” Yeah yeah yeah!

Perhaps it would come as little surprise that I am definitely in the camp of people who strongly dislike “Love Actually” as a film. From my recollection, what it teaches and/or celebrates about love and romance is highly dodgy, as noted by many people (The points made in the linked article are not even the ones that I noticed). That said, the scene with Emma Thompson’s character Karen, and the husband, Harry, played by Alan Rickman, when she thought that he had bought that expensive necklace for her, which actually turned out to be for his seductive temptress of a secretary, is deeply poignant. Harry instead bought for Karen an obviously much cheaper CD (although it IS Joni Mitchell, who I recently found out was the songwriter behind “Big Yellow Taxi” a song that haunted my younger years, even before I just recently discovered what the actual lyrics are, and how profound they are. Surely that should count for something!) I think I likely cried on watching that scene, and just thinking about it now makes tears come to my eyes. Additionally, on rewatching the necklace buying scene right now, the comic genius of Rowan “Mr Bean” Atkinson is in full force: he is as brilliant in this as in everything.

This cue cards scene is an indication of something that is so wrong in society. The idea that “love” (which often boils down to “strong physical attraction”) is all encompassing and that we should base our entire lives on it, to the point of even risking our marriages or other people’s marriages to act on our “love”, or “to be true to ourselves.”  Just no. And unfortunately, of course, the original marriage will likely also have been based on this false idea of “love” too. Or to put it another way, if you have based your marriage primarily on very strong physical attraction, if that is considered a sufficient foundation for marriage, then when an even stronger physical attraction arises then it might seem compelling enough to break the original marriage, or even as if there is something dishonest about staying in the original marriage. There surely has to be a stronger foundation to build our lives on in the first place.

[Additional points: you both have to understand this, and commit to this, so that you’re both on board, in practice this means talking about it
Society tells us that relationships should be built on feelings. ]
You don’t have to marry “the best”. Another lie that society tells us is that you marry someone because they are “the best”. But realistically, how possible is it that our spouses will be the best in every way – the most beautiful AND the smartest AND filled with the most common-sense AND the funniest AND the most mature AND the holiest AND the people to whom we feel the greatest natural attraction? Our spouses do not have to be “the best” in every way – or even any way. They simply have to be good enough (even though, conceded, my standards for “good enough” are themselves very high – so some people might quibble that my own partner may as well be the best in every way!) Otherwise, if we are holding out for “the best”, if we think that this is what marriage necessarily is, then after we have found the supposed “best” and gotten married, and we meet someone who apparently surpasses our spouse in enough respects, then we will think that that somehow “invalidates” our existing marriage. No. From the outset we have to realise that our spouse is not always going to be “the best”, but we are going to make up our minds to remain committed to them anyway. And we are going to commit to respect them as if they truly are the best, elevating them even above people who appear to be “better”, publicly celebrating them as amazing, as if they are the best.

Celebrating your spouse in public has at least three powerful functions. Firstly it makes your spouse feel validated. It helps them stand tall and expect to be taken seriously, when the people who are closest to them and know them best (their spouse and family) respect them so much.  Secondly, it teaches other people to respect them, and makes it clear that your spouse commands your unswerving loyalty so if anyone fails to adequately respect your spouse you will definitely choose your spouse over them.  Thirdly, it tells a would-be marriage-breaker that they have absolutely no chance of drawing your eyes away from your spouse, so they might as well not even waste their time. And once again we both have to understand this, and we both have to commit to it, from the very beginning. So we have to discuss beforehand the practicalities of this. Spell it out that we recognise in life that we will definitely meet people whom we consider to be “better” than our spouses – or who objectively are better. And yet, we will remain committed to our spouses no matter what, because that is what marriage is – unyielding commitment, come what may, as long as the foundation of respect remains there.  It is as if on the point of marriage your spouse ceases to be the best man/woman on earth, and instead becomes the only man/woman on earth romantically speaking, so you simply cannot notice anyone else. And then through marriage, we could keep revisiting this, and finding ways to consolidate our commitment to one another, so that we would not nurture any temptations to spare even a stray glance to anyone else outside the marriage, no matter how dazzling they might appear to be. Before marriage, the best way to prepare for this is to learn to start systematically quashing any feelings for or attraction to anyone, until we have mutually decided to choose one another for life, after which we can act to cultivate those feelings, basing the feelings first on a foundation of unassailable commitment to one another and a mutual commitment to outstanding character and unrelenting pursuit of God. (I guess it might not seem very romantic to tell your would-be spouse “I know that in life I am bound to come across people who I would be much more attracted to than you!”…)

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