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Does the one exist and can they really complete you?


The Notebook

The Notebook

The Notebook

Are soul mates a reality, and can another person complete you? Perhaps, but spending your life waiting for "the one" could be dangerous...

Blame fairytales, blame Ross and Rachel in Friends or blame The Notebook (what is it with that film?!) but the idea of soul mates is more pervasive than ever. While no one wants to settle for second best, the idea that there is just one perfect person out there for everyone can make looking for love even more daunting.

A large proportion of people who sign up to dating sites cite the fact that they are looking for their soul mate, but what does this mean? What are we looking for when we say we want to find our soul mate, and does such a thing even exist? It may not be realistic to expect to meet someone who makes your life complete, the yin to your yang, the other piece of the puzzle… but are you doing yourself a disservice if you're not hunting for them?

At the risk of sounding unromantic, the idea of a soul mate never really occurred to me when I was looking for love. Even as a teenager, I was more interested in meeting someone who I had fun with and who I was attracted to, rather than searching for the elusive and, to me, flimsy idea of "The One".

The idea of one perfect person being out there for everyone just doesn't make sense. Apart from anything else, the person who is right for you at fifteen or sixteen years old might not be right for you 25 or 35. You'll probably never fall for someone the way you fell for your first love, and after first heartbreak you are bound to be more cautious. So unless you end up with your first love, your love life is going be affected by how you were treated in the past. While you might believe in soul mates as a teenager, after at least one significant relationship, and break-up, your ideas on romance may well have changed. Anyone who has been in a long term relationship knows that it is more about compromise, mutual respect, hard work, timing, luck and of course, love, than chancing across someone who just happens to be perfect in every way for you.

Tony Moore, relationship counsellor with Relationships Ireland (www.relationshipsireland.com) agrees that sometimes looking for a soul mate can mean setting yourself up for disappointment. "One problem is that the majority of us are romantics. We like to describe our partner as our soul mate. We want to believe we have found them. However the reality can be somewhat different".

While most of us realise that relationships take hard work, it can be a shock to the system when you realise that the person who you thought you were perfect for, turns out to be, well, not so perfect. Tony agrees that this realisation can sometimes be met with confusion, and even anger. "Their so called soul mate has turned into a demon and it's all his or her fault. Many people say they realise relationships will have their ups and downs but when it happens they are very angry."

According to a survey published in 2013, one in seven people acknowledged the fact that they are not with "The One", or the love of their lives. The troubling thing about this statistic is that it indicates that a lot of people are buying into the concept of a soul mate, that this one person is out there waiting for you, and that you could be wasting your time with other relationships while your one true love is waiting out there somewhere for you. Remember that line from Sex and the City, when Carrie is sent a dating catalogue advertising The One? "It's almost a threat. "We have him, but hurry because he's slipping... There he goes!". It also implies that a relatively large proportion of people feel that they are settling for second best with their partners, that there could be someone better waiting out there for them.

It is a normal part of any relationship's natural evolution that the initial honeymoon phase will turn into the hundrum of everyday. Nothing kills romance like daily issues such as money problems, childcare and general juggling of day to day duties. Most married couples cite problems 6 years into marriage, often when kids come along, but sometimes it can just be the banality of the everyday seeping into our romantic lives.

In the 18th and 19th centuries the word soul mate was also used to describe very close, normally female, friendships. The idea of romantic love, or of your husband being your soul mate was almost ridiculous, as marriages were mainly ones of logic rather than love. It's very reflective of our society today where we place so much value, and even pressure on the idea of finding our romantic soul mate.

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Dating website Elite Singles partner psychologist Sam Owens has some thoughts on the idea of soul mates, and how it can fit into the dating world. "I think most people want to find a romantic partner that they will connect deeply with but some will be willing to forgo that in favour of "settling" because they perhaps feel it's too late in life to be choosy or because they've accepted pessimistic messages they've absorbed from those who haven't found their special someone... There really is no reason to sell yourself short; whether you're middle-aged, thrice divorced or surrounded by unhappy couples, set your sights on exactly the sort of romantic partner you want to find and then pro-actively take consistent steps to help you meet prospective singles."

This is perhaps good advice; of course we shouldn't settle for someone who doesn't make us happy, but setting your sights on the kind of romantic partner that you want, as Sam Owens suggests, and keeping your options open for the ever elusive soul mate are two different things. It all depends on what your idea of a soul mate is. For some people, it can be sexual compatibility, for others, it can be having lots of common interests and goals, for others it can be an intellectual connection, a meeting of minds that allows you to have endless conversations, for others it is sharing a sense of humour, making each other laugh. The absolute ideal would seem to be all of the above. But that would just be looking for too much. Or would it?

"I was in a long-term relationship for years, and while I knew deep down I wasn't happy, I just went along with things because I thought that was normal - that no relationship was perfect," says Joanne, 31. "In reality, I was totally settling but I wouldn't admit it to myself. I knew my partner wasn't The One, but I told myself that such thing didn't exist, and that I just wasn't into marriage. Then I met my current boyfriend through work, and even before anything happened between us (nothing did until I was officially single!), I knew that I couldn't stay in my old relationship. Even just knowing there were guys out there like that was enough to shake me out of my comfort zone. Thankfully he was falling for me too - the chemistry was undeniable - and we're together two years now. There's no question he's absolutely the love of my life. He's made me believe in true love, marriage, everything."

True love is one thing, and the idea of having a "love of your life" no matter what happens between you two, but is that the same thing as soul mates? Can we have more than one true love in our lives? I think so, and somehow it seems far less elusive than searching for this one specific person to complete you.

Working in an office made up of mainly women, I did a quick straw poll on my colleagues' thoughts on soul mates. Bearing in mind that many of these women are in long term relationships, or married with small kids, the question fell a bit flat. "Soul mates? Like romance and stuff? Romance is him getting up at 6am so I can have a lie in" said one. "Yeah, or making me a cup of tea when I come home from work. Without me having to ask him" said another. The only person who seemed in any way credulous of the idea of soul mates was the nineteen year old intern.

So do long term relationships kill the idea of romance and of soul mates? Or maybe it's that what you see as romance changes over time, maybe your soul mate is the person who can still crack you up after years together, who you can rely on and who you trust. Once upon a time maybe romance was expensive hotels, candlelit dinners, and staying in bed all weekend, whereas now, perhaps romance is your other half sitting through hours of Corrie, Made in Chelsea and Fair City (even though he hates them), or looking after you when you're sick, or bringing out the recycling or getting rid of spiders or half dead mice that the cat has brought in. Maybe real soul mates are able to be together after years and still have lots to say to each other, still are able to fight and make up and still want to hang out together, just having the craic like they used to, at the beginning, when they really thought that they were soul mates.

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