A surfeit of Karan Johar films and Nicholas Sparks books have made us believe in the idea of the soulmate. The Ross to your Rachel, the Anjali to your Rahul, the rajma to your chawal. But do we now need to recast the idea of “the one”?
I watched Damien Chazelle’s La La Land once again last week. If you’ve had a tough week, I suggest you do the same this long weekend. It presents a kind of blazing higher order beauty that all of us need in our tepid-coloured lives.
Two beautiful people, Mia and Sebastian, seem to share a love that defines them in ways few before them ever have – and as this writer believes, few after ever would. And yet, they don’t end up with each other. They are soulmates in every sense of the word and yet, they spend their lives with other people who maybe perfectly wonderful but fall short of the soulmate tag.
It makes you wonder, then, do we need to recast the idea of a soulmate?
It is entirely possible, is it not, that you can come across “the one” and not end up with them? I don’t know about you but few thoughts have scared me as much since. And if we lose them, does that mean they are no longer our soulmate? But most importantly, do soulmates even exist in our transactional lives?
To believe in soulmates is to subscribe to the notion that there is one person on the face of this earth that you are meant to be with.
We’ve all had the idea of the one forced down our throats by pop culture, but what does it mean exactly and what place, if any, does it have in today’s world? To believe in soulmates is to subscribe to the notion that there is one person on the face of this earth that you are meant to be with and it is for us to lead life hoping we come across that person so that together we can fall in love and complete each other and get to our happily ever after. The idea of seeking out the Ross to your Rachel, the Anjali to your Rahul, the Raj to your Simran, the rajma to your chawal.
On the face of it, the whole concept is pretty nuts if you think about it, despite what the filmography of KJo or the bibliography of Nicholas Sparks would have you believe. That somehow we come in pairs and out there, somewhere, is our significant other whom we’re predestined to be with. It’s all very saat janam waala pyaar.
But isn’t this idea something of a double-edged sword?
On the one hand, you could lose a lifetime discarding perfectly suitable partners in the blind search for this fairytale-like connection. With it comes plenty of hand-holding on a bridge somewhere, running toward each other in slow motion, and much laughing in the rain (umm yeah that’s definitely calling for pneumonia. Look it up.)
In fact, psychologist Benjamin Lee maintains that believing in concepts such as destiny and soulmates can actually be harmful. It leads to people putting in less effort into resolving relationship conflict, believing that their one true love is still out there. They assume that if two people are meant to be then nothing can or will go wrong, casually ignoring the minor detail of how much energy and work it takes to uphold and sustain a relationship.
And yet, for us naïve romantics who still believe in true love and magic in this world, it’s hard not to find the idea of soulmates strangely comforting. That despite all previous relationships, heartache, and heartbreak, out there somewhere could be a person. The person. Our person. And that this universe might be conspiring to push us toward them and this life might all just work out yet. The sitcom How I Met Your Mother stretched out nine seasons of surprisingly affecting TV based on this very idea (ignoring of course, that it was all singularly undone in one of the suckiest series finales ever, which we’re just going to assume never happened).
I’m not down with this idea. I do however, believe that, if you’re lucky enough, you may have come across a kind of person you feel inseparably and infinitely connected to. They can alter your reality and make you feel like suddenly, this life is manageable and possible in a way that it wasn’t before. Whether that is a natural bond or created over time – like relationship researcher Shauna Springer argues in a piece that suggests we can become each other’s soulmates – doesn’t matter.
What matters is that we make peace with the idea that this kind of deep, soulful, otherworldly connection may not necessarily come with permanence. Author Heidi Priebe says that sometimes we do meet the love of our lives but we do not end up with them, and that’s okay. We don’t always get to hold onto them because in the real world, love doesn’t triumph over all and sometimes life happens and gets in the way.
So those who live life looking for a permanent soulmate-level relationship, the odds are you’ll be left disappointed. But if what you’re seeking is companionship and genuine human connection and you let life run its course and do its thing, then maybe, some day, without you quite realising it and perhaps with whom you least expect it, the magic might just find you.
And then, it may go away, as swiftly as it came. Like Mia and Sebastian you may again see your soulmate across a crowded jazz bar, and all you can do is exchange a glance.
But in that glance the universe will exist.