Is the hope for a Soul Mate a mythos or a myth?
Author’s Note: This post was submitted by Oscar.
Reader’s Note: In this post, a myth is defined as being a set of superstitious beliefs or assumptions about something, and is compared to myth or mythos, defined in literature and psychology as a traditional or recurrent narrative theme or plot structure.
Length: 1,000 words
Reading Time: 3.5 minutes
Recently, on Sigma Frame, the article titled, The Meet Cute Phenomenon (Scott’s Axiom) (2020 December 6), racked up an impressive count of 153 comments as of this writing. Clearly, the subject struck a chord.
Several commenters brought up the Soul Mate Myth (AKA, The One). Now, Scott’s idea of the Meet Cute is NOT the same thing as the Soul Mate Myth (SMM). The Meet Cute is when a woman goes nuts over a man and this event starts up a relationship. The SMM is an expression of a sinful dream of self-completion that creates unrealistic expectations and prevents one from participating in real opportunities that come up in life. Frustration is the result.
Because of the confusion surrounding this matter, I’d like to explore this a little further.
What is the Soul Mate myth?
Supposedly, there is a person somewhere out there for everyone. A person who is a perfect fit for you, and no one else, and when you meet that person, you’ll just know it. The following scene from Sleepless in Seattle illustrates the concept magnificently.
Tom Hanks’ character is very sensibly explaining to his son that “no one is a perfect fit”, when he literally stops mid-sentence, completely forgetting what he was saying, because he saw her… the one… his soul mate. He doesn’t know her name, he hasn’t even met her, but his intellect is powerless to protest, because deep in his heart, he just knows.
It matters not that he was once married, and is now a widower (was his first wife ever the one?), or that he’s currently dating another woman (she’s definitely not the one), he just knows.
This is a common romantic trope. But why is it so powerful?
The Soul Mate Myth is my favorite example of culture’s power to transmit ideas over generations. Pretty much everyone in American culture has heard it, believes it, hopes for it, and yet hardly anyone knows of its origins in Greek mythology. Plato explained it in his Symposium (simp – osium? Heh!).
You can read Plato’s full explanation in the following link…
Ancient Greece Reloaded: Aristophanes’ speech from Plato’s Symposium (2019 August 3)
…but I’ll summarize it for those who, understandably, would rather not take the time.
Basically, the gods created mankind as two-in-one beings.
Mankind’s two-in-one form made them too powerful for the gods’ comfort, so Zeus split them apart.
But, the gods had already created all the souls of every human that would ever be born, so they also had to be split in two. That means that you were born as a half of a whole, destined to pine, and long for your other half, your soul mate, your… The One… without whom you’ll never feel whole. Hence, the dreadful Oneitis.
This silly myth might seem cute, even romantic, but it destroys marriages, and therefore families, and therefore communities, and therefore nations.
You see, as the story goes, when you meet your soul mate, everything will just “work out”. Marriage will be easy. It therefore stands to reason that, if marriage becomes difficult (as a union of two sinners tends to do), then you must not be married to your ever blessed soul mate. In fact, that means your “true” soul mate is somewhere out there, pining for you, longing for you, thirsting to be made whole…. by you! So, now you must abandon your difficult marriage and go search for your soul mate! In fact, it’s the compassionate thing to do, because in doing so you grant your current non-soul-mate spouse the freedom to go find his/her soul mate!
Worse still, Christians believe this myth. In fact, they attempt to justify it. It’s Yaweh, not Zeus, you see, that has one special person selected just for you, and no one else! The two of you are like Isaac and Rebecca! Don’t think about inconvenient inconsistencies, like widows, and widowers, or theological principles like which Old Testament stories are prescriptive, and which are descriptive… No! Don’t think at all, because like Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle, you’ll just know!
That is, until you, or your spouse, get the seven-year itch. Then, all of a sudden, you’re not so sure anymore.
Here’s the reality for us Christians. Some people are more compatible in values, personality, interests, etc. with each other than others. Regardless of how they come together (dating, courting, arranged marriage, whatever) marriage sanctifies their union. God makes them one upon marriage. From that point forward, through a long process of sanctification, they grow together, and become intertwined in ways that St. Paul described as “a great mystery” (Ephesians 5:32). I’m in the middle of that process, and I don’t comprehend it.
What do we do with this information? We renew our minds. We purge our own minds of the myth, and we inoculate our children against it by explaining to them where it comes from, and what God’s word actually says about marriage.
Scott once said that you won’t know if you have true love until you reach the end. I got to see that with my parents. My dad died at 86 due to a series of strokes. He was bedridden for weeks. My mom cared for him until the end. After he died, I helped my mom dress him in his only suit at the funeral home, because she said “he wouldn’t want anyone else to take care of him”. Afterward, she told me that she felt empty inside.
That’s what it means to become one.
To me, true love looks like an elderly lady spoon feeding her bedridden husband, knowing he has days to live. I pray my wife and I will get there some day.
- Dalrock: “The one” vs “my one and only” (2012 October 28)
- The Rational Male: The Soul Mate Myth (2012 October 29)
- Dalrock: Her soul essence is your master, and sets the terms for oneness. (2018 March 4)