The Danger of The "Soulmate"
I drank too much
vodka the other night. Honestly I was shocked, as this never happens (just
kidding, it actually happens all of the time). Needless to say, I spent the
remainder of the following day in bed with Netflix and my best friend. And just
so we’re all clear, by “best friend” I actually mean “a large cheese pizza complete
with dipping sauces.”
continue with this obviously important story, there is one thing everyone needs
to know about me: In any given moment I am either a cynical ass when it comes
to love, or a hopeless romantic. There is no in-between. On this day, I was
feeling particularly romantic--I blame my emotional state on an overconsumption
of cheese. Anyways, as I was browsing for something to watch, “When Harry Met
Sally” popped up on my screen. Let me be the first to say that I have never had
an urge to immerse myself into the world of “classic romantic comedies.” On
more than one occasion my friends have used wine to lure me into watching some
forgettable movie with Ryan Reynolds, and I am often chastised because I’ve
never actually seen “Dirty Dancing.” But on this day, I said “what the hell”
and spent the next ninety minutes watching Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal fall in
love. Here were my immediate reactions:
The evolution of Meg Ryan’s hair
throughout this movie is both terrifying and extremely entertaining.
My dad wears the same jeans that Billy
Crystal wore in 1989, and I’m not sure how I feel about this.
The entire premise of this movie (and
most romantic movies) is bullshit.
I recognize that
my last point in this list might come off as extreme, so let me explain myself.
Talk to any
serious or married couple, and the phrases “soulmate,” “other half,” or “the
one” pop up over and over again. The University of Toronto recently conducted a
study about the dangers of using such terminology (I’ll include the link to
this study at the end of my rant). Basically what it comes down to is this:
Many of us fall into the trap of building a relationship off of the
idealization that our partner is “the one.” Not only does this create problems
within the relationship itself, but it also leaves us devastatingly crushed if/when
that relationship doesn’t work out. I’m sure I’m not the first person who,
after a break up, has spent an inordinate amount of time sobbing, listening to
The Smiths, and browsing cat adoption pages online. Seriously, I’m surprised I
don’t have twelve cats running around my house right now.
We cannot deny
the overwhelming truth that the people who DON’T idealize their partners
actually have healthier relationships. When we continually think of our
partners as people who “complete” us, it becomes impossible for them to live up
to our impossible ideals. It also becomes exceedingly difficult to recognize
when a relationship has run its course or is no longer healthy and fulfilling.
This isn’t to
say that I don’t believe in love. On the contrary, I think love is wonderful
and complex. But I don’t believe in diminishing relationships simply because
they didn’t last forever. Some people teach us more about ourselves and what we
want. Some people grow up with us and will define what love means to us for the
rest of our lives. And some people honestly just stomp all over our feelings
and leave forever. Each one of these relationships is just as important as the
next. But the fact remains that humans are constantly, and often rapidly
evolving. I mean, four years ago I still thought that “holla” was an acceptable
word for me to use. And since we are relentlessly changing and growing, how can
we reasonably describe our partners as our “other halves”?
So… back to
“When Harry Met Sally”: What I disliked about this movie is its investment in
the soulmate. All of Harry and Sally’s past relationships were nothing more
than catalysts that propelled them into each other’s arms. The film ends as
they kiss on New Year’s Eve (seriously, can we get more cliché?), and the
audience is satisfied. This is how the movie has to end in order to make sense. We can’t even conceive of an
ending where Harry and Sally don’t end
up together, because that is like trying to imagine a world without wine. It
just doesn’t make sense. We are all obsessed with the notion of “the one” and
in my mind this is a very dangerous thing. Punishing ourselves or wallowing in
misery when our relationships end isn’t conducive to a happy life. Neither is
expecting our partners to be the physical embodiment of our own (partially
fucked up) souls. You’re going to meet a lot of people in your life. And you’ll
probably fall in love more than once. That doesn’t mean that the person you’re
with now or the person you’ll marry means any less to you—it simply means that
both love and humans are irrevocably complicated.
What I propose
is this: We (myself included) need to find the balance between the cynic and
the hopeless romantic. Love your partner. Respect your partner. Have
mind-blowing sex with your partner. But let’s move away from this nonsense
about “other halves.” Maybe you will
get married and stay married to that same person for your whole life, and
that’s fantastic. But creating a fantasy in your mind about how the universe
conspired to bring you to your boyfriend or girlfriend is harmful and
ridiculous. Honestly, the universe probably has better things to do.
Check it out: http://www.rotman.utoronto.ca/Connect/MediaCentre/NewsReleases/20140722.aspx