The Trouble With Dating: Death By Soulmate?
Guest blogpost by Claire Jackson, former Tinder Trailblazer at @shedatesdigital
(warning, heavy use of inverted commas throughout)
It has a universal meaning which seems to imply that there’s just one destined human on this planet for you.
That’s right, one…
Seems absurd, but let me ask you a question.
When was the last time you let your mind wander to that perfect picture of Mr Right?
Maybe you lost yourself in the exact way they would look, sound, smell, act and feel. How they take their coffee, their favourite holiday destination and the music they listen to on the way to work.
Perhaps you then let out a little sigh, pinned those high hopes firmly into your mind and reversed your soulmate fantasy into the back of your brain for another day.
Whilst these daydreams may seem wonderful at the time, these are the type of thoughts that can end up with us spinning around on that damned wheel of let-down…
For my generation, I reckon part of the blame can be attributed to Ryan bloody Gosling, Rachel bloody McAdams, and their epic bloody love story (The Notebook, *sob*)!
But Hollywood isn’t the only place guilty of projecting the belief system of 1+1 = forever.
Our society has signed up to this flawed and faux fairytale just as the soulmate ideology would have us believe - for a lifetime.
From dating websites luring us in with their promise of finding the perfect guy, to relationship announcements on Facebook proclaiming they’ve found ‘the one’, and every speech at most weddings we attend (except maybe the bestman who’s focussed more on that pissed-up time the groom got tied to a lamppost, naked), the term ‘soulmate’ is often seen as the final destination in love.
I mean, forever can be great if you choose it, but think about it - there are very few things in life today that can claim the same label.
Careers are multiple, homes are wherever we lay our hats, people come and go, even tattoos don’t have to be permanent anymore.
It was at a fairly late stage in life that I realised I could no longer continue to buy into any of it.
Not because I’m a bah-humbug-anti-lovebug who doesn’t believe in the happy-ever-after. On the contrary (#disneyislife).
It was because, for a very long time, I’d been signed up to finding and being with my soulmate, and for a very long time this had caused mega problems when looking for and being in a relationship.
"Hello, my name is Claire, and I’m a former soulmate addict."
So what was the problem, exactly?
Well, I’ve proclaimed the ‘soulmate’ label more times than I care to admit to make a social media statement. I’d band the word about in both the throes of a blossoming romance, as well as the painful end of another.
This in itself doesn’t seem like a major problem on the face of it, but the clue I was perhaps delusional was in the patterning - its repeated and relentless use.
I just kept convincing myself that whatever relationship I was in was my happy ending, and that they would be my ‘perfect partner’ (spoiler alert, they never were).
Sooner or later, I would start using the old soulmate adage as a way to question my satisfaction in relationships during tough times, with the soulmate concept taunting my gut and subconscious.
‘Hmm, but IS he my soulmate?’
The restless behaviour distracted by the soulmate concept meant that on reflection, I’d never actually relaxed into any relationship. Even the really significant ones, like my marriage.
And it wasn’t just when I was in a relationship that this was an issue.
When I was single, there was an epidemic at large, and my inner circle were feeding the addiction.
I’d be excitedly regaling details of my third date with a guy, only to be asked by my BFFs - ‘but is HE your soulmate?’ Which would inevitably bring on that horrible breast bone rash that rises up the neck in stress moments like public-speaking.
‘How will I KNOW if he’s my soulmate? I mean, I’ve got it so wrong in the past, how can I trust how I feel? Do I even know what I’m looking for in a soulmate?’
These questions have rattled around my head ever since I started crushing on the doped-up skater boy at High School, who was very much the antithesis of an ideal partner.
Every guy over the last 20 years since has been scrutinised with those same torturous questions as I’ve wrestled with angst over the compatibility, validity and longevity of each relationship, second-guessing us both at every turn.
But last year, as I was coming to terms with suddenly becoming very single, I think I finally got what finding a ‘soulmate’ was really about. It was one of those lightbulb situations, and it happened in an ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ kinda way.
With a bashed up heart, a half-packed suitcase and a heavy load of self-help books in tow, I took myself off on the ‘romantic Balinese holiday’ me and my ex had booked for our anniversary.
After a pretty notable breakup with the guy I’d moved to the other side of the world with, I had started to dip my toes in the dating pool.
I found myself feeling despondent if it didn’t work out after date 3, 2 or even 1, and like hope of landing ‘the right catch’ was slipping away. Because what I wanted at the half-ripe old age of 33 wasn’t a casual fling, but my ‘forever guy’ (again).
Would I ever meet my soulmate (again)?
As I dug deeper into what was blocking me from ever really feeling satisfied with my lot, this question kept coming up but with no answer to be found. I knew I was treating finding love like a hunting expedition, with a decent serve of ‘soulmate’ lined up as dish of the day.
Eventually, after a few days of sitting in discomfort during my self-imposed, self-help sanctuary, it hit me like a double shot of tequila.
I needed to be my own bloody soulmate.
Ok babe, before your eyes roll so far into your head that you can see your own tonsils, hear me out.
I don’t mean that you can’t feel like your partner – or any other person or animal in your life for that matter - is your soulmate. They may well feel like the missing piece in your jigsaw.
The point is that there are many pieces out there that could fit just as snugly in that puzzle of yours, but you’re what truly makes the picture beautiful.
Seeing myself as my own soulmate has not only eased up on the unrealistic expectations-odometer.
It’s also allowed me to take myself to task on a number of pretty shoddy behaviours, thoughts and habits that I’d let creep into my norm when I wasn’t ready to accept that happiness starts with me.
As soon as I started understanding and treating myself way better, the opportunities started coming at me thick and fast – not because they weren’t there before, I was just more receptive to them from this lighter disposition, as my own unapologetic, glorious alpha soulmate.
It’s when I realised that a soulmate isn’t anything to strive for, look for, or be envious of. We don’t need our partner to be that all-in-one person.
I mean just like ‘forever’ what else in life is ‘everything’ (apart from, perhaps, a Nutella Krispy Kreme donut)? And don’t even get me started on the idea of ‘other half’.
When that ‘eureka!’ moment hit as I lay in a steaming bath of bubbles, a wave of relief rushed through my entire prune-like body.
Instead of feeling fear that I’d never find my soulmate, I felt completely content in the thought that it didn’t fucking matter as I already fucking had.
That’s the feeling that comes with accepting yourself as your soulmate – the world is as it should be, home is wherever you are, and the possibilities in dating become endless because you’re open to them.
And now? Well, I’m happy to re-introduce myself.
Hello, my name is Claire, and I’m a former soulmate addict who found love again.
Just don’t ask if this one’s my soulmate or there will be trouble…
P.S. If you’re over your search for a ‘soulmate’ and feeling a bit stalemate in the love stakes, why not download our Dating Detox Guide.
It might help get your head in the game. Download it here.