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I Didn’t Marry My Soul Mate

By: Quinn McDowell

You read that right. My beautiful new bride isn’t my soul mate.

In the confusing world of relationships, guys often make a crucial error in their approach to finding a wife: we operate under the assumption that we are destined to find our perfect soul-mate. (Yes, this applies to the ladies, too, but here I want to address the guys specifically.)

You know the woman I’m thinking of–that ideal someone who magically balances your flaws, completes your insufficiencies, and satisfies your deepest desires. While searching for a spouse, we hold fast to the ideal of marrying someone faultlessly compatible with us – even if we concede that she herself is not going to be completely flawless. We develop a complex dating detection system, equipped with a built in “wife-finder” that automatically eliminates anyone who doesn’t strike us as potential soul-mate material. These methods of sifting through prospects beg the question; should we even be looking for a perfectly compatible spouse? Or, have modern dating notions – as perpetuated through movies, magazines, and the internet – narrowed our outlook to the point where our imaginations are saturated with shallow ideologies that undermine the potential for a healthy marriage?

One of my favorite theologians, Stanley Hauerwas, once argued that “you always marry the wrong person.” Hauerwas challenges the notion that we should be searching for the one person who perfectly and comprehensively fulfills all our needs. This faulty outlook creates immense pressure to make absolutely sure we pick the right person. We become imprisoned by the fear that if we make an error in judgment, we could ruin our lives forever!

I firmly believe that we should abide by general guidelines that steer us in the process of finding a suitable spouse. However, once those basic principles are faithfully observed, we have an incredible, liberating freedom to choose the person we want to marry. Recently I married my beautiful wife, Lindsey, and I believe that it was God’s perfect will for us to wed. But that does not mean that she is the perfect person for me–because such a person does not exist. Nor does it mean that I could not have entered into a healthy and fulfilling marriage with another woman. But I chose Lindsey (and she chose me!) in full confidence—even though we are not perfect for each other.

Men, what if our approach to finding a wife was not fueled by an endless compatibility test, but by a relentless effort to transform ourselves into the best husbands we can be?  In this process, we certainly do need to look for a woman with whom we share a certain level of chemistry and compatibility, as well as our core values—especially when it comes to an understanding of marriage itself. However, we must also recognize that finding our flawlessly compatible, perfect soul-mate is not the key to marital happiness. Once we’ve made it that far, we can start soul-searching—and quit soul-mate-searching—on how we are going to become the best man and husband we can be. As a wise man once told me, if I wanted to marry the Queen, I would first need to become a King.

Quinn McDowell is a recent graduate of The College of William and Mary with a degree in Religious Studies and Economics. He is a freelance writer and is currently pursuing a career in professional basketball.

23 Responses to I Didn’t Marry My Soul Mate

  1. Michael W. Hannon says:

    I’m very inclined to agree with this. It’s not just that no one is perfect; it’s also that no one is perfect *for me*. We were never promised perfect compatibility or balance or anything else, just that all things would work together for the good of those who love Him. With some obvious uncompromisable general principles in mind, just love God and do what you will, IMHO (and St. Augustine’s).

  2. Dan Sealana says:

    I’ve shared similar thoughts about my marriage with other people in casual conversation. Angela has suggested that I be more careful about it. Usually, people look at me like I’m speaking disrespectfully about my wife or that I’m just talking crazy. They don’t get it. My wife and I have a great relationship. We didn’t get married because we were “meant to be together.” We’re meant to be together BECAUSE we got married.

    We could have married other people, but we married each other. We grow to love each other more each day, minus the romantic comedy movie stupidity of wondering if we made a mistake and missed out on marrying our true “soul mate.”

  3. Krizia says:

    It’s so refreshing to read this, especially coming from a guy’s perspective! I have had so many disagreements with my girl friends about whether or not soul mates exist, and even many strongly devout Catholics insist that we can only marry “the one” who is perfect for us. Perfect? What does that even mean? Thanks for espousing on marriage as mainly dependent upon core values and positive self transformation!

  4. James says:

    “And the rib which the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.” Gen 2:22.

    Our first step is a deep and living relationship with God in Christ our Savior, then asking him very specifically for two things: One for him to make us the man or woman he wants us to be, being specific on each and every quality, and two, asking Him for that person he made for us (be very specific for God imagination is greater than ours, and He LOVES to be asked), for He if he has called us to Marriage, then he has also made that person toward whom we are called to love. Yes, God, made a specific person for each and every one of us called to marriage. How can we know that God is so personally involved? The answer is He became man, and one man in particular with one name, one family, to save each and everyone of us. If he was indifferent to us, then he wouldn’t have become man to save us and bring us life on a personal level. Prayer and reliance on God is the first step to becoming the person He want us to be, and asking his guidance for finding the one person He has made for us, yes, God knows. Keep the faith, I certainly found my soul-mate, and I love learning to love her each day.

    • Miss Doyle says:

      While I agree with your first point, I think it’s slightly dangerous to insist that God has made us for someone else specifically.
      I have heard the argument used for single people remaining single because the person who was ‘made for them’ – is missing through abortion. How many people trawl the world (literally) for ‘the one’? The idea of a soul mate also becomes problematic when we realise that we are complete in ourselves – the idea of a soul mate gives the impression that we are only half a soul until completed by another. What happens if we subscribe to this belief and become widowed (all married people do at one time or another).
      God calls us to a state in life, not to another person. We are free to use our human freedom when we choose a spouse. God gives us the grace through the marriage sacrament, but He doesn’t choose for us.

  5. Andrew Calis says:

    While there are parts of this that I definitely can agree with, overall I’d have to say I disagree. I’m completely on board that we shouldn’t have unrealistic expectations as to the perfection of our spouse, but I think there is a serious difference between saying “She’s perfect” and saying “She’s perfect for me.” I’m (incredibly) happily married (we recently celebrated one year), and before getting married, I absolutely thought that it was God’s divine will that you make the best of whatever spouse with whom you end up. After marrying Steph, though, she was perfect for me in ways I wouldn’t have thought to include in my description of the “perfect” wife: she calls me on when I’m weak; she challenges me in ways that draw me closer to God. Could there be another girl out there with whom I’d agree politically (for example)? Probably. A girl who didn’t mind my love for terrible, terrible food? Probably. And I could very well be happy with her, having no clue what it would have been like to have found Stephanie.

    But I did find Stephanie, and the millions of little ways she shows God’s love to me affirms me in thinking that, no, there could not have been anyone else so suited to me.

    I wonder at the article’s conclusion: that we should stop soul-mate searching and start soul-searching. Are the two mutually exclusive? Because as my wife and I have fallen more in love, we’ve discovered that we learn about each other as we learn about ourselves, and we grow closer to God through the process.

    • S Winter says:

      Congratulations on your marriage. Prayers for many, many blessings in the years to come. I’ve been married for 17 years to a wonderful, Godly man. Together, we’ve fallen more and more deeply into love and learned about each other’s qualities that endear us to each other all the more.

      I do not however believe this fact negates what is theorized by the author. Falling in love with all the qualities that endear us to our spouse could simply be a matter of ongoing growth in intimacy. We find out something new that brings us joy/pleasure and that leads to feeling more of the emotions related to eros (passionate love). Consequently, we are more connected at the soul.

      I hope you continue to allow yourselves to grow in intimacy with one another.

      Peace.

  6. mike says:

    And I didn’t marry “my best friend” either (his name is Randy and he’s kind of a jerk). I think men know that the soulmate or “the one” is a lie but try explaining it to your girlfriend or wife. So many people could end up happily married if only women would realize its a choice not a destiny.

  7. I agree with what you say in that I don’t believe there is just one person in the whole world who could be our soul mate. I have fallen in love several times in my life and on each occasion thought I had found my soul mate.

    A human being’s capacity to love and be loved is infinite and is certainly not limited to one person or human beings.

  8. Grace says:

    My husband and I often joke that we did marry the spouse who is perfect for us each individualy. He is going to get me into Heaven one way or the other…Some days by our shared growth in holiness and others through all the suffering!

  9. reheiler says:

    Quinn’s logic is suspect. Why is the pursuit of perfection in ourselves any less of a pipedream than the search for perfection in another? It seems non-cotroversial to me that a “perfect soul-mate” is an unattainable ideal; but it also seems likely that being cynical of that ideal even on your wedding day is not an optimal frame of mind. There is plenty of time to wake up and realize that your spouse, like you, is imperfect. The illusion thereof on the most important day of both lives, though, is not necessarily a bad thing.

  10. Michelle says:

    I DID marry my soul mate. We were friends for years and then one day decided that the person we were looking for was right in front of us. It will be 6 years this November. I guess we all aren’t this lucky.

  11. Greg Reeves says:

    Nice article! I completely agree; we are told by the media, hollywood, etc, that if we don’t find the “perfect” person, we did something wrong. It’s a very selfish point of view. I wonder why the divorce rate is so high?

  12. Jessica says:

    Quinn, thanks for writing this article the way you did; it’s honest, challenging, and sensitive. I think you could have brought in a lot of Scripture to support your thoughts, but my immediate comment on this first read is this: we are the Bride of Christ, and we have certainly not been chosen because we are perfect for Him, but rather His commitment of love allows us to be perfected for Him. In that same light, Christ is our soul’s mate; if we are looking for that completion here on the earth, we will always at some point be disappointed, even if we are blessed to come very close.

    • Kayla says:

      Wow, that is very, very insightful, Jessica. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this article. We are indeed the Bride of Christ, and we can never find our Soul Mate here on earth. The only One who can fulfill the deep longing in us is the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit inside, among, and around us.

  13. Jason says:

    Very interesting article. The “soul mate” idea is a dangerous trap to fall into for sure! I’m sure there’s other factors involved as well, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the average age at first marriage keeps getting pushed further and further back

  14. Jacqueline says:

    i LOVED this! Thank you! More people from our generation need to read this- men and women alike.

  15. Anamaria says:

    I married my soul mate, too (an aside: before we met, I didn’t believe in soul mates, though he did).

    We married each other because God led us together. Before that, we followed God’s path for us (we did NOT trowel the earth looking for our soul mates).

    This is not mutually exclusive with putting in the work and effort in a marriage; for us, it’s actually more of an incentive. This is the person God chose for us to love (and we chose to accept this call), so we better love each other as best we can!

    I understand why everyone is so down on the Hollywood idea of soulmates and constant searching for “the one,” but I don’t think this means we need to throw out the idea of soulmates altogether.

  16. Pingback: Does Marriage Advice Bark Up the Wrong Tree? | WasabiJane | The blog of Lisa Eldred

  17. Sarah says:

    Great article. I agree! I am not married nor dating or engaged or anything and I often joke about God bringing “the one” into my life but it’s always a sarcastic “the one” seeing as how I don’t think “the one” really exists. I do however think that God knows the future and He knows who I will end up with and will “assist” in the process of meeting each other and just opening the right doors. It could be a number of Godly men in my life right now and I would be ok with any one of them, but none of them are interested in me and I’m not particularly interested in any of them at this point.

    I had heard the whole point of soul-mates talked on in a youth group I attended in high school. I was a sophomore at the time and one of the seniors made this point; “if there is really a soul mate or the one what happens if you make a mistake and marry the wrong person. Forcing your soul mate to marry the wrong person and your spouses true soul mate to marry the wrong one. So on and so on. No one would marry “the right on” after a while. So how can we say their is only one for sure soul mate out there? There’s not. God gives us options.”

  18. Renee says:

    The word ‘soulmate’ doesn’t mean sinless perfection in someone or effortless, near-constant smooth sailing in the relationship – even though I’ve heard statements from married people along the lines of, “She’s my soulmate and the perfect wife” or “He is perfect for me.” And I’ve heard of some who said that after losing a soulmate-spouse through death, they then went on to another blessed union with another soulmate, which I do believe possible. At any rate, I think soulmate unions refer to a deep level of compatibility between two personalities (and shared worldview) that makes solving relational problems and growing together, as two-in-one, comparatively easier. Such a situation with someone is likely what most people in soulmate unions mean by “perfect” – they don’t mean flawless persons or flawless relating.

  19. Florider says:

    whoever said “The “soul mate” idea is a dangerous trap to fall into for sure” is right, kind of. If you have ever been in a torrid relationship (not affair) with a sexual soulmate, you are changed forever. I know this sounds, well maybe insignificant, but it’s not. Once you’ve been to the highest high with another, anyone else in any other capacity (LTR, or marriage) does not compare. It’s sad, but true. Relationships and marriages do evolve, good or bad and both. A combustible relationship is exciting & makes you feel most alive, but it is exhausting and the fire will not last forever. I didn’t marry that one, I didn’t even marry a best friend. I chose to marry a man who makes me feel safe, yet swallowed in ennui. He is into political rants, poker & the outdoors – While I am ignited by art, music, new scenery, adventures. We often don’t marry the “One”, we marry the person who teaches us and shows us what we are missing or need to work on or learn with. I guess that’s everyone. I think anyone who is truly happy and blissfully married is lucky, but I never wanted to or want to be lucky. I want to feel alive; I’m glad I experienced it.

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