Research suggests that believing in a soulmate as our “perfect match” can set us up for unhealthy patterns in our relationships. But do soulmates exist? Here, comedian Catherine Bohart explains why she doesn’t believe in the concept of “the one”.
I grew up watching Disney films, and then Hollywood films and then, for a truly pretentious period of time, French films. The narrative was clear. Girl ambles through life in a haze of grey, unsure of herself. Girl meets boy (I was imaginative enough to be able to replace boy with ‘boyish girl’ in my own narrative). Then, both are finally complete. Happiness ensues (see most romantic films). Or girl loses boy, only to discover she is bereft, never again to be complete (see Titanic).
Love was sold to me as a quest to find the one – your person, your soulmate. But I don’t believe in soulmates and if they do exist, I don’t want one. I’d much rather believe I’m capable of completing myself, in or out of love.
Right now, I’m in love – real deep, happy, life affirming love. But if my partner went away, I’d be OK. I’m a whole person without her, and I want her to be one without me. People talk about love in terms of better halves and life partners, which makes me balk because I feel like it makes their love sound like a mere inevitability, rather than an ongoing choice.
The romance of soulmates is not lost on me. There is something sweet and earnest about the notion of being meant for one person. But the inevitability and the unconsciousness of it just doesn’t make my heart pound like the idea of actively being chosen or choosing.
I think that’s part of the reason I struggle with the idea of marriage. On the one hand, I love my partner, and I’m glad we chose each other. In an ideal world, we’ll keep on choosing each other. But I’m also aware that we’ll change, and if we change in a way that means we’d be better off without each other (as friends, we are gay after all), then I hope we’d separate. Marriage, it seems to me, makes that separating part harder, and makes the end of a relationship feel like a bigger failure and a higher hurdle. It’s like a safety net that might make a partner think harder about leaving before doing anything rash.
Personally, and I know this might sound strange, but I don’t want a guarantee that my partner can’t or won’t leave me. I don’t want it to be hard for me to leave her. I trust her judgement, and I want to know that if either of us stops being happy, we’ll go. That, to me, is thrilling and loving.
I understand why people want to marry their partners, and I can see the value in spending the rest of your life with someone you love. But the singularity of the idea of a soulmate also irks me. You can have multiple successful loves in your lifetime, and relationships that ended didn’t necessarily fail, they just didn’t last.
I don’t think that I’m the only one for my partner and I know she’s not the only one for me. That’s what makes choosing each other so important. I find it exciting to think that my girlfriend has options, but continues to choose me. I don’t believe that she only has eyes for me and I don’t only have eyes for her but I love our life and I wouldn’t (currently) trade it for anyone else.
I didn’t always feel comfortable thinking about love in this way. I used to sell every partner the dream, as though they were the one and I was made for them. Now, knowing that my partner and I would both be OK after some time if we broke up means that I don’t resent her, or feel trapped like I sometimes did in my past relationships. I’m so glad our love wasn’t ordained by the cosmos, because it means I don’t have to believe that however she behaves, that’s just what I have to put up with or deserve.
A friend once described my understanding of love, of how it is a choice, as “clinical”. But I just think that falling in love should be a risk we take with our eyes wide open. You should know you could get your heart broken. It won’t stop heartbreak from happening, but it might at least lesson the shock.
What I want from romance is a choice. And right now, I’m ecstatic with mine.
You’ll Do, hosted by comedians and real-life couple Catherine Bohart and Sarah Keyworth, is available on BBC Sounds, with new episodes every Tuesday
Images: Getty, BBC/Robert Shiret, Unsplash