The belief in a “soulmate” might be the most damaging belief women and yes, even men, have been fed. That you are “owed” a soulmate, that this has been promised to you since birth. Or, well, at least since your first Disney movie.

Yesterday, as I write this, was Halloween. The number one costume for little girls consistently year after year is a princess. The number one for boys is a superhero. It starts early this thinking that some superhero will come and rescue the princess – make her feel beautiful and valued or conversely, that the superhero will find his princess, rescue her from the tower and make him feel manly, strong and necessary. I blame Disney. For a lot. But mostly for our screwed up “happily ever after” thinking. As Ronny Cammareri says in Moonstruck, “The storybooks are bullshit.”

I don’t believe in the concept of a soulmate. Not because I didn’t have great romantic love in my life because I did. Not because I don’t think I will have great romantic love again because I do. And least of all, not because I don’t believe in the deeper kind of love where sacrifice and selflessness reign through thick and thin, through sickness and in health because I do. But because I don’t believe in the “soulmate equation” we have been sold.

Soulmate = Your Everything

It’s the story we are to assume takes place after the Disney version of their meeting, falling in love, and overcoming adversity: of Cinderella and Prince Charming so in love, so each other’s whole world, so 2 = 1 that when one dies, the other dies moments later holding the other’s hand after a long, long happy life. It’s the flip side of the Disney movie – the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie. Or The Notebook.  Deep abiding, faithful love is wonderful but the “me and you against the world” kind? The “we don’t need anyone or anything but each other” kind – sounds pretty limiting to me. In fact, undesirable and confining. Maybe even dysfunctional. Makes you sigh in the movie theater but it isn’t real life. In real life you’d be on Dr. Phil.

For one thing, it is virtually impossible for one person to be your everything. I mean, I don’t even have one bra or pair of underpants that serves as “everything” in the undergarment department yet somehow we expect one person to serve as everything we could ever need or want from life. We expect one superhuman to somehow fill all those holes in ourself and make us whole. If it’s too much pressure for a bra or thong to handle, it is too much for one human being.

If we buy into the soulmate myth, of someone “completing” you, we buy into the expectation that one person can be our best friend, lover, co-parent, cheerleader, nurturer, caretaker, protector, admirer, confidant. On top of that tall order, we want them to make us feel needed, wanted, loved, cherished, desirable, smart, funny, competent, confidant, talented, secure, fully ourselves. In addition, they should put our needs ahead of theirs, read our mind, love all our imperfections, flaws and narcissistic tendencies , make us laugh, always know the right thing to say, expose us to new adventures, lose an argument to keep the peace, never challenge us, love scrapbooking as much as we do, have a perfect family who doesn’t interfere, love our 20 cats and the delightful aroma that comes with that, be able to finish our sentence, anticipate our every need, and of course, tell us how we look like a million bucks everyday – just to name a few.

If you ever did meet someone who even came close to your version of “soulmate”, you’d no doubt end up disappointed or frustrated at some point because no one can say, do, and make you feel everything you want all of the time. Ascribing so many roles to one person in a world of 7 billion and then feeling resentful and cheated when they fail to perform even one perfectly is a job with no qualified applicants. What are you going to do when they have an off hour, day, week, month, several months or even a year? What are you going to do if they leave or die? Post “Help Wanted” ads? Try to fill the position asap? Die also, Hallmark Hall of Fame style? There is a reason you have family, friends, other people in your life. Putting all your eggs in one basket, no matter how stunningly beautiful the basket, is risky and confining.

What we are essentially asking for in the soulmate equation is for one person to do what is really our job, we just have delegated it to someone else. We have passed the buck. Skirted our responsibility. Succumbed to “magical” or “Disney” thinking. No one can live up to that hype. Not even real princesses and princes – enter stage left, Di and Charles.

Placing the responsibility of your happiness into someone else’s hands, often someone who doesn’t even exist yet (or for that matter, the person laying beside you for the last 20 years) to complete you à la Jerry Maguire fashion and set your world to rights, is a dangerous and foolhardly act. And it is equally as foolish to believe that you and you alone can fulfill that role for someone else and that if you don’t, if they say, want to hang with their friends and family without you on occasion, or go on a golfing trip without you, that you have somehow failed in your role. You make your own happiness and placing the reliance of it in someone else’s hands means sleeping on the job or taking an extended leave of absence because “happiness is an inside job.” (Arthur Ward). It is a wider job too, not to be delegated to one “special” person in a world of billions.

There is no shame in being hungry for another person. There is no shame in wanting very much to share your life with somebody. In fact, we human beings have pretty regularly sought this out throughout history. But hoping that this other person will fill all your holes, make everything ok when you are the furthest thing from ok right now, make the sky blue, stop you from drinking, motivate you to learn French or go to culinary school, make you feel special or beautiful or smart or fill in the blank here, is just more “Disney thinking.”

This is not to say that the person you choose to make your mate, lover, friend, or spouse shouldn’t help you out on that job assignment because that is what a great mate, lover, friend or spouse does. They are your support team. They are the back office support. They support your growth, they support your discovery of those qualities in yourself you want to find, those things in yourself you dare to give a go and then, they back you up. But they can’t give them to you because no one can give them to you. They are yours to find, yours to discover. It is your job and no one can do it for you. Because finding love and all those great things about yourself is not about the presence of anyone else at all. Finding love is the realization that you already have that one special person to make you feel loved, makes you feel like a princess or superhero and that person is you.

Stop waiting for some “soulmate” to come rescue you, and rescue yourself. Stop looking at the person laying next to you as some stopgap until your “real” soulmate arrives. No one can make everything ok, fill every hole you have, be your everything, give you the happily ever after of your Disney dreams. That is your job and the truth is, your coworkers, your “soulmates” on that assignment, are all around you because they are every soul around you. They are your friends, your children, your parents, your siblings, your co-workers, your neighbors, your lovers, your spouses. They are those souls that touch yours, that help you do your souls work -to discover and expand your love for yourself and every other soul you encounter.

No one said it was an easy job.

xo, maeve