Soulmates: “Is there one ‘right person’ for everyone?


“Up” movie, Courtesy of Disney

A friend of mine once said something that I thought was crazy, at first.  Now I know he is right.  He said, “You always marry the wrong person.” In a way, he simply is building upon an important key thought about any relationship:  nobody’s perfect.  It suggests that the 50% divorce rate today might be improved if people headed into marriage with heaping helpings of grace rather than the expectation of effortless bliss.

You might head me off here, saying that some people are less perfect than others!  And it’s true, some people’s backgrounds and wiring makes them a hazard to any spouse.  They are ticking time bombs of abuse and infidelity.  But apart from these more severe issues, marriages are falling apart at an unacceptable rate.

What is behind all these “irreconcilable differences?”  Men and women who are certain enough to make a lifetime commitment find themselves just as confident to walk away, usually within the first two years.  Why?  And it’s the same across America, rich or poor, religious or not.  The new social norm is about exchanging rather than changing.  What is driving this new norm?  There must be some faulty assumption–something that sets up expectations for failure? Perhaps we can get a little insight, looking back upon Mark Sanford’s very public free-fall.

The former governor of S.C., suddenly disappeared, exchanging his 20-year marriage and his stellar political career for a fleeting new season of romance.  He was convinced that he had found his soulmate.

The inadequacy of that pursuit is brutally evident now, given how it affected his family and his career.

I don’t dismiss the ideal of a soulmate, but finding yours does not necessary start with a lighting strike. We must come to see and to respect design. Principles of healthy relationships are like gravity–they are there whether we acknowledge them or not.  We ignore them at our own peril. Healthy things grow, have seasons, and produce fruit.  This kind of assumption, that marriage is a living thing that needs to be nurtured and fed, that assumption can set couples up more for success. (Learn more about marriage principles at The Gottman Institute.

Instead of looking at marriage like the lottery, (is this the winning ticket?) young couples need to think of it as an account that compounds interest over an extended period of time. When you’re trying to grow something like a savings account, you have to do three simple things:

1)  Commit to protecting the principal

2) Make desposits

3) Invest well

The application to marriage is clear.  The first one is about going the distance, even through downturns.  The second one is about seeking first to give, not get.  The third one, invest well, is where most people’s learning curve begins.  If you are married and do not know your spouse’s “love language,” I would suggest starting there.  (See the book section for Garry Chapman’s text, The Five Love Languages.)

What single assumption or habit has helped your marriage thrive? (comment)

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  1. Joani Jack says

    That is great stuff… thanks for the fresh and refreshing words throughout your website. Divorce hurts my heart, and the effects just seem to go on forever. But what hurts me even more than that, is the unbelievable joy that so many had waiting for them down the road… had they just been willing to persevere. 20 years (almost 21) into marriage, I can honestly say that we are just now REALLY learning who each of us really are, and learning to love each other as Christ would desire. To answer your question of suggestions for “next steps”, I’d say two things: 1. Don’t join in when others bash their spouses. It leads down a path you don’t need to be on. Find something positive to say, instead. 2. PRAY. And pray again. And pray some more.

    Thanks again for the encouraging words throughout your blog……

  2. Carter says

    I’ve seen the front half of marriage (22 years), maybe the front third if I am truly fortunate. As a pretty modest next step, I would suggest doing something simple that Beth and I just did together. Take a look at your photo albums! If you are a full-fledged member of the digital age, that probably involves a computer, but for us it involves an ancient process called film. Beth recently did the hard work of putting together some new picture albums from a time about 10 years ago. I had the easy job of looking through them with her.

    The amazing hair styles, or even presence of hair, the shocking wardrobe choices, and the still familiar faces of neighborhood kids in a town you may have lived in a long time ago will probably make you smile. However, I’m guessing, if your experience is like mine, the face that you will be drawn back to again and again is that one that has come with you through joy, pain, change, and challenge. There she is! There he is! That’s the one that I go with. It was a boost for me and I bet it might be for you as well.

  3. John calvin says

    This is a great topic, I think the bible talks of “God made for Adam a suitable companion” it is all about suitability not a soul ate for everyone. In the case of those who divorce and remarry, do they take other people’s soul mates? Those widowed and remarry, do they take another persons soulmate?

    Hence my argument that is all about suitable and compatible partner. Marriage relationship are all a sacrifice, where you understand and accommodate the other person even when they don’t change to what you want them to be.

    There is no marriage that can’t survive, people just decide not to work harder. Marriage is work on the one you have not seeking may be you dint get your soulmate

    John Calvin

  4. says

    Great point John Calvin. It’s almost comical when you take the lottery approach to finding a soul mate to its logical conclusion. It would only take one person marrying the “wrong person” to throw the entire world into chaos of miss-matched couples! Better to be honest. A fulfilling marriage takes effort.

  5. Beverly Cummings says


    You know my story so well, the good and the bad, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Our Lord picked the right one for me and now that it’s over (death not divorce) I realize this more than ever. Never giving up trusting that God knew best and trusting Him to get us both through the ups and downs paid off in a “peace that passes all understanding.” It was not always easy but so worth it. Proved to me that God knows best if we just trust Him. You and Beth set the example for all who know you!

  6. says

    Bev, your comment reminds me of the saying, “We live life forwards but understand it better backwards.” With you, missing your Conrad.


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