Lately I’ve been having a mad, passionate love affair with the book Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Everything in this book resonated with me, including an enlightening discussion she had on the subject of soul mates.
While spending four months in an ashram in India she meets Richard from Texas, who gives her the following counsel on a relationship she recently ended with someone whom she believed to be her soul mate.
She told him, “…I think the reason it’s so hard for me to get over this guy is because I seriously believed David was my soul mate.”
He replied, “He probably was. Your problem is you don’t understand what that word means. People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave. And thank God for it. ”
I know exactly what he’s talking about.
I recently had a relationship like this end-not a romantic relationship, but a friendship. And I knew it was exactly this kind of a relationship, because I spent its entire duration having my insides ripped out so that I could examine them in the clear light of day.
Why, you might ask, would anyone willingly spend even one day (much less years) in a constant state of gut-wrenching turmoil?
That is an excellent question and, as it turned out, one of the main lessons I needed to learn in this particular relationship.
Why did I constantly settle for so little?
Why didn’t I think I was deserving of good things?
Why did I continue to give until it hurt me, especially since I got so little in return?
The most interesting thing about all of this was that I don’t think this person had any idea of the role they were playing in my life. Everything that happened was actually between myself and I, inside my own head.
It was like the Universe led me to an internal storage shed I’d forgotten about and said, “OK, it’s time. You need to do something with all of this stuff.”
It was all there for me to stumble over. Every old bit of magical thinking. Every unrealistic expectation. Every story I’d made up in my mind about how I thought relationships “should” be. All the parts of me that believed my happiness depended on what someone else did or didn’t do. Everything in me that thought I had to figure out a way to control other people and change them, so that I could feel better. Every part that was addicted to drama, crisis, and emotional extremes. It was all there, waiting for me to unpack it.
So I did. I opened up each and every mental box and dealt with its contents. I shone a flashlight into all the dark, icky, unattractive corners of my soul and swept out all the cobwebs. I owned my stuff. I did my work.
And then one day, I was ready to let go. I knew it was time, because I was able to release this person with love and gratitude. I truly wished good things for them in their life apart from me. I was done suffering in the same old ways, and was ready for something pleasant and new.
“A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave. And thank God for it. “