I’m getting married in 18 days.
As the wedding draws nearer, more and more people are subtly or not-so-subtly asking me, “Are you ready for this? Are you scared?” Now, because I’m polite, I don’t respond to this question by saying, “Of course I am! Have you looked around and seen all of the divorced and/or unhappily married couples lately?!”¹
Fortunately, I don’t have to be polite on a blog. I can more or less candidly say what’s on my mind as my wedding draws near.
So, let me start off these candid remarks by noting that marriage – and life in general – is scary. Now, despite the fact that I am a pansy and am striving to become more of a pansy, I can say that there is one thing about this wedding that I am not afraid of: I am not afraid of the possibility that in 18 days, I will marry someone who is not my soul-mate. Let me explain why.
A “soul-mate” is the person with whom you would have the coolest possible wedding, the cutest possible kids, the kinkiest possible sex, and overall the happiest possible life. Now, it seems to me that lots of folk spend lots of time looking for their soul-mate; they are committed to committing to the best possible spouse they can find. This, of course, is understandable, but like I said above, I’m not married to the idea of finding my soul-mate.
Now, you might think that the reason I’m not worried about missing out on my soul-mate is a purely practical reason. That practical reason is this:
It’s just too hard to know that someone is your soul-mate. How in the world are you supposed to predict how your partner will change over the years, how you will change over the years, and how these changes will affect your relationship with your supposed soul-mate? People unpredictably become less cute, less tolerant of your idiosyncrasies, bitter, prone to midlife crises, etc. Even one small slip in television and/or music tastes can be enough to demote your partner from soul-mate to second-best-mate. Since you can’t predict the future, there’s no way to know that someone who seems like your soul-mate now will not change into number 2,876th on the list of people in the world who could make you most happy.²
While I do think that there’s a serious problem when it comes to knowing that you’ve found you’re soul-mate, this is not the reason I’m not scared of losing mine. For all I know, my fiance’ may very well be my soul-mate, but my claim here is that it doesn’t matter to me whether she is or not.
Why is this?
The short answer: Because I love her.
The long answer:
Because I love her, and because love, by its very nature, requires us to forego things that are in our best interest.
This is not news. When I say to my fiance’, “I love you,” I can’t mean, “You happen to maximally satisfy my preferences and the moment you cease doing so, I will drop you like a sack of potatoes.” Love requires us to subordinate our interests to the other. It requires us to give our partner a break on a bad day, to speak kind words even when mean ones come more easily, to muster up some energy to attend to the honey-do list, and to put the seat down after taking a tickle.
Now, if love requires that I seek the good of the other for her sake, then I shouldn’t always be in the business of maximizing my happiness, and if I shouldn’t always be in the business of maximizing my happiness, then I shouldn’t be committed to finding a happiness-maximizing soul-mate.³
So, that’s why I’m not worried about missing out on my soul-mate. The fact is that I have found the one whom my soul loves, and the one that I love, Nicole Carol LaMott, is more dear to me than any “coolest” potential wedding I could have. She is more dear to me than the kinkiest possible sex I could have. I wouldn’t trade her in for the cutest possible kids, nor the most successful possible career, nor all of these things combined.
She’s the one that I love, so if it turns out that Nicole isn’t my soul-mate and if my soul-mate is out there somewhere reading this, I just want to wish you good luck with finding a person so great and a love so genuine that you forget to look for your soul-mate.
1. Some may wonder whether I should have any fears about getting married. They might think, in other words, that if I am scared at all, then I am not ready to get married. I think this is an interesting position, and I think it leads to a more general, more interesting question: Given the evidence that many of us have about married life, is getting married rational?
2. Of course, the problem with knowing that someone is your soul-mate is also due to the fact that we cannot have a relationship with every potential soul-mate-candidate.
3. Some readers may point out that even if love requires that I discontinue a selfish search for my soul-mate, that same love may require that I ensure that I am my partner’s soul-mate because, out of love, I should seek to maximize her well-being and if I am not her soul-mate, then I will cause a less-than-optimal life for her by marrying her. This is good point, and it is not obvious what the best response is. Here are a couple things that come to mind: i) Even if in principle this is true, there’s the practical problem of how to determine whether I am her soul-mate. If no one can determine whether I am her soul-mate, then we may be forced to just consider whether I meet the lower standard of being a suitable mate. Thankfully, I think I meet that standard. ii) Love may not require that we be completely interested in the well-being of the other, so if I happen to be too selfish to seek the happiness maximizing-partner for my fiance’, then I may still love her, even if I do so imperfectly.