Editorial by John Ziegler

"Soul Mate" Silliness


As a child of divorce and a 34 year-old life-long bachelor, I have never been a very big "fan" of the institution of marriage. However, in recent years I have softened my stance against the seemingly antiquated contract and could even see myself one day caving in and joining the rest of civilized society. That was before Rutgers University's National Marriage Project came out with their latest study on "The State of Our Unions." Now I remember why I was so against marriage to begin with. It is apparent that, at least when it comes to relationships, the vast majority of us lack even a basic understanding of the way the world really works and are in great need of getting a clue.

According to the poll conducted by Gallup, an astonishing 94% of never-married singles agree that "when you marry you want your spouse to be your soul mate, first and foremost." An even more incredible 88% also agree that "there is a special person, a soul mate, waiting for you some-where out there" and a remarkably optimistic 87% agree that they will find that special someone when they are ready to get married. Exactly which planet are these people living on?!

The only thing more embarrassing about these numbers is that there is apparently no significant "gender gap" when it comes to the responses. I can understand how a generation of women sold a bill of unrealistically romantic goods by Walt Disney fairytales could be duped into believing this "soul mate" nonsense, but men too? (Though it is important to note that Gallup didn't reveal how many men answered "yes" to these questions while their girlfriends listened over their shoulder.) This is a VERY serious problem.

First of all, does anyone even know what a "soul mate" is? Based on the views of the vast majority of respondents, it would seem that many people think that soul mates are like separate parts of a two piece puzzle and that there is only one person that can "solve" the other's riddle and "complete" them (apparently the movie Jerry McGuire had more cultural influence than anyone previously considered). While it is a comforting thought that there might be someone out there who could magically turn our otherwise often meaningless existence into something worthwhile, it is a concept that simply doesn't conform to any know view of the human reality, including that of those who are claiming to believe in it.

As if the popularity of casinos were not enough evidence to already come to this conclusion, the "soul mate" study should confirm forever that most of us are not very good at basic math. Quite simply, there are six BILLION people currently on the planet. At BEST, we might be exposed to a couple of thousand of those people in our entire lives (and how many of those do we ever really get to know well enough during our mating years to determine if they could be "the one"?). If we really have only one soul mate (and if there is more than one why bother committing for a lifetime to anyone?), then the chances of anyone finding theirs is far more remote than me stealing Jennifer Anniston away from Brad Pitt while unemployed and unbathed.

But, some might argue, there is a "force" that guides our search for that needle in a haystack and helps us overcome the overwhelming odds. Well, forgetting for a second that almost NOTHING else in our universe seems to be influenced in the same way by such a powerful and just "force," I have a few questions for those who still believe in such a silly notion:

If this "God-like" matchmaker is wise enough to overcome such astronomical odds, then why is the "soul mate" divorce/failure rate so ridiculously high? Why is it that so many of us never find that "soul mate"? Are those who don't find there soul mate being some how punished for bad behavior? Why is it that rich and beautiful people seem to have an easier time finding their soul mate than the rest of us and why is it that THEIR soul mates always seem to be rich and beautiful too? Why is it that when a man loses his money or a women her looks that they also usually find out that they weren't REALLY with their soul mate when they thought they were? What about all of the mind-boggling, domino-like side effects of trying to get these "soul mates" to bump into one another? Since the vast majority of "soul mates" just happen to be of our own race and economic class, is this a bigoted force who doesn't want us to intermarry?

I find it particularly amusing that among this group of singles seemingly so convinced that some sort of God-like force is guiding their inevitably successful journey towards finding their soul mate (miraculously at exactly the right moment that they just happen to be ready to get married), that only 42% of them believe it is important to find a spouse who shares their own religion. It is good to know that this matchmaking God is so open minded about putting people together from different religions!

There is, however, some silver lining in this dark cloud of relationship stupidity. Perhaps the respondents were simply lying. After all, 80% of the women surveyed claimed that it is more important to them to have a husband who can communicate his deepest feelings than to have a husband who makes a good living. Interestingly, it still seems that the men with the big houses and the fancy cars are somehow still holding their own against the poor men who enjoy participating in long therapy sessions.

On a more serious note, I WAS gratified to see that almost half of the respondents agreed that laws should be changed to make divorce more difficult to get. I my perfect world, the marriage contract would be renewable at incremental time periods, just like any other contract, and there would be no such thing as divorce. You wouldn't be required to "be with" the one to whom you were married, but it would be illegal for you to "be with" anyone else for the duration of the contract. That would make the marriage commitment both realistic and real. Two things that it is most certainly not in this age of "soul mate" silliness.

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