The Myth of Soulmates
Advice from someone who’s been married for 10 years
Ten years ago today, I got married in an upstate New York ceremony that I planned down to the dinner napkin placement and band’s song order. I wore gray instead of white — I had just written a book decrying America’s obsession with virginity — and had spent the two previous nights meticulously punching out leaf-shaped pieces of paper with my then fiancé, pasting them on seating cards. It was a lovely and love-filled day.
A few months later I was pregnant, and I started planning again — this time with a registry full of crib sheets and baby slings. The weekend I was supposed to have my baby shower, though, I ended up having my daughter instead — born 12 weeks early in a haze of blood, wires, and fear.
A year later, my husband, Andrew, and I struggled to come together in the aftermath of the trauma. We could barely be in the same room without arguing or snapping at each other. It would take a year of couples therapy to pull us out of our marital woes.
Since then, I’ve wondered whether the societal obsession with weddings — the planning and performance of it all — is in part about having control over something that is ultimately incredibly precarious. We can craft a menu and choose flowers, but there’s no guarantee a marriage will work out in the end — no matter what your vows say.
It would be nice to think that life follows a straight line with expected hurdles, but the truth is a lot more winding. In a way, my husband and I were lucky to learn that early in our marriage. As hard as our experience was, choosing each other once again — not when it was easy and joyful, but when it was complicated and painful — solidified our relationship more than any wedding could.
Our depiction of relationships hasn’t caught up with the modern moment.
And that’s why I actually find the notion of soulmates a bit insulting. After 10 years of marriage, “meant to be” seems so passive! Marriages don’t survive and thrive because a couple is a perfect match, but because they want to be together, despite being two distinct human beings with different desires and needs.