The person you’re married to—or will marry one day—isn’t your soulmate.
[Insert very dramatic orchestra music here.]
It sucks, I know.
How can I be sure?
If we begin with the basic assumption that soulmates are, in fact, real things, and that everyone has one, I can know you’re not with your soulmate because—math.
There are 7.5 billion people in the world. You’ll meet approximately 80,000 of them if you live the average human lifetime of 78.3 years.
That’s .001% of the human population. And that’s everyone you’ll meet over 75-80 years. We really get to know much fewer than that.
“So you’re saying there’s a chance!”
It means that neither the girl you like in history class, nor that guy you met at work is your soulmate. It means that neither your childhood crush nor Ryan Gosling is your soulmate.
It’s okay to feel disappointed because it is disappointing.
That you’re not “made for each other.”
That you’re not “perfect together.”
That you’re just two people who both happened to be in the same place at the same time and both wanted to have sex with one another. (Hopefully things like shared interests, shared beliefs, mutual admiration, and intellectual stimulation contributed to this attraction, but mostly you just wanted to do the hibbity-dibbity).
This disappointing realization that we’re not with our soulmates SHOULD NOT make us want to end our relationships in order to seek out our soulmates, but it does have significant implications for us whether we’re married, or planning on marrying someday.
The ‘Holy Shit, I Just Found Out I’m Not with My Soulmate!’ Emergency Guide
The Married Edition
First, take a deep breath. It’s really important to stay calm or else everyone dies. (Just kidding! Everyone dies even if you stay calm! But hopefully not soon.)
Let’s evaluate this predicament.
1. You got married
This means you exchanged spiritual and/or legal vows promising to be someone’s life partner forever. You did this in front of witnesses, probably your closest friends and family members.
Questions: Did you understand the basic parameters of this arrangement prior to doing this? Did you understand what you were agreeing to? Were you being honest when you exchanged vows? To what extent do you value adhering to your marriage vows? Is it important, or not really?
2. You have choices
Your choices are:
- Stay married and invest in making the experience the best it can be.
- Stay married and ignore, neglect, or intentionally sabotage the relationship.
- End your marriage.
Unless your spouse breaches the legal marriage contract, or violates the spiritual one, ending your marriage requires some soul-searching and having to answer some tough questions.
Staying married but not putting in effort, or actively harming your marriage, more than likely violates the vows and promises you made on your wedding day. You’ll want to read the fine print to be sure.
Staying married and doing things to make it the best-possible experience seems like an obvious choice, but there’s A LOT of grey area out there that I’m not trying to swim in.
Questions: Do you want to be married? If so, what could you do differently to make the marriage a better experience for both partners? If not, do you think there are things you could have done differently throughout your marriage that might have led to a different result than a marriage so undesirable that you want to end it?
The Ultimate Mind Tool For Being Married to Your Non-Soulmate
Understand what hedonic adaptation is, because you can NEVER feel happy if you do it wrong.
Hedonic adaptation is the name for how our individual happiness levels tend to return to our “normal” baseline after either good or bad life experiences as we adjust to our new realities.
Money and material wealth are the classic example. We feel happy when we get a new job with a bigger paycheck. We feel happy when we get a pay raise. We feel happy when we get a new house, or new car, or new gadget at home. And then, we eventually get used to the new paychecks and the new stuff, and it doesn’t feel special anymore. So we chase MORE. (This is also called the “hedonic treadmill.” Always chasing, chasing, chasing, but never really going anywhere, no matter what it looks like on the outside to everyone else.)
Hedonic adaptation is a fundamental part of the human condition. You’re not a bad person nor especially selfish or ungrateful in any way that warrants singling you out because you experience it. You’re just a person like me and everyone else. And this is part of the deal. We get used to things and then they seem less awesome than when they were brand-new.
People like to say: “The grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence!”
What that means is, if you start having sex and heavy-petting contests with someone who’s not your spouse just because you kind of feel like you like or want them more—OR, actually end your relationship to pursue a new one with someone who’s exciting your pelvic region—you WILL 100%, no-exceptions, experience hedonic adaptation with the new partner too.
And then, in order to serve that fickle little lust monster between your legs, you’ll eventually have to find a new person again.
This is HIGHLY impractical if you value being part of a lasting relationship.
As long as you’re honest with yourself, everything will be okay. When two people who love, honor and respect one another deal with this inevitable human condition together out in the open, it’s an opportunity to strengthen the relationship and build intimacy.
If one person acts like a dishonest child about it and shames the other person out of discussing this, everyone will just carry on in silence fantasizing about someone else and growing apart in ways that extend beyond the bedroom, until one day you discover you’ve somehow turned into some divorced asshole blogging about this stuff on the internet.
When you’re honest with yourself and your partner, and when you accept the fundamental truth of life that NO MATTER WHO YOU’RE WITH, you’ll feel something that feels a little bit like boredom and complacency creep in, you can approach sex and attraction in marriage with a useful and productive mindset.
Hedonic adaptation is entirely in our heads.
And so is the remedy.
Questions: Why did you marry your spouse? What do they do for you, and have done for you, that you appreciate about them? What is something about them, or something about how they make you feel, or something they do that improves your daily life that you could feel and express gratitude for?
One minute you want to beat your kids and send them to their room without dinner.
But then, while sitting in a doctor’s office the next day, you discover they have a terminal illness, and all the sudden you don’t want to beat and bedroom-banish them anymore.
How you FEEL about your child in such a moment changes radically, simply because of what’s going on inside your brain. Our thoughts change everything. I’ll never take time with my child for granted again.
That very same thought process is what allows us to manifest feelings of gratitude and love for our partners to create a healthy, beautiful and lasting marriage.
People want it to be easy. People want it to feel “natural.”
But we all have mortgages; and debt; and healthcare expenses; and children who need us; and busy, stressful jobs; and unique pressures, fears, anxieties, guilt, etc. And we juggle all of this while the TV, radio and internet hurl “It’s the end of the world as we know it” headlines at us.
It doesn’t feel easy because it’s NOT easy.
It’s hard to remember to mindfully feel intentional gratitude and then take the next step of expressing that gratitude to the person we promised to love for the rest of our lives.
But that’s what it takes.
That’s what Love is a Choice looks like.
And if you’re not married but want to be, please think long and hard about making these promises to another human being you claim to love until you know what you’re signing up for.
You’re not signing up for a life of that person “making you happy” every day. Other people can’t make us happy, even when they try really hard.
But, when we feel and express gratitude every day for the person who gave the rest of their lives to us, and when that person does the same in return, we create something durable and life-giving.
Know this, and make sure they know it too.
Talk about whether you both want to sign up for a life of giving more to the other than you take for yourselves.
Because when THAT person says “I do,” you’ll have found something every bit as powerful, and someone every bit as significant, as a soulmate.
And even though they may not technically be your soulmate, no one will ever be able to tell the difference.
37 thoughts on “What to do When Your Spouse Isn’t Your Soulmate”
Sometimes your soulmate can be a close friend. It doesn’t have to be the person you are married to. My soulmate was my best friend who died a few years ago, although I am married I was always closer in a way to my friend. It doesn’t have to be a hopeless situation. In this case you can have your cake and eat it, as they say x
My husband is not my soulmate, and I knew it when I married him. I just really like being around him.
I laughed along the way of reading this. And I learned so much. This is amazing!
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I really enjoy reading your posts. You said it: “As long as you’re honest with yourself, everything will be okay. When two people who love, honor and respect one another deal with this inevitable human condition together out in the open, it’s an opportunity to strengthen the relationship and build intimacy.
If one person acts like a dishonest child about it and shames the other person out of discussing this, everyone will just carry on in silence fantasizing about someone else and growing apart in ways that extend beyond the bedroom, until one day you discover you’ve somehow turned into some divorced asshole blogging about this stuff on the internet.”
It takes TWO people choosing to love one another every day, communicating and working to better their marriage.
HOLY CRAP, I am a MONSTER at hedonic adaptation! I mean, I could win prizes.
I think my husband could too, which is a large part of why I married him. Also, he’s cute.
Enjoyed reading, as always.
Laughed! Thank you, Angie.
Note to self: do NOT drink anything while reading Matt’s posts!
‘Hibbidy-dibbity,’ ‘exciting your pelvic region,’ ‘fickle little lust monster’ …tea out the nose is not fun, Matt!
PS–totally agree with pretty much everything here!
Thank you for penning this piece. It has been so helpful, truthful, and I’ve enjoyed hearing your comical input throughout.
Reblogged this on World4Justice : NOW! Lobby Forum..
So, I’m thinking about the thoughts of going Marvin Gaye on someone other than your partner.
First: To me, shaming is not good. Shame on the shamers! Bad!!, bad!! shamers! ….lol, not really :). But, shaming someone definitely does not change reality or help the relationship.
Intellectually I can totally agree with the fact that there will be familiarity, and bordem; and it’s impossible for one person to be everything to the other even a part of the time; and there needs to be room for the person to be an individual, not just “YOUR spouse”, etc.
However, realistically, I think most of also have a little lust monster in whatever area of the body you think emotions hang out in. Having serious crushes or flirty relationships can make a partner feel really insecure. Especially if the relationship feels “scarey” for other reasons already. So, your mention of honesty, respect and intimacy with your partner is super important. There needs to be trust and two way knowledge that the relationship between the two is priority #1.
But this stuff is really making me think about what happens after the infatuation.
I think there is common desire (maybe more among women?) to be loved “most of all”, and really, to be adored. I think that and attention from somebody we find attention worthy are these big, huge emotional highs that our culture has equated with love. They are a real thing, obviously. But, then – yeah, you have to live with the real person.
I think that may be where the real partnership relationship begins.
*wherever WE think emotions hang out in our body.* …
The original sentence sounded bad…this is why I don’t get paid for writing…
Dammit, matt…! There you go again…???
Well written. Thank you, Matt!
I am at a loss at this whole soul mate thing. When I was growing up in my little 1st generation children of immigrant (Italian )parents neighborhood , we all followed the same traditions , shared the same religious beliefs,ate the same traditional foods,celebrated the same holidays , had respect for elders authority , and nature. The kids in my neighborhood were my brothers and sisters of sorts . We would argue, fight, have each other’s backs , protect little brothers and sisters ( as well as the bigger ones). We all had open door policies in each others homes. We referred to other kids’ relatives as aunt uncle grandma etc. These people were not my so called soul mates. They were my friends . ..my best of friends to this day . .people I would help in a heartbeat , fight for , help move, listen to , feed, have coffee with , protect, guide . ..in short love. When I stood face to face with Anne in front of 3 catholic priests 2 alter boys 2 maids of honor 2 best men 9 ushers and 9 bride’s maids and church filled with over 500 guests , I swore to love honor and protect forever this beautiful new best friend . Soul mate schmoul mate. She the one I can count on and she can count on me….she’s the one I talk to . …she’s the one who knows I understand her . We are most assuredly not soul mates….we are best friends . …BFF’s in today’s lingo. Soul mates sounds kind of creepy . ..like the smell of incense should be involved . To be sure it takes effort and choosing to love. And by the way the hibbity dibbity makes the process far more fun and enjoyable . .wink wink
If my wife of 38 years isn’t actually my “soulmate”, then it doesn’t exist. I’ll admit that not every year has been perfect; I’ll even admit that there have been some entire years when I was ready to scream in frustration. But very few, and they are long past. We will be together “forever”.
If you believe in “God”, then He has a plan for you, and if you follow the plan (because you don’t have to!) and He will lead you to your “soulmate”.
If you don’t believe in “God”, or if you believe only in “a god”, then there are probably a great number of people who are, if not “perfect for you”, who are at least “very compatible”.
And if you believe in no higher power, then you make the best arrangements that you can for your long-term and mutual happiness.
Whichever it is, I found it – on my second try. My first marriage was … unpleasant. Extremely so.
One of my favourite love songs is by Tim Minchin. It’s called “If I Didn’t Have You” and points out that we have but the one life, but with some nice statistical references about hedonic adaptation.
I honestly never even heard of hedonic adaptation before this but i definitely suffer from it lol
You’re not the only one!
When people don’t know it’s inevitable, they think something is wrong. But NOTHING is wrong. It’s perfectly normal and should be expected.
When two people both understand it and discuss it, and bring that into a relationship, good things happen.
So, instead of one person feeling a tiny bit of boredom or sexual apathy set in and then thinking to themselves “Damn. I guess we’re not as perfect for each other as I thought, since my feelings are waning,” the prepared and enlightened person gets to say, “We always knew that as comfort and familiarity increased, superficial attraction would decrease, but because we can talk openly and honestly about this, and because we’re both actively demonstrating love and intentional gratitude toward one another, we can both be confident in each other, and these extra efforts we put in produce spikes of passion and romance that bring us together in the bedroom as we did in the beginning of our relationship.”
Or some shit like that. Hell, I don’t know.
I just know that people break things when they don’t understand how they work. By learning how we work, we can NOT break them.
Which is awesome.
Matt, I don’t know you but HONESTLY this is possibly the best advice I’ve received in 2017. Keep doing you and sharing your knowledge.
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If you would have said soulmates exist I would have to unfollow your blog. My sister is on her third marriage and says this guy is her soulmate. It makes me flipping crazy. She said husband one and two were too but has somehow blocked it out of her memory. I have been married for almost 27 years and I would never call my husband my soulmate. Its lame and stupid in my world. He is a great friend, a great father, a great lover, and a generally great person and I am so glad I chose him 32 years ago! But soulmate screw that stupid word. I enjoy your writing!
Hmm, this is exactly where I am right now.
But am reaching the conclusion that I can’t live without feeling- so living a single life is less risky, for me.
Marriage is entered into for many different reasons, I never believed that marriage was for me, then some lawyer suggested it would make paper work easier, and then I thought that I would probably stay with that person anyway (even though having been in very long relationships before I know that things change)…. and before you know it I’m married, panicking and hunting for escape routes.
Reducing cognitive dissonance I answer all your questions with answers which make my decision to leave the right one. I recognise that my brain is giving answers it wants to hear, so I fear that I will never know what I actually want!
Yeah, so try everything and see what fits? Or make this fit, when it doesn’t suit
I used to frown upon people ending marriages because they “felt” like it.
But then four years of healing happened and I realized I was only acting that way because of how butt-hurt I was about my wife ending our marriage.
All of these big, Life conversations reside firmly in The Grey Area.
Ideally, people wouldn’t get married without knowing EXACTLY what they were getting themselves into, and knowing themselves well enough to enforce boundaries and communicate effectively with their partner.
But we don’t live in an ideal world.
I want to help people develop strong relationship skills and foster relationships that they want to be in.
I would never encourage anyone to end a marriage unless it seemed abundantly clear they were being mistreated by a fundamentally bad person.
But I also struggle with idea that we should necessarily be encouraging people to stay married who just honestly don’t want to be.
I can’t quite figure out who that would benefit.
Whatever you decide, here’s to both of you having a beautiful life.
We all come from different places and have had our own experiences of hurt and healing.
Whatever I decide to do I will endeavour to make a path of least destruction, and I have instructed all my friends to challenge me strongly if I ever lean towards misinformed decision making in the future!
Good luck and enjoy the ride
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I just wrote an article on this very topic for my blog https://theflamebearer.wordpress.com/category/archetypes/ entitled Author’s Quest For meaning. Following is an excerpt:
Ultimately, we must assimilate the masculine and feminine, or what Jung referred to as the Animus and Anima, the yin and yang, the King and the Queen, the God and Goddess as they endure in the unconscious and recognize that we must own our duality if we hope to find lasting fulfillment in our lives and in our interpersonal relationships. Retrieving the Otherworldly aspects of our Souls that we have projected on to ordinary people is the central lesson we have all come here to learn.
The quest for an external “Soulmate” has misled even the most pragmatic among us to take leave of our senses occasionally, especially the generation of Baby Boomers born between the late 1940’s and the early 1950’s. Many of us elected to dissolve twenty year marriages, convinced that a “twin soul” awaited us “out there”, only to meet with the inevitable disappointment, disillusionment and despair.
The magical, almost supernatural experience of “falling in love” with all its drama and urgency – the inability to eat, to sleep, or to behave rationally when in the presence of the loved one, the longing for one another when forced by circumstances to separate, the intense arousal experienced by indulging in an illicit “affair” – delicious and intoxicating as these sensations and emotions may be – has nevertheless been justification for divorce, betrayal of trust between partners, and abandonment of our own happiness for the sake of an ideal. The madness of the Love Potion is that it leads us to conduct ourselves in ways we would never otherwise imagine.
As thrilling and addictive as these encounters with forbidden passion may be, they are the unconscious projections of our ideals, longings, and complexes on to an external “screen.” So long as we continue to expect our earthly mates to carry our “Soul Image” for us, we are bound to face disillusionment when the projection wears off. (Typically, after three years. Tristan and Iseult’s Love Potion wore off after three years)
This is not to say that we are doomed to unhappy and unfulfilled relationships. If we are willing to work on retrieving our projections and integrating them into our own consciousness where they rightfully belong, it is possible to create lifelong partnerships based on love, companionship, and appreciation for the actual human being we have chosen to travel through life with, rather than constantly looking for our personal spiritual ideal outside ourselves.
Absolutely loving reading a male’s perspective.
The idea of hedonic adaptation is interesting… Maybe this is just proof that monogamy is not satisfying for everyone– but everyone wants to pretend that monogamy is a default for a sexual preference. I think people know if they are mono or poly. I think when people lie about it– that leads to divorce. When a person decides to sex up another person in person or virtually– they didn’t just get bored. One person will never satisfy them. No one. Only several. They lie because lying offers a stable yet eventually miserable life for them. I think hedonic adaptation only occurs when a relationship is unbalanced in a toxic way where one person is worshipped and one person is just hurting and using the person who makes everything better.
Thank you for putting ideas I’ve not quite fully thought through that onto “paper” with such clarity.
Most people don’t. And I honestly believe that’s why so many relationships accidentally suffer.
Thank you so much for reading and leaving a note.
What about arranged (Indian) marraige where the woman doesnt have any love for the man?
One of my coaching clients is in an arranged marriage. It no doubt dramatically changes the conversation I mostly have here.
The presumption is two people voluntarily chose one another. That’s the world I know.
Arranged marriage? I fundamentally disagree with it, in principle. But there’s plenty of evidence to support that it can work. I’m sure a little luck (compatibility and chemistry) is involved in those instances.
I don’t know the world of arranged marriages where one person does not love—and never has loved—their spouse.
I don’t know what to say to that person.
And if that’s you, I’m so sorry that’s where you find yourself.
There are only two options in marriage in my opinion. Try your best to make it the as good as it can possibly be because you believe that’s the right thing to do.
Those decisions are too sacred and personal for me to opine on without more information.
And probably not even then.
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