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Is the havoc caused by the myth of ‘soul-mates’ affecting your marriage?

By Bunmi Sofola

THE word ‘soulmate’ seldom cropped into conversation some 15 years ago. If it did, it was in romantic novels or deeply emotional romantic films. Today the term is freely used by a lot of ‘modern’ lovers. “Single women worry there is something wrong with them because they can’t find their soulmate,” observes a relationship expert, “and married women question whether one nasty argument means her husband isn’t her soul-mate after all. But what does the term really mean and why does my heart sink every time I hear it?” she wonders.

According to the myth, soul mates not only have a deep connection, but love and accept everything about each other.

Being soul-mates with someone implies you have similar tastes and interests, and love doing everything together. In fact, the connection is so profound that all differences simply fall away.

So there’s no need for arguments because each partner ‘gets’ the other. How wrong can you get?!

Two years ago, Richard, in his forties, met his mistress at a conference. According to him: “We were on the same wave length,she understands me and my work. Meanwhile, my wife would hardly notice me when I came home or would ask: ‘How did it go?’;’ but not listen to my answer. In contrast, I could talk to my lover about anything for hours and she’d care passionately about the details. I can’t put it any other way – we were soul-mates and our love could not be denied.”

Their romance was all-consuming that in the end Richard and his mistress left their partners, they thought they were setting off on a new life together – a life full of wonderful discoveries.

Only, a few months later, Richard, now a shamed man, returned to his wife, “My lover was not like I’d imagined but, more importantly, I discovered that I only knew part of her – what she was like away from responsibilities and children.”

Richard was lucky to have a wife who realised it would be foolish to shut her doors to reconciliation because of her husband’s stupidity – her marriage meant a lot to her, so she took him back; But she’s been left devastated and bewildered by her husband’s infidelity.

Yvonne, 39, and her husband, Godwin who is four years older, have two children, a successful business they run together and, in many ways, have much to be thankful for. Yet they’ve confessed to feeling dissatisfied with each other. They never seem to argue, in keeping with the soul-mates ethos. Explains Godwin: “We’ve agreed on most things because we have the same values.” Yet experts agree it is not possible for two people to live in complete harmony without one or both of them rationalising away their differences (‘it doesn’t really matter), detaching (‘we’ll agree to differ), or avoiding conflict (‘anything for a quiet life). Although this works in the short term, eventually all feelings are switched off – not just the negative ones.

“In effect, arguing too little is as dangerous as arguing too much.

A good row clears the air, but it goes against the idea of soul- mates, so people bite back their frustrations – not only to prove that they are still soul-mates but also because they’re sure their partner will eventually realise what they are really feeling, without them saying it. As no one is a mind-reader – however much they love someone – this stores up resentments for the future. In addition, the pressure to be everything to each other begins to rob people of their individual identify.

The relationship expert observes that: “Being different should also be regarded as an asset – not a problem – as each partner can bring complimentary skills. It is not just the havoc caused by the myth of soul-mates that makes me angry, but how it obscures the real ingredients for a successful long-term partnership. So instead of worrying about the heady connections with so-called soul-mate, people should focus on what really counts.

“Top on the list are good relationship skills. I believe these are; managing to argue while being respectful of each other’s opinions and finding a compromise; being open and upfront about feelings; and listening without interrupting or making assumptions. Couples also need distance as well as closeness to keep the sexual spark alive. Time apart, separate interests and knowing there is always something more to discover about your partner promotes intrigue excitement and desire”.

How To Nail The five-Year Itch

THE seven-year itch used to be the time when you should start noticing the ruin in your marriage and try to revamp it. The period has now been reduced to five years. According to one multi university study, unhappy married couples who stuck it out and worked through their problems reported being happier five years after a rough patch than couples who throw in the towel. Here are tips to help you stay the course:

Embrace Change: Over time you and your spouse will each evolve. Accepting that change is inevitable makes it easier to be flexible and help you to focus on big-picture bonding points like building a strong family.

Expect that there will be hard times: Many couples think ‘if we were right for each other, it wouldn’t be this difficult’. But that isn’t accurate. Love temporarily cools. Marriage is like the stock market. Troughs and normal, and it is usually best to ride them out.

Fight right: It’s not what you argue about but how you argue it. Avoid name calling (it is disrespectful); put compromises ahead of the need to be right (harmony outranks “Winning”) be quick to forgive – and quicker to say, “I apologise.”

Remind yourself why you married him: Remember how your pulse raced the first time he kissed you? Calling up positive memories like that during less than blissful moments can be an effective attitude adjuster. Adapted from: The Power of Commitment by S. M. Stanley.

 


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