Call me cynical, but I don’t believe in soul mates. In fact, I really hate the concept. It feels like an adolescent fantasy that there would be some person out there who was somehow destined to be with another, that they were “made for each other.” I guess this fairytale is comforting to some people, but I see a dark side to the belief that you would never find in a romantic novel or movie.
It is pounded into our heads since childhood that there is someone out there for everyone and that it’s an inevitable part of life that we will find this magical partner. It is so steeped in society that our parents teach us this as young children and it is reinforced by entertainment media. Even in school we are taught that coupling up is a natural part of life and an essential milestone that “everyone goes through someday.” My junior high school actually had a marriage and family unit where we were graded on what we looked for in a life partner, something we were all told was essentially a requirement of adulthood.
But what about those who don’t meet the societal expectations? What about those who try their hardest and never find “the right person?” Or those of us who don’t give a damn and never seek a partner in the first place? Well, being an aromantic, I can tell you how the latter are treated. We are subject to three different snap judgments:
There must be something wrong with our health. It must be a hormone imbalance because it’s not possible to go through life without desiring a romantic partner. We are often told to go see the doctor, who might have a pill to fix our problem. Oh, and don’t let any of those health professionals know about your non-romantic (or non-sexual) inclination. I know from personal experience that you may be accused of lying and, in the worst case scenario, mistreated by some medical staff.
So if it’s not a health problem, what does society say it is? That’s right, denial! Because, as I said before, it’s impossible to never have romantic desires. As the popular song says, “everybody loves somebody sometime.” Right? I have been accused of lying to myself about my feelings. I’ve been told that I “push people away,” or that there is no way I could feel the way I do without some past trauma ruling my decision, or that I’ve obviously been hurt in the past and I’m too much of a coward to get back on the horse again. Aromantics are often told that they should seek counseling and even in the psychology world I have run into some counselors who truly believe that coupling up is a natural state. One accused me of having a developmental disability based entirely on my partnerless status.
If it’s not considered a psychological problem, then the person is declared childish or immature. I know I’ve been grouped with children at family events because I was the only adult there without a romantic partner. We often get mocked or become the butt of “good-natured” jokes. Then, of course, there are the ones who try to “help” by offering unwanted and often insulting advice. “Well, if you’d dab on a little make-up and wear your hair differently, I just know the guys would be all over you.”
Yes, us aromantics have it bad sometimes, but not so bad as the people who are actually seeking romantic partnership. I’ve heard more than one be advised to “just be yourself” and things will happen on their own, that they are destined to find that person and just need to wait for them. But what happens when this doesn’t occur? (And it often doesn’t.) Yeah, that’s right. The person feels like they are a failure or there is something really wrong with them. Nothing like a little romantic folklore to give your self-esteem a kick in the teeth!
Worse still are those who find their way into toxic or even abusive relationships based on this misguided belief that they need someone to complete them. According to someone I know with experience in this area, said viewpoint can blind you to a person you probably shouldn’t have anything to do with. People don’t see the flaws right in front of them and spend the whole time trying to figure out why their relationship isn’t working. Sometimes the fear of being alone or failing with one’s “soul mate” is perceived as far worse than leaving the abuse. It sounds ridiculous, but it does happen, and it happens way more than it should.
I really fail to see the romantic appeal of the soul mate idea. Yes, I’m a little jaded now, but that’s after being on the receiving end of a lot of its problems. I’ve also seen romantically oriented people hurt badly by it. Yes, it’s difficult to hear this from an inexperienced aromantic, but don’t you think it’s about time that we abandon this archaic fantasy of relationships and embrace reality? Every time you tell your kids that “there’s someone out there for everyone,” you are setting them up for pain. The fact of the matter is that there may not be anyone out there waiting for them, and they need to know that they aren’t failures or weirdos simply because they don’t find a romantic partner. They need to know that they are still “complete” even if they don’t have a partner and they are the only ones who can bring that completeness.
The reality is that some people do find someone who meshes with them right away and have strong, healthy relationships. For some it takes several tries before they get a bite at all, much less someone they really work with. Some never find anyone, no matter how hard they try. Then, of course, there are the aromantics out there who don’t seek and don’t care. There is nothing wrong with any of these people! They are not flawed or broken or half of a whole! Why? Because adulthood isn’t a checklist of requirements to be valid. This is the truth, and it’s a lot less painful than this childish belief in some pre-destined partner waiting in the wings. No, life is not a romantic comedy, but we’re all the better for it. If you find someone and want someone, great! If you don't and don't care, also great! We are all awesome with or without a partner.