I’ve been very happily married for 30-plus years to my best friend. My husband and I live, play and work together. But, when people tell me we are true “soul mates,” I have to disagree. The term “soul mate” implies that someone else completes me and is responsible for my happiness. There is no way to have a successful relationship with that expectation.
Happiness is the starting point, not the result of finding a compatible life partner. Before you can find companionship that is satisfying and fulfilling, you must first complete yourself and be happy with who you are. The expectation that someone will come along and fit like a puzzle piece so you can at last be whole and happy is another example of the happiness myth that something outside of yourself will make you happy.
Companionship is essential to a happy life and my husband has given me love, support when I needed it, laughter, joy and so much more than I could list in a blog post. There are also many people who have lived rich and fulfilling lives without a “soul mate.” They find companionship from a variety of places.
The deeper truth is everyone is your soul mate in that we are all spiritual beings. The more connections we have to others, the more fulfilled we feel with our life. As satisfying as I find my marriage, it would be ridiculous to expect my husband to fill all of my needs for companionship.
Read more about the secrets to a happy marriage.
When you accept a job, you don’t go to work with the expectation that your employer will fulfill all of your dreams for the perfect career. Yet, that is often the expectation for a life partner. Friends, family and acquaintances with shared interests are all important. The more relationships you bring into your life, the happier you’ll feel.
Intimate relationships are happier when you release the fantasies and focus on the contribution you can make to a life with someone who shares your values, interests and commitments. In a happy marriage or life partnership, your attention must be on the partnership and not you.
The Enneagram shows us nine common relationship spoilers that get in the way of finding a life partner. These are the expectations – what I call the soul mate check list – are the myths we carry in our head when we look for romantic partners. Let’s look at those attitudes Ennea- point by Ennea-point.
Ennea-Point One —”When I meet my soul mate s/he will be a perfect match.” Absolutely no one will ever be in perfect agreement with you on everything. Healthy relationships involve negotiations that respect the values and preferences of both people.
Ennea-Point Two — “I’ll be everything you ever wanted.” If you are pretending to be someone’s ideal mate, you are being dishonest about part of who you are. Healthy relationships can never be built on dishonesty – even if that dishonesty is about a “few minor details”.
Ennea-Point Three —”I’m looking for that special person who can strengthen my weaknesses.” It is not the purpose of a relationship to turn you into an exceptional person. Marriage or life partnerships are about creating a shared vision for a life and then building it together. They do not survive if one of the partners demands all of the resources to meet their goals and needs.
Ennea-Point Four — “I need someone who understands me and helps me hold it together.” This romantic myth describes a therapy relationship, not marriage or life partnership. Healthy couples support each other through the tough times, but they do not assume responsibility for the emotional stability of their partner.
Ennea-Point Five — “I know what is best, so I’ll make the decisions.” You will always know what is best for you, but unless you ask your partner, you cannot assume to know what is best for him or her. What’s best for the marriage or life partnership must be decided jointly by both partners.
Ennea-Point Six — “How can I be sure you won’t hurt me?” You can’t. If you are in a marriage or life partnership, you are accepting the responsibility for the mistakes of another person. Blame, worry and suspicion do not prevent hurt; they contribute to the failure of the relationship. Healthy relationships are based on respect and negotiating differences so the feelings of both people are addressed.
Ennea-Point Seven — “As long as we’re together, everything will take care of itself.” Romantic relationships are not a cure for all of life’s troubles. Healthy relationships are a foundation for support but they are not a magic force field to repel all problems.
Ennea-Point Eight — “Don’t worry about a thing. I’ll take care of everything.” Healthy relationships are based on equal value for the contributions of both people. When one person is taking care of all of the problems and decisions then the other is being diminished. Even if that feels good for a while, eventually it will prevent both partners from growing and deepening the relationship.
Ennea-Point Nine — “My ideal partner will always feel comfortable and safe.” Healthy marriages or partnerships encourage each other to grow. They do not fear change, rather they challenge each other individually, and as a couple. A mutual agreement to “never change”, is an agreement to retreat from, and avoid the world. It’s a co-dependency and reduces a relationship to the habit of living together.
Happiness is always the starting place for a life well lived. Anything that is outside of yourself will not lead to lasting happiness, including — and especially — a person you feel you can’t live without. Healthy partnerships grow from two people who are already complete in their happiness. Relationships fail when we are looking for the perfect soul mate to come along with a magic love potion and bring happiness into their life.
The Enneagram and Relationship Spoilers
You’ll find more discussions about using the Enneagram to improve your relationships in Chapter Nine (and elsewhere) of “How to Create a Happier Life with the Enneagram.”