When you’re dating you hear a lot of talk about ‘soulmates’, ‘the one’ or the perfect match. Even the singles website where I met most of perfectly willing – but not always able – victims was called Soulmates, as if everybody on it were hopeless romantics staring at the sky with mooncalf eyes, waiting for Mr Right to swing off a star and drop into their arms.
Quizzes, algorithms and your own ridiculous preconceptions help you decide who this person is likely to be, this ‘other half’ of you, and anybody who doesn’t fit your narrow criteria is disposed of, thrown to the wayside.
But in search of this soulmate, aren’t we really just setting ourselves up for disappointment after disappointment, and banishing fun – and perhaps some really interesting, educational sex – to the back of the class for flinging spitballs?
He watches Hollyoaks – you think it’s Satan playing with his dollies. How could you possibly go out with somebody who didn’t match you perfectly?
For such a drearily romantic notion, hunting for a soulmate is a fairly clinical process. You think about the things you will need, whether it’s shared interests, a certain hair colour or the ability to put up shelves. You dismiss any suitor that doesn’t fit into your narrow field of requirements. He was a bit too fat, you tell yourself. He said he didn’t like Rufus Wainwright. He’s never listened to Radio 4. He watches Hollyoaks – you think it’s Satan playing with his dollies. How could you possibly go out with somebody who didn’t match you perfectly?
If there is one thing I realised, rejection after rejection, it’s that it is almost impossible for anyone to live up to their date’s idea of what they should be. Humans disillusion and surprise almost every minute we’re awake; we can’t really be programmed like a Sky+ box. If you approach dating like you’re shopping for a fitted kitchen, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
I never looked for a soulmate when I was dating, mainly because I could never really understand what one was supposed to be. A perfect 10 who instantly ‘gets’ you? A drongo in a matching cardigan who finishes your sentences? Someone you know so well, inside out, that you never have to spend any time working them out or discovering more about them? A hug from a mirror?
The problem with ‘the one’ is, well, there’s only one of them. How many times have we told ourselves at the beginning of a relationship that this guy or girl is the absolute, the very end, the first prize, that ‘ideal match’, only to find three years later that you’re shackled to someone who wears the same socks for five days straight – and with Crocs in summer?
In your next relationship, is this one the ‘the one’ one or should you have hung on to the last ‘the one’ one? Do you decide not to venture into another relationship lest the actual ‘the one’ one is out there looking for you somewhere? Confused? I know, right?
What if you are with someone for ten years, etching tattoos on your buttocks, making public declarations about soulmates, and then they sod off and have sex with somebody else? They were your soulmate, right? Does that mean you weren’t theirs? Isn’t it a two-way thing?
If soulmates do actually exist, and I am doubtful of this, they don’t just appear in front of you, having ticked off every box on your checklist. You grow into them. If you start off with Mr Perfect, where do you go next? Another 30 years of never being pushed or challenged, of agreeable comfort? Endless Valentine’s Days in the same restaurant?
The fastest way to working out what’s good for you is trying a little bit of the bad.
Clear all your filters, chuck out your checklist and widen those parameters. Take a risk. Never mind the perfect match, fuck the barista with a threadbare bank account – he might own the place one day. The fastest way to working out what’s good for you is trying a little bit of the bad. Who are you missing out on while waiting for that star to fall?
If you can find someone who’s a good kisser, smells nice, has an intelligent thought in his head and a sense of humour and – crucially – doesn’t make you want to kill, you’re already onto a winner.
Anyway, your soulmate probably doesn’t exist. Either that, or they’re married to someone else.