A friend asked me if my wife is my soulmate. It is not the kind of language we use when talking about our relationship, so I paused a moment before answering. We are very close. We have a wonderful relationship. We have more than 46 years of being married and so many shared experiences. We have similar tastes. We enjoy being together. I know that I am very lucky in love. I met and married the right person. But I am not sure what the term soulmate means.

If you google “soulmate” you’ll get page after page of online dating services. Apparently there are some people who believe that computers are very good at matching people. I know people who met through online dating services and who are pleased with their relationships, so I don’t want to discount the value of such services, but what does a computer know of someone’s soul? What questions could a computer questionnaire ask that would help match the parts of a human being that cannot be seen or measured?

In a book that is older than our marriage, Howard and Charlotte Clinebell explored the multi-faceted nature of intimacy. They wrote of recreational intimacy and work intimacy and a whole list of different ways in which a couple could draw close to one another. Their theory was that some couples are naturally intimate in some ways and less close in other ways. Awareness and counseling can help couples draw closer to one another. The book made sense to me when I first read it and I have used the principles in the book when working with couples who come to me for help with their relationships.

As a seminarian I did an internship at the Wholistic Health Care Center, where my focus was on pastoral counseling. I did a lot of individual counseling, some couples counseling and a bit of family counseling. Most of the couples counseling that I did in that setting was focused on divorce. Couples who came to the center seeking counseling usually had one member who had decided to divorce. It was nearly impossible to dissuade that person from that decision. They had made the decision before coming in to the center. I found the work to be frustrating and a bit sad. I knew that my success rate in that kind of work would be small.

As a pastor, I have tried to engage couples in thinking about their relationship at the beginning, to help them consider questions about their relationship before marriage. That has not met with great success. We were extremely careful with pre-marriage counseling with the first couple whose weeding we officiated, and that relationship didn’t last a year before a divorce. These days the marriage ceremony is generally several years after the beginning of a relationship. Couples who come to the church to be married often have lived together for a long time and have established a lot of their relationship before deciding to marry.

After years of experience as a pastor and after years of being married, I really don’t know if I am much of an authority on marital happiness. I’m tempted to say that part of what makes for a successful marriage is luck. I can’t explain why I met the right person so early in my life and others do not. It feels like extraordinary good fortune that Susan and I found each other when we were young. Having spoken with a lot of people and observed a lot of couples, it seems to me that it is relatively rare for a young person to find the right mate right off the bat. I did.

Beyond that, I guess that it would be fair to say that a couple has to both work at a relationship, though I hesitate to use the term “work.” We have focused a lot of time and attention on our marriage. We have invested a lot of energy in doing things together and sharing our experiences. But it hasn’t seemed like work. I don’t remember every not wanting to be married. I don’t ever remember not wanting to do what I could to make our marriage work.

I don’t use the word soul much. I am a pastor and I understand the concept of spirit and I speak of the spirit regularly, but I am not sure that my theology of spirit encompasses a sense of the soul. Webster defines soul as “the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life” and adds “the spiritual principle embodied in all human beings, all rational and spiritual beings, or the universe.” I think that most people use the term soul to refer to a part of their individual identity that continues on beyond death, and perhaps existed before birth. I have no expertise or experience about what happens before birth or after death, but It seems to me that the essence of all beings is God and I do not know whether or not we can exist apart from God. In the resurrection, it seems to me, we are with God. The love that never dies is the the love of God. I could go on and on trying to wrestle with the concept of soul, but for the purposes of this journal entry, I simply prefer the term spirit to soul.

So I’m not sure if I’ve found my soulmate. I’m not sure that such a thing exists. I have found a person whose spirit animates my spirit, and with whom I have been able to share my life. I have no doubt that I have found the right person and that every day I try to be the right person for her. In her I have found someone so fascinating and so appealing that a lifetime is all too short to explore our relationship.

And I’m less confident than I once was about my ability to help others with their marriages. I now what has worked for us, but that might not be the right thing for others. I do hope, however, that others can find the love and joy and wonder we have found and that they can enjoy it for many years.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!