Friday, December 2, 2011

Do you want a life partner or a soul mate?

I heard a very interesting podcast lately about the difference between a life partner and a soul mate. According to David Steele (relationship coach, author of the book Conscious Dating, and founder of the Relationship Coaching Institute)and his 3rd wife and soul mate Darlene, a life partner is someone who is limited in his/her ability to meet your emotional needs. You get along fine, but you feel as if something is missing. This person may love you and have some things in common with you, but he/she doesn't really "get" you.

A soul mate, on the other hand, is so tuned into you that he/she really DOES get you. A soul mate is someone with whom you have a deep emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical connection...a person you feel truly safe with and accepted by. With your soul mate, you feel that nothing is missing: you have 100% of what you desire in a partner and can be totally authentic with that person all the time. Plus, there is such a synergy between you that you bring out the very best in each other.

I love this quote from David on the topic of finding a mate with whom you have a soulful connection: "Be willing to drive people away by being authentically yourself." In other words, never pretend to be anything you're not in order to impress someone you're dating; instead, be prepared to see the people who aren't really meant for you fall by the wayside. He says that the process needed to find a true soul mate involves "screening out" everyone who isn't perfect for you. Don't settle, he says. Figure out what's most likely to cause you to settle for 2nd best...and stop doing that.

Sounds easy, right? But, in my experience and that of my clients, I've discovered there are a million reasons why we DO settle...especially if we're older, divorced, and thinking that "all the good ones are taken." I often hear people say "I'm not getting any younger. Maybe my chances of finding someone really in synch with me are slim, so I guess I'll be OK with someone who's 'good enough'." I too have thought like this. Nobody's perfect, so it follows that there's no "perfect" partner. In fact, I've often told clients that, after age 50 or so, most potential partners have so much "baggage" accumulated from the past that we're fortunate if we can get 80% of what we want in a partner, and the other 20% we'll have to compromise on.

It seems like a practical, realistic approach--one that makes it possible to have more dating prospects by giving everyone a chance. However, after hearing David and Darlene tell it, I'm beginning to change my mind. He said that, after 2 marriages and a 5-year live-in relationship that didn't work out, he decided "I'd rather be single than settle." So he took some time to regroup, work on himself, and develop his "Manifesto for a successful relationship" -- a list of 7 things he absolutely would NOT compromise on. He got VERY clear on what he passionately desired in a partner and went on a quest to find her. And, within 4 months of writing that list, he met Darlene. It's a beautiful story, and you can hear it here (Using Conscious Dating to Find Your Soul Mate):

How about you? Do you believe there is a soul mate out there for you? Are you willing to keep looking until you find that person? And are you also willing to stay single rather than settle if you don't happen to find him or her? That's the mind-set that David had to get comfortable with before he started searching. And I believe it's that determination that finally resulted in his finding the woman he describes as "the female version of me."