A Jewish Girl's Encounter With Beshert
Ami Angelowicz (www.thefrisky.com) relates her early introduction to beshert, a Yiddish term that means "destiny." (Yiddish Dictionary Online) The word is often used in the context of one's divinely foreordained spouse or soulmate, who is called "basherte" (female) or "basherter" (male).
When Jewish singles say that they are looking for their beshert, they mean they are looking for that person who will complement them perfectly, and whom they will complement perfectly. Since they believe it was foreordained by God whom one will marry, one's spouse is by definition one's bashert, independent of whether the couple's marital life works out well or not.
Ami says, "Building on my family’s unwavering faith in this beshert thingy—my parents met when they were 17 and my grandparents when they were 16 —I assumed that I, too, would be welcomed into the warm, loving arms of this soul mate phenomenon. I vowed to keep my eyes peeled for my one and only perfect, dream lover—the man who would sweep me off my feet and love me as no one else ever had, my soul mate."
After going through at least nine potential besherts in many years, Ami finally concluded, "There’s no perfect guy coming to sweep me off my feet, in fact there is not just ONE right guy for me, there are potentially many! And more importantly, holding out for a soulmate may have actually prevented me from finding true love."
Other Common Historical Soulmate Conceptions
The term commonly known now as soulmate has a similarity with some very early reference.
One theory of soulmates, presented by ancient Greek philosopher Aristophanes in Plato's Symposium, is that humans originally consisted of four arms, four legs, and a single head made of two faces, but Zeus feared their power and split them all in half, condemning them to spend their lives searching for the other half to complete them. (Plato, Symposium, Internet Classics Archive) And, in addition, if people continue to be insolent and unrestrained, Zeus added, he will "split them again and they shall hop about on a single leg." As of yet, thank goodness, this last penalty has not be enforced.
The modern concept of soulmates may be grounded in the teachings of Theosophy, a doctrine of religious philosophy and metaphysics that holds that all religions are attempts by the "Spiritual Hierachy" to help humanity in evolving to greater perfection, and that believes each religion, therefore, has a portion of the truth. The founding members, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831–91), Henry Steel Olcott (1832–1907), and William Quan Judge (1851–96), established the Theosophical Society in 1875.
With a little modification by Edgar Cayce, people who follow Theosophy believe God created androgynous souls, equally male and female. Later theories state that the souls split into separate genders, perhaps because they incurred karma while playing around on the Earth, or "separation from God." Over countless reincarnations, each half seeks the other. When all karmic debt is purged, the two will fuse back together and return to the ultimate. (Robert W. Krajenke, Suddenly We Were! A Story of Creation Based on the Edgar Cayce Readings, 1972)
The Present Ideas Associated With Soulmate
The American Heritage Dictionary (2009) simply defines soulmate as "one of two persons compatible with each other in disposition, point of view, or sensitivity. Etymology (word history) for the term is difficult to trace; however, Mark Peters (www.good.is, February 13 2009) states soulmate was coined by poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in a letter dated 1822 in which he wrote, "You must have a Soulmate as well as a House or Yoke-mate."
People all over the world now believe in searching for someone to make them whole as they share their lives together. The romantic response to belief in this term is truly amazing.
Popular films have helped popularize the notion of soulmates. For example, the movie Still Breathing examines the thought that people are drawn together by destiny or fate, so finding a soulmate is something over which people have no control. This, of course, is the idea of predestination. The idea of predestination is taken a step further in the movie What Dreams May Come in which the soul mate connection continues after death. (Sheri and Bob Stritof, "Challenges in Soul Mate Marriages," about.com)
Some recent films have used Plato's belief that a soul mate is a person's "other half" to interest audiences. The Stritofs reported that this concept was the basis of the movie, The Butcher's Wife, where the idea of "split-aparts" searching for one another was explored.
Jerry Maguire and just about every other modern romantic comedy or love story has touched on soulmates and the complications of searching for a perfect match. But, in the real world, Scott M. Stanley, co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver, claims that suffering from soul-mate-ism may leave people constantly unhappy because of impossible expectations of being loved perfectly by a "mythological" person.
A Survey On Soulmates
Stanley ("Myths about Soul Mates," www.boundless.org, June 4 2009) sites a study in 2001, by the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, headed by social historian Barbara Dafoe Whitehead and sociologist David Popenoe. They commissioned a national survey of 1,003 people ages 20 to 29 years old, 61 percent of whom had never married. In their survey, Popenoe and Whitehead asked these young adults all sorts of questions about their views on marriage and divorce. What they found will likely not surprise you, but the implications of their findings are momentous for marriage:
- An overwhelming majority (94 percent) of never-married singles agree that 'when you marry you want your spouse to be your soulmate, first and foremost."
- Less than half (42 percent) of single young adults believe that it is important to find a spouse who shares your religion. (This second finding is included simply to show that most people's desire for a soulmate has little to do with a desire to have someone share their core beliefs and spiritual practices.)
Like Ami, who suffered through the Jewish idea of beshert, the danger for soulmate seekers is that many people hold to their desire for a mate that doesn't exist. It's what Stanley calls soul-mate-ism:
"The belief that you will find in a mate the one unique person on the planet who understands your deepest desires and fears, accepts all of who you are unconditionally and who becomes joined to you, making one complete whole in mind, body and soul. The power of this type of relationship is so great that you will know fully and rapidly when you find "the one." Further, if you have not married "the one," you should move on."The problem for people is expecting an unrealistic level of sublime and safe connection. For example, in order for some people to alleviate their insecurities about attachment, they need a level of acceptance that is not possible.They need to be fully loved, without threat of disapproval. Think of it, loved without threat of disapproval? This does not sound like a relationship remotely common to most.
Research suggests that people who are insecure about attachments are more prone to make errors in their relationships. Essentially, the neediness is so great that it clouds otherwise good judgment, such as about whom to marry in the first place. (Davila, J., & Bradbury, T. N., "Attachment Insecurity and the Distinction Between Unhappy Spouses Who Do and Do Not Divorce." Journal of Family Psychology, 15, 2001) Are people essentially "sinking their own ships" with detachment?
Even worse, there are those who think only one right person can fulfill their idea of love. That's a bit scary — it implies they had better find only one -- the right one. Stanley actually found a soul mate calculator on the Web that uses population statistics to tell you how many people you'd have to search among to find your soul mate — which means you could make many more mistakes than correct choices, especially if you believe there is only one right choice. What would happen if you made the wrong choice? The wrong choice, the wrong choice -- who can calculate when either will occur? Most can't even choose the right checkout line at the grocery store.
Soul-mate-ism for Christians often conveys an expectation of predestination of a heavenly connection that makes earthbound relationships more difficult. As with any other unrealistic expectation, it can make everyone more disappointed than is warranted by the normal ups and downs of married life. God does not guarantee a heavenly connection -- just ask the endless line of divorcees.
Indeed, humans should desire and seek the deepest and most meaningful connections in marriages. Wanting that level of connection is the main reason faith remains that marriage will not disappear as an institution. Marriage is the place where people are most likely to experience the level of security and safety that will satisfy the longings of their hearts.
Stanley reports, however, "There is a difference between a recognition of the deepest desires of the heart, in the pristine state of the Garden of Eden, and what is realistic to expect to receive and give when married to another imperfect human being. The desire for perfection is within you, and can motivate you to do greater things in your marriage, but the reality cannot come up to the level of the expectation you may have if you suffer from soul-mate-ism. So, I encourage you to think well about what you expect so that you will not be unhappy with your marriage because of impossible expectations about being perfectly loved by another." ("Myths about Soul Mates," www.boundless.org, June 4 2009)
Isn't what you do after you marry the most important factor in being successful in life? Making a wise, careful, unrushed choice up front is the very best way to begin a life with another. As an antidote to soul-mate-ism, Stanley advocates commitment: “It is deep commitment between two partners for life that makes it possible to have a profound connection.
Soul Mates On the Internet
Here are some current sites that will help you find your soul mate. This is how they advertise and relate their unique opportunities to find the one that matches a person's needs.
The audio course by Orin. "Meet your soul mate on the inner planes, magnetize this person into your life, and prepare your personality for this person to come into your life."
"Over 100 magic words, phrases and sentence-starters to make sure you say it right every time to your partner, spouse or lover."
"Soul Mates are other souls that have agreed to connect with you on this planet for a purpose. In some cases it is to clear up karma, in other cases it is to finish unfinished business, and for some it is to accomplish a particular goal together. These relationships may be a joy to be in or these relationships may be a pain in your life. Either way they are here for a reason."
"The term soul mate means many different things. These are souls that you have experienced with in past, parallel or future lifetimes. They can also be aspects of your soul experiencing at this time in another body. We are all multidimensional beings, your soul having experiences, in many realities, at the same time. As we all evolve from the same source of consciousness creation, we could say that we are all soul mates in a manner of speaking."
"A soulmate is someone who has locks that fit our keys, and keys to fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; we can be loved for who we are and not for who we’re pretending to be. Each unveils the best part of the other. No matter what else goes wrong around us, with that one person we’re safe in our own paradise. Our soulmate is someone who shares our deepest longings, our sense of direction. When we’re two balloons, and together our direction is up, chances are we’ve found the right person. Our soulmate is the one who makes life come to life." - Richard Bach
"God is my soul mate. God plays the music and calls the dances. I'm dancing to God's tune. I can feel God's rhythm in my feet and the way the bass line resonates in my core. Now, I have a dance card. Right now, I can't read the names, but I have one. God filled it out with men who would make good partners for me. If a dancer who is not listed tries to dance with me, we won't dance well because we are not suited. The men on the card will do well because God thinks that we would do well. Not that we would be flashy, but that we would enjoy dancing together. We would make that joyful noise." --Chicoryhill
"Tired of dating sites full of phony people and generic descriptions? Soulmate.com offers a refreshing approach to online dating. One that is unpretentious and focuses on who you are and what you are all about. Simply stated, you will not find who you are looking for if you are not being yourself."
"A soulmate can only be recognized with the help of God when having achieved a high level of spiritual development beyond nirbikalpa samadhi in your physical body or after God Union - i.e. after maha samadhi to find each other again while living in a physical body - both partners need to be very spiritual and free of intense karma or strong attachments."
Marcus Peterson says, "You can lose your soul mate due to many circumstances that are within and out of your control. Many believe that destiny is your master and you are a pawn in the hands of this invincible force. And since even death is a temporary separation in the concept of soul mates, you can find your lost soul mate again in another current life. Your lost soul mate can come to you again in the body of a child or even a dog, which can explain our inexplicable attachments to our pets."
Inner planes, magic words, karma, parallel lifetimes, locks and keys, balloons, God's dance card, maha samadhi, pets -- hogwash! I'd like to simplify the difficult process of finding someone to love. Give me a man and a woman who lend themselves to date in mutual passion, who are willing to fall in love, who are willing to chance more if the continuing love is right, who are willing to get married to seal the deal, and who are willing to reap the benefits of their mutual happy/sad existence together. Then, call them soulmates, if that makes you happy. Most will rightly call the union "imperfect love."
"Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your heart or burn down your house, you can never tell."
-- Joan Crawford