Have you ever noticed how many people write in to advice columnists about their marital problems? Whether it's "Considering Divorce" in Alabama or "Unfulfilled Wife" in Texas, many are looking for the go-ahead to unhitch themselves from their balding wagon. "I love my husband and don't want to hurt him," they say, "but this guy at work is my soulmate!"
What does that word mean, anyway? I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone is looking for their "soulmate", as if there is some random Prince Charming wandering aimlessly around the globe until he can just lock eyes (or lips) with his other half and they can ride off in the sunset together.
That little soulmate obsession is how we end up with stories like this one: Married man meets married woman. They strike up a platonic friendship. Their spouses meet and become friends. Pretty soon they are taking family vacations together in one neat little BFF package.
Then, a problem develops. Married man and married woman decide they are in love with each other. So, they do the self-described "honorable" thing - they ditch their respective spouses and break up their families so they can swap till-someone-better-comes-along vows with each other. "We are really proud of our family and proud of the way we handled the situation. There was nothing in the story to be ashamed of," married woman said.
Hmmm, nothing to be ashamed of except the fact that you just destroyed two families so you could enjoy your little piece of selfish pie. Just a small thing, the dissolution of a family. Nothing dishonorable about that.
Here is where the soulmate problem rears its ugly head. Throw that little word around and suddenly it's socially acceptable to say sayonara to your spouse of 15 years. In pursuit of happiness, you know. Because nothing makes someone happy like getting rid of a non-soulmate spouse.
Well, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Marriage is not about finding a soulmate, it's a about becoming a soulmate (one flesh, as it were). This may sound tough, but it's not. Add enough service, compromise, and selflessness to any marriage and voila! Soulmates!
Unfortunately, to most people, marriage is no longer about doing anything but trying to look sexy as your spouse bustles around fulfilling your every fantasy of what a partner should be. It's about ridiculous issues such as whether Dear Husband picks his socks up off the floor or whether he is fully engaged in daily conversations about Cousin Judy's botox catastrophe. Does he change diapers? Bring you flowers? Listen for hours on end as you debate the ins-and-outs of various labor and delivery techniques? If he doesn't, he must not be your soulmate!
Soulmate or not, it has been my experience that most husbands prefer not to engage in protracted discussions about episiotomies and potty training. But women love to chat about that kind of stuff. Get a batch of women together and the conversation will invariably turn to childbirth and bodily fluids. Really. This is what girlfriends used to be for. The problem is that now we're busy trying to turn our husbands into our best girlfriends, all the while telling our best girlfriends what emotionally insensitive clods our husbands are.
I'm not saying our husbands can't be our best friends (they can, and they should be), but if your husband doesn't fit the soulmate mold, perhaps the problem isn't with him.
Maybe it's time to look in the mirror.