When I was a teenager, I remember an old man telling me, “Finding your soul mate gives you the greatest joy.” I was of the belief that this joy certainly comes to everyone, for soul mate is someone with whom one gets married, and (nearly) everyone gets married at one point.
Over time, though, I have come to realize that the idea of soul mate is not necessarily related to the idea of marriage (even when partners are chosen by each other). Just the contrary, for many individuals, marriage often puts an end to that quest for soul mate, or someone with whom one can have a purely platonic relationship. Especially in a society like Nepal’s, any relationship between two individuals of opposite sex outside their marriage is almost restricted by unspoken societal norms. It is extremely rare for a married woman to have a very close male friend, or for the married man to have a close female friend. When existing, such relationships are despised and derided by society. Indeed, most people fear to explore their life after they tie the knot.
Some important questions spring up amid this backdrop. Should getting married necessarily lead an individual, as it happens in most cases, to build a rigid enclosure around oneself that restricts him/her from exploring his/her life and finding individuals with whom one can have a purely platonic relationship? Should soul mate necessarily be the person with whom one is married to? If some relationship exists other than marriage that offers intellectual growth, a sense of fulfillment on purely platonic terms, should one hesitate to pursue such relationship?
Often, relationships of love (between unmarried couples) and marriage are viewed as being the manifestations of the idea of soul mates. And so, one needs to understand the relationship between love, marriage, and soul mate or platonic love to answer the above questions.
Relationships of love has some core elements to it. The need to be physically near to one’s partner, the idea of loyalty, or the vow to remain loyal to one’s partner are central to this relationship. Sexual element is another crucial element. Sexual fulfillment is considered a plausible expectation on part of one’s partner. And any interpersonal difference that might arise could well lead to the termination of the relationship.
Marriage, at least in theory, is no different from this in terms of the elements. Marriage is a social contract that gets legal recognition, and is a largely a binding relationship. In contrast to love relationship and marriage, platonic love, the love the soul mates share, transcends the definition of infatuation and love. It also does not necessarily have to be socially sanctioned relationship like the marriage. Physical proximity is not necessarily a prerequisite of a relationship of soul mate. In fact, the individuals in such a relationship need not even be together physically or even near. All that is required is having a sense of the vive and ambience of the person.
Soul mate is, therefore, a relationship that can exist outside of one’s love or marriage relationships. For example, one could be happily married with an individual, but have different individual as his/her soul mate. Love does not necessarily confine to the small periphery of the husband-wife, boyfriend-girlfriend or couple relationship, but rather the idea of greater love, perhaps more unselfish platonic love is something that can be expanded outside the existing couple relationship.
It is important to understand that just because a person finds a soul mate in a different person doesn’t mean that he or she is betraying the husband or wife. Soul mate can be a friend, a professor, or anyone of any age or gender. The main part is that soul mates are your well-wishers and do not have any vested interest over your body, possession or anything else. It is the relationship where contentment is found in respecting the other, wishing good about the other and in engaging intellectual conversations. Marriage, therefore, should not be the end of the road when it comes to building relationships, more specifically finding one’s soul mate.
But, in the ‘busy’, impatient contemporary society of today guided by capitalist mode of life than anything else, people lack patience to even understand the meaning of soul mate. Yet, it would make our life more intellectually fulfilling and enriched in overall sense if individuals can break free of the belief system that marriage or love relationships are end to any relationships, and stay open to finding the soul mate in its true sense.
(Bhattarai is an Assistant Professor at the Kathmandu University Department of Music)