I did not truly understand the term “soul mate” until recently.
Even though I am in relationship with a soul mate, I still lacked insight as to what exactly that meant.
Then I had the following epiphany:
The most important part of the term “soul mate” is not the word “mate.” In fact, we could replace that part of the term with another word and would still retain the same significance. For instance, the German language uses the term “soul relative” (Seelenverwandter) instead.
“Soul relative” is actually a more accurate phrase for a number of reasons:
If we tried to replace the word “soul,” we would change the term’s meaning. Thus, to truly understand the term and understand what we are getting ourselves into if we meet our soul mate, we need to slow down and focus on the soul aspect.
By definition, it’s impossible for us to find someone who qualifies as a soul mate without getting more strongly in touch with our own soul in the process. If we are not willing to get into deeper contact with our own soul, what we really are looking for is an “ego mate.”
At first, this may sound like a trivial insight. Needing to get more in contact with our own soul may seem like a small price to pay for a beautiful relationship. But the reality is that we often are not even aware of the large rift that tends to exist between our soul and our ego, and getting in touch with one’s soul may be uncomfortable and truly confronting to the ego’s security and safety.
The clash between the desire of our soul and of our ego may show up in many areas of our lives. For instance, while our ego may want to have a fancy house and car, our soul’s most important goal may be to be of service in the world. Thus, the question of who gets to call the shots has actual practical consequences in terms of how we live our lives.
Basically, our soul and our ego tend to exist in different realities. Unless these two aspects of ourselves are in complete harmony with shared values and goals, the distinction between an “ego mate” and a “soul mate” has large ramifications on our lives.
Here’s how ego mates and soul mates are different:
Characteristics of an “ego mate.”
While the term “ego mate” may sound harsh, I intend it to be neutral. Some realms of spirituality shame the ego or try to transcend it. However, our ego is not the enemy. It is part of what makes us who we are, and helps us to function in the world.
Thus, when I use the term “ego mate,” what I mean is someone of whom our ego approves. Generally this is someone who possesses characteristics we find attractive often as a result of our own conditioning.
Realizing that someone is our ego mate is not a judgment on them as a person. It only describes the role they fulfill in relation to us. Our ego mate may be someone else’s soul mate and vice versa.
An ego mate does not fundamentally threaten our current way of being by getting us in touch with deeper aspects of ourselves. A relationship with an ego mate is more superficial, which makes it easier for us to get involved with them.
Since in our culture we often find ourselves much more engaged with our ego than with our soul, it is hardly surprising that an ego mate relationship tends to come easier to us. An ego mate relationship does not require a lot of transformation on our part. While some things change in our lives as a result of being in a couple, we can fundamentally continue to be who we were before meeting that person.
Thus, the main challenge we may experience in a relationship with an ego mate is that we do not really grow spiritually and emotionally. As a result of this, the relationship may become stale over time, after the initial crush wears off.
With that being said, there is nothing wrong with being (or wanting to be) in an ego mate relationship. Finding an ego mate allows us to enjoy the company of another human being without going through intense transformation that we may not be ready for at this point.
Characteristics of a “soul mate.”
A soul mate will get us more into contact with our own soul. Since most of us experience at least some (conscious or unconscious) conflict between the desires of our soul and those of our ego, this is not always as romantic or ephemeral as it sounds.
In this conflict an “ego mate” will generally strengthen the ego’s side whereas a “soul mate” will generally ultimately lead to the soul having a greater say. While we might ultimately be able to find a middle ground between the desires of soul and ego, the change in our center of gravity can be uncomfortable and may also entail changes in our external circumstances.
Unlike our ego, our soul can take and may even yearn for intense growth and transformation. Being in a relationship with a soul mate tends to give us exactly that. While this is ultimately for our best, the level of change it entails can be terrifying.
I think that we can intuit the “danger” that a soul mate represents to our sense of identity and our established way of being. I believe it is for this reason that a potential soul mate tends to bring up more resistance in us than an ego mate.
Depending on where we are in our lives and in our own journey, we may not wish to embark on a soul mate relationship in this moment. And that is perfectly okay. Arriving at the conclusion that we do not feel ready is a sign of our ability to be honest with ourselves.
On the contrary, if we wish to be in a soul mate relationship, we can prepare ourselves by starting to get more in touch with our own soul, for instance through meditation, spiritual work and journaling.
We can learn to disengage more from our ego, for instance by questioning our own conditioning and trying something new.
We can also learn to care more about our own deep truths than about what others say and to embrace deep change.
It is only when we are willing to become a “mate” to our own soul that we are ever truly ready to be together with a “soul mate.”
This article was first published on Elephant Journal here.