“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.” — Elizabeth Gilbert
I thought my life was over in 2014. I was checking Instagram one day when I saw the picture of the girl I was convinced I was supposed to be with in the arms of someone else.
We had met in the spring and the romance kicked in during the summer. We shared a vulnerability that was pretty intense, but I felt happily vulnerable. Finally, someone I could share my darkest fears and my most saccharine dreams with. I didn’t have to go it alone anymore!
Fast forward a few months and I began to feel some distance. The did-I-have-to-press-1-before-I call-you kind of distance. I got frustrated and scared. It made me wonder if there was someone else. Sure enough, there was.
I would go through two more of these situationships before it clicked: “Deep down, I think I’m second-best.”
People go their entire lives reliving the same romance
We rarely take the time to consider our relationships and look at the patterns. Because of this lack of introspection, we begin to develop narratives around the sex(es) we’re attracted to.
Yeah, sure, all men are dogs, right? Yet your sister is married to a great guy with vacation property and wears pink dress shirts (so daring!) and of course, women cheat on the regular but your best friend just got engaged to his high school sweetheart who does intermittent yoga while making omelettes.
After reading this, your mind might’ve said, “Yeah but those are the rare ones, the unicorns.” Or, “It just looks good on the surface. You don’t know what skeletons they’re hiding.”
Fair enough, but my point is that not everyone is having the same experience you are. You have a particular version of Groundhog’s Day while someone else is having another version. My point is that if you keep reliving disappointing relationships it’s because you haven’t unearthed the cause of it.
God doesn’t hate you. Life isn’t playing some cruel prank.
Sometimes it takes a bit of introspection for you to learn why you keep having the same luck in romance. Sometimes the bludgeons of repeated failure cause the answer to bleed out. But are you listening to the advice dripping from your shattered ego?
Categorizing the truth
In my 20s, I was most drawn to girls who presented themselves as pleasant but also possessed low-key unresolved anger. Deep down, they really were pleasant but the anger wouldn’t let them access their authentic lovely nature. And as I mentioned earlier, they always seemed to put me as second-best.
With these realizations, I could then sort my issues into three categories:
1. This is who I think I am
2. This is what I think love is
3. This is what I internalized from my parents
With regards to me being second-best, this is who I thought I was. I probably picked it up from how I was treated at home being the older kid. Furthermore, when I realized that the girls I liked were nice but had a mean streak beneath the surface, I found that they were just a reflection of me. I had the same problem.
What was operating subconsciously in them was operating subconsciously in me but through these situationships with them as a mirror, I saw myself.
In a weird way, this was somewhat reassuring. I had an internal struggle which was now exposed. Furthermore, I know that had these girls addressed their anger, they would truly be a delight. I realised that I too could now be more authentic and happier.
But what did I think love was? Well, it wasn’t what I consciously thought love was as it is one’s subconscious that governs one’s life. For me, deep down I thought love was about being yelled at, being second and a bunch of other stuff.
These were things I picked up from how I was loved from my mom but there were some stuff I learnt from my dad as well that a different set of girls helped to illustrate to me.
These tie back into what I internalized from my parents, which was for me to not talk/internalize my feelings and to shack up with someone who is low-key angry.
All of this was learnt from the pain of failure and observing the commonalities among the girls I was attracted to. At the end of the day, you attract what you are and what you think. There’s no going around it. And guess what? The only way you can have these revelations is to have these attractions.
People are your mirrors. Your best friends are your best friends because they have the traits you have or traits you admire, and in turn, they admire you. When it comes to romance, the mirror is moved up closer. Now you’re seeing way more detail with the good, the bad and the ugly.
But how can you know that what you see in this person is what you are? Because you can only attract what you are. You could never believe that love is a battlefield and get with someone who believes that love is a peaceful state. I have friends who date the same type of people and wonder why they keep having this trend.
But it’s not a coincidence. It’s just you.
Of course, some of us were blessed with excellent parents who created a model of love that we learnt and subconsciously used when falling in love. Many of us weren’t so lucky. But now we have a chance to extract the truth of what we think love is and see the correlation between it and our relationships.