love in the time of cholera

What makes one love the true love? How do we ever know that it is right? Although I sincerely believe that we are on this planet inhabiting these bodies to understand and learn to be manifestations of love, I am struggling with the concept of whether or not there is only one true love. There are certainly different ways to feel love: between family members, parent and child, friends, and of course romantic lovers. Considering romantic love, are we really supposed to find “that person” with whom we create a life and stay happily faithful to for the rest of our days? Even though we are socialized to believe in that construct thanks to Disney princesses and happily-ever-after rom com movies, in reality, life often leads us down a different path.

First, I am curious what defines a soulmate and at what point are you certain that you have found him or her? So often, we have these feelings and make declarations in the early stages of relationships that put our partner on a pedestal where he or she can do no wrong. Everything he does is enchanting, everything she says is smart or witty or hilarious, and you can never get enough of him. We are seduced by the stories that we were told at such a young age of what love and family should look like and then naturally, we search for the evidence that we’ve found The One. Later, those beliefs are reinforced by carefully curated Facebook pages and Instagram stories. If at some point we have not found our prince charming or princess, it is common that our priorities and practicality step in to dictate our decisions and force us to settle on good enough. Love is blind – or so goes the expression – but is it really? Remembering the love that I have experienced in my life, although I could identify each partner’s perceived “faults”, retrospectively each person gave me something truly special at a time I really needed it. Love has been my teacher of compassion, intimacy, vulnerability and my own areas for growth.

Although I acknowledge that I want to believe in the concept of soulmates and the possibility of a sustained feeling of being in love, what happens when your heart deceives you? What if it believes that you found your person but for any number of reasons life doesn’t allow you to be together? It feels like a cruel trick. Could it be that the person I thought was my soulmate was just a stepping-stone on the path to finding my actual soulmate? Was he my teacher reminding me that I am not perfect and I must learn to fail forward? Finally, how can I be sure that I am making the right choice for the right love?

As I write this, I am exchanging messages with a former significant other who remains a cherished friend. The timing of his reaching out was beautifully synchronous. Our conversation leads us to look back at what could have been between the two of us and wonder where we might be today had we made different decisions. Although it can be enticing and even romantic to think about those sliding door moments, I do not believe life should be lived in the past. Arguably, it should not be lived excessively in the future either but given my nature as an obsessive planner, I have a difficult time walking that talk. Maybe soulmates exist but timing never aligns, or it does when the two people are in a late stage of their lives (a la Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s book, Love in the Time of Cholera). What a tragic story. However if you actually believe that we are eternal souls just inhabiting these mortal bodies, then maybe it’s not so tragic and our soulmate will be waiting for us in another lifetime where there is more “time” to be together. Conversely, maybe we are meant to love openly and freely, evolve with our lovers and let time dictate if we can grow together or if our paths lead in different directions. In that case, it is conceivable that we can meet multiple soulmates as our souls evolve.

I may never really understand how and why love strikes when it does, nor do I know if most people are meant to be with the same partner forever (divorce statistics definitely paint a different picture), but what I do know is how grateful I am to know my capacity to love fiercely and be loved – in all of its permutations. Love deserves to be embraced and lived to its fullest in the present moment, with a commitment by both partners to make the effort to continue to grow and evolve together for as long as it serves the two people. If we are so fortunate to accomplish that – to synchronize our soul’s evolution with that of our partners, even for just a fraction of our corporal existence – then maybe happily ever after does exist after all.

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