Written by Siliziwe Mapalala. EXIT
I am blessed. Okay I am being corny now since that is the literal meaning of my name, but what I am referring to is the fact that I met my life partner. I wake up every day amped and excited by the fact that we get to do this life thing together.
I chill with my wife, she sits comfortably behind her sewing machine and designs an elaborate skirt for one of our friends. As I savour the moment, I put on my earphones and binge on yet another cult podcast, the term ‘twin flames’ come up. We start to engage on the concept of soul mates; what the term means to us, whether we believe in soul mates or twin flames. Does this term only refer to romantic connections? Can you have more than one soul mate? We basically went down a rabbit hole.
The curiosity about soul mates is one that has been around for ages. Humans throughout millennia have grappled with matters of the heart. An interesting demonstration of this is the Greek myth on soul mates. Plato wrote a novella titled Symposium and during a festival he had one of his students, Aristophanes, perform the part which spoke on soul mates.
I’ll paraphrase the story for you, which I read off the allthingsinteresting.com site. According to Aristophanes, humans were double beings, created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. There were three genders of humans, male who were referred to as children of the sun, female humans who were children of the earth, and androgynous humans (the Greek word for androgynous is directly translated to male and female). I find this part intriguing as it challenges the gender binary the west has perpetuated, and challenges the concept of hetero parings being the only correct type of relationship, but I digress!
Okay back to the story. Humans were quite powerful at this time, and we became a threat to the gods, so Zeus decided to split the humans in half, weakening us and at the same time increasing the human population which would mean more sacrifices to the gods. That left humans weakened and wounded, only finding fulfilment and completeness when we find our other half.
Aristophanes even describes one finding their soul mate as follows:
“Love is born into every human being; it calls back the halves of our original nature together; it tries to make one out of two and heal the wound of human nature. Each of us, then, is a ‘matching half’ of a human whole… and each of us is always seeking the half that matches him.”
How beautiful… and toxic. The concept of one not being whole until they are paired up is what lands us in unhealthy relationships due to fear of being alone. And there is also the probability of having multiple soul mates, or people playing different roles in your life and they being as important (if not more important in some cases) than a romantic partner. This also does not address polyamorous relationships which again touches on how people can fulfil different functions in your life which the ‘1 soul mate’ narrative leaves out.
With that said, whether your soul mate is your best friend or your romantic partner, it is important to note that connection alone does not sustain a healthy relationship. It takes constant communication, mutual respect, and the willingness to constantly renegotiate the terms of the relationship.