Dear Rosie & Sherry,

My husband informed me last night that I am not his soul mate.

I told him that because we were married, I thought we were one. We have been growing together and sharing together for all these years. Okay, not everything is perfect. But are we not inextricably linked?

He responded by saying that, "We are created anew every day!"

What's that supposed to mean?! I think that my husband is misinterpreting what he's read about "soul mate." Please explain to me how you understand the meaning of soul mate.

I am devastated, and I believe your answer can really help: My husband reads your articles and takes them to heart.

Nanci

Dear Nanci,

Collectively we have over 50 years of experience with couples and singles, and we believe there is a misconception of the idea of a "soul mate." That phrase makes it seem like: 1) two people are destined for each other from the start, and 2) because of this will always have an ideal relationship and will never have to do any work to enhance it. This is a false idea.

The ultimate test of a marriage is not whether people feel they are soul mates. That's a feeling people have when they are infatuated with each other. And it's a feeling that fades as the glow of infatuation fades away. What is more important in a marriage is that a husband and wife are basically right for each other, and that they build a life together through an ongoing process.

Having said that, what makes two people "right for each other?" In truth, a person is capable of connecting with several different people, and has the potential to build a good marriage with any of them. Each marriage will be different, but each marriage will have good qualities and negative qualities. We often see this when someone who has been widowed after a good marriage, goes on to have a second loving marriage. How do they succeed? They invest the energy into developing and maintaining a good relationship.

What many people seem to overlook is the following truth: When two people who are right for each other make that first connection, they have to spend a lifetime keeping it going. Every marriage will have periods when it has to be "endured" -- i.e. when the couple is going through a tough time and may doubt their connection to each other. And there will be periods in which a marriage can just be enjoyed. But even then, it can't be taken for granted, and the couple will soon have to renew their commitment to keeping the relationship healthy.

Sometimes, when there is strain between a couple (e.g. one of them is experiencing difficulties at work, or questions his or her own sense of self, or when the quality of the couple's emotional connection has deteriorated), one of them may reflect on the situation and decide that they are not soul mates… or that perhaps s/he really never loved the other… or perhaps there is someone better out there.

We have seen these feelings occur in many marriages -- even ones that subsequently turn out to be long, enduring, and happy. Usually, these feelings can be overcome, and the quality of the couple's relationship can improve dramatically.

The secret is for the husband and wife to understand that these feelings may occur, and that there are many ways to restore the emotional connection and feelings of love.

Popular culture has given is unrealistic expectations of marriage -- soul mates is a prime example. A more realistic view of marriage is that they feel a sense of friendship and trust, and they share a history of life's ups and downs. At times they will be furious with each other, and at times they feel deeply in love. What's really important to a marriage is what a couple makes of it overall, not what a husband and wife feel about each other at any one point in time.

Our advice to you is not to get discouraged by your husband's revelation. It is very possible that he is trying to find himself spiritually. People who are on this kind of a journey tend to raise questions about many aspects of their lives, including marriage. So it isn't helpful for either of you to jump to conclusions. Your husband will probably reformulate his ideas over time, because he is "on a journey." And he may quickly realize that his marriage is an invaluable safe haven on this trip.

You and your husband can succeed at your marriage, even if he is searching for something that you feel you have already found. And ultimately, he may find himself at a different place spiritually than you are. Your marriage can still be an anchor between you, if each of you can respect the other's point of view.

If after all of this, things have not improved, we strongly recommend marriage counseling, which often helps couples to greatly improve the quality of their relationship.

We hope this has been helpful, and wish you the best of success,

Rosie & Sherry