For those who are not familiar with the birth story of soulmates from Greek Mythology, here’s the summary: There were three kinds of humans in the beginning – a man, a woman and an androgyne. However, they looked different from the men and women we see today. Those humans had two faces on one head, four arms and legs and two sets of genitalia. That kind of made them double as powerful as people are today. Blinded by this power, one day, they climbed Mount Olympus and attacked the Gods.
The King of Gods, Zeus, came up with a plan that will divide the power of humans in two so they will be half as fast and half as strong. He executed the plan and left the severed halves anxiously looking for their other half.
So, what happens when a person meets their other half? Something wonderful called love. It is so full of wonder (and hormones) that the two feel they belong to each other and don’t want to live apart even for a moment.
“When you know, you know, right?” Wrong!
For the longest time, marriage and relationships have been like a contract between two parties for social and economic prosperity. I know, it was disappointing to see Princess Jodha agreed to marry King Akbar for political reasons and how we all heaved a sigh when the two eventually fell in love. However, the truth couldn’t be far – the myth of soulmates is nothing but Greek Mythology high on commercialisation.
It’s a tempting idea to become whole with the help of another person because it absolves you of your accountability towards your growth and makes the other half your personal project. As much harm the myth of soulmates does to a person’s emotional well-being (Don’t leave me; I’m incomplete without you!), it also leaves the other person miserable in a relationship (You have to do this; you were made for me!). They are and we are burdened by this enormous monolith of expectations set by romantic literature and pop culture.
We still want social succession, children and companionship, but we also want our partner to be our best friend, our confidante, our passionate lover, our compassionate caretaker and in many cases, our therapist. Basically, we are going to this one person and asking them to offer what an entire village should. “Give me love and mystery. Give me comfort and peace. Give me my space and your familiarity. And a little surprise here and there doesn’t hurt.” Sometimes, we even want our partners to help us define who we are!
Entitlement vs. Expectations
You think, you two clicked and fit like pieces of the same puzzle. You’re 200% sure that you’ve found the one, except they don’t check all boxes of a soulmate’s to-do list. What happens then? We doubt ourselves. We grow apart. Others may come and tell us that they may not be the one and that we should keep looking for our real soulmate because it should be all or nothing. But no one tells us to do a little soul searching to find out what our expectations are, and if those expectations are realistic enough for one person to fulfil.
Worry not. This article will not preach the flawed “no expectation, no disappointment” theory of relationship. Truth be told, no relationship comes without expectations. Not even motherhood. So, let’s move forward to understanding the right amount of expectations from a romantic partner.
A team of psychologists did a little legwork on your behalf in 2014 where they studied relationship entitlement and satisfaction in dyads. Simply put, they studied how our entitlement and expectations contribute to our satisfaction in relationships.
After the study, the psychologists developed a Sense of Relational Entitlement (SRE) scale which had four sub-scales:
- Excessive Entitlement: My partner owes me only the best. When that doesn’t happen, I’m frustrated and contemplate ending the relationship.
- Restricted Entitlement: I sometimes feel I’m not good enough for my partner and they deserve more than what they are currently getting.
- Entitlement Expectations: I can’t give up my expectations of my partner in my relationship and deserve their attention and understanding.
- Assertive Entitlement: I think my partner is lucky to be with me. I deserve a sensitive partner and so, I insist on getting what I deserve in my relationship.
The first two form the Conflicted Relational Entitlement and the latter two form the Assertive Relational Entitlement.
As hypothesised by the researchers, the conflicted dimension led to partners feeling less satisfied in their relationship. The opposite beliefs that I deserve the best and that I’m not good enough for my partner led to relationships filled with narcissism, insecurity, vulnerability, and attachment anxiety. Either one felt loaded with responsibility or found it difficult to share their needs.
On the other hand, the assertive dimension gave the partners an ability to maturely evaluate and assertively negotiate expectations from each other, leading to a more fulfilled long-term companionship. Rather than an imposition, here is communication to set reasonable expectations and standard of behaviour towards your partner which also is a sign of investment in a relationship.
The first group has concrete beliefs while the latter group has a healthy room for flexibility. If flexibility and maturity are what make a relationship prosper, then why are we still so rigid about our definition of a soulmate?
What/Who is a soulmate?
Soulmate/n. a person ideally suited to another as a close friend or romantic partner.
See? Your soulmate could be your friend too. It could be your sister you holiday with, your mentor you grow with, your brother you vent to, your father who rescues you, a colleague you shop with, a dog you relax with, or your vigilant doorman for that matter! What it could not be is everything rolled into one person. (Because that is an excessive entitlement and not very healthy, psychologically) It’s unhealthy, unrealistic and inappropriate to expect your partner or the right one to just get it.
So, what should you call your romantic partner – a better half, bitter half, soulmate, twin flame, the one? It doesn’t matter as long as you have a village to tend to all needs of your soul.