The first time I told my husband that we were soulmates, he laughed. We were sitting on the first piece of furniture we had purchased as a couple — an IKEA POÄNG chair in the now defunct Karlsro print — with our arms wrapped around each other. He’d been ushering me down from an anxiety attack. I was in the thick of postpartum depression and he was doing his best. Earnestness doesn’t come easily to me, but in that moment of quiet calm, I went full Nicholas Sparks. Framing his face in my hands I told him, “I really do think that we’re soulmates.”
Juxtaposed against the backdrop of our tough situation, the honeyed sentiment brought in big, unintended laughs from my crowd of one. I began to laugh too and, for a moment, during that frenzied, anxiety-ridden period of being both new parents and recent graduates, we felt light again.
During those years, as we graduated from young adulthood into the messiness of our late twenties, the minor and major stressors of life had begun to roll in. One of us stopped believing in God, one of us dealt with PPD, both of us became so broke that we couldn’t afford bus tickets to and from our second, third, fourth jobs. Yet here we were, sides split over my proclamation that we were made for each other.
Kristopher’s disbelief in soulmates was, by the way, not news to me. Prior to that moment, we’d had a few gin-soaked discussions on the topic and had jointly categorized romantic destiny as a myth, like the word “irregardless” or the efficacy of jade eggs.
Kristopher and I were never a perfect fit. For us to work to begin with, I’d had to modify my idea of the perfect man. Kristopher may be tall, dark and bearded, but he approaches the world very differently than I. He’s more carefree, less detail-oriented. But as we grew up together, I became more aware that our relationship, in its healthiest form, was less about being perfect for each other and more about the perfection we built together. For me, that meant dismantling my idea of what a soulmate should look like. Identifying a set of contributions that we could promise each other became more important — especially during the difficult times — than individual “perfection,” or even my personal happiness.
Every relationship is a foreign land complete with its own economy, religion and social norms. We’ve decided to build ours on the specific tenets of mutual service, encouragement of growth and an intolerance for clichéd romantic tropes. Our partnership doesn’t require the fairytale of “happily ever after.” What it does require is an acknowledgment that we will embrace change, for both ourselves and each other.
Our anxiety lay a little lower that day. Kristopher went to work, while I took care of the baby and fought with our insurance providers over the phone. The stress of our precarious situation was still there, just tucked back a bit further in the corners of our minds. A reminder hung in the air that much like happiness, sadness doesn’t last in perpetuity.
In recalling that time in our marriage, Kristopher recently pushed back on my assertion that we weren’t happy. I assured him, we weren’t. After thinking for a bit, he reframed what he meant. Maybe we weren’t happy in the fairytale sense, but we found fulfillment in supporting each other.
I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to build out a small universe with someone who doesn’t require much else from me, and I’m happy to do the same. Even if he refuses to let me indulge in the soulmate myth.
Photos by Louisiana Mei Gelpi.