QUESTION: My soulmate married someone else. We met in a professional setting when neither of us was looking. After a string of painfully unhealthy relationships, I decided to stop dating and shift the focus on getting to know myself and deal with whatever was causing this pattern. He was recently married. 

I did not believe in soulmates before meeting him. Admittedly, I had fantasized about meeting my “prince charming” as a girl, but the idea of being “rescued” was drilled out of me in therapy and replaced with the realization that only you can save yourself. Despite this, we both knew from the moment we met. 

We didn’t have a romantic relationship or an affair. There was no period of “falling in love”. It was more like remembering a love that was always and would always be there. The connection is not really something that can be put into words, but the beauty of its depth of understanding and love constantly overwhelms me. 

The friendship has allowed me to access parts of myself that I didn’t know I had. It has made me a happier, more whole person. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. Well, except for a romantic relationship with him. Obviously, the situation is not ideal. Neither of us is comfortable cheating and have no intention of going there. We are also at different stages of life. He feels that if we were meant to be together then we would have met under different circumstances.

I’m in an incredible amount of pain over this. I’d rather have him as a friend than not at all, but the idea of not having a romantic relationship with him is absolutely devastating. What do I do? Why is this happening? How do I get through this? How could I possibly have a relationship with someone else after experiencing this connection? How can he? 

ANSWER: These meetings can be wonderful and painful; you seem fully aware of that. They can become extremely messy and even more painful if not constantly attended to with that awareness and the need for boundaries. But they do happen, as feelings know no boundaries. That is why we have to tend to them mindfully, which sounds like what you are doing.

First off, there is no such thing as one soulmate for a person. People come into our life at specific moments as reflections of what is going on inside of us at that specific time. So go inside and check your inner landscape in view of your recent awareness in therapy. Always remember that you are the only person that can save you, as you’ve beautifully and correctly realized. Pull your center back into yourself constantly. Where in your past are there feelings that love will not be available? That you will be cheated of it? That you will be disappointed and what you need will be out of reach?

The intensity of such relationships is a replaying of childhood wounds that need to be healed. The maturity, which you both seem to be tending to this, means that it can be a healing journey. There has to be regard for all three hearts involved. So approach this as you would a loaded shotgun with the safety off. Make sure that you are not doing harm to yourself. Regardless, the work is always ours to do on an internal level.

The fact that this person is not available has made, and will continue to make, it easier for you to open up. As much as you might wish it to be otherwise, be fully aware of the fact that you would not have opened so fully if, in fact, he was available. It is much safer to stretch our hearts wide open when there is not the danger of full vulnerability. So use this experience with your eyes open to further your awareness of what needs healing inside of you. So it might not be ideal, as you put it, but it actually is a perfect reflection of your unconscious and the work that still needs to be done internally.

We will not get into his issues here, suffice it to say, that him leaving this emotional door open means there are issues of intimacy on his end. His intimacy issues would come right up regardless of who he is in relationship with. So definitely not the fairy tale union you imagine. No relationship is: either we sleepwalk through them in a conscious or unconscious power struggle or face our terror and take the risk of being vulnerable.

Life is not so cruel as to put something in front of us just to taunt and tease us. Be open to the fact that this could be a dress rehearsal for a true and meaningful relationship for you. That this relationship is helping you become more open and more ready to fully open to someone who is fully available. This is one stop on your journey towards a fulfilling romantic relationship, but it is not THE stop. Feel your resistance to this statement as you read it. Not easy to accept when our ego is fixated but our soul is not.

You have figured out what diet feeds you by looking at a menu. As you say, it has made you a “happier, more whole person”. That is a wonderful thing. Now be open to finding the restaurant that serves that meal, where you can actually pull up a chair and eat to your heart's content.