“You’re the fire burning inside of me.” – Kelvin O’Ralph. The dictionary defines the word ‘soulmate’ as follows: “a person ideally suited to another as a close friend or romantic partner.” There is one thing I disagree with in that sentence. I think a true soulmate can also be the person you dislike the most.
When I suggest that a soulmate is a person who you dislike, I’m not referring to that one coworker who opens a can of tuna at their desk every day, or the kid in grade 7 who laughed at your weird hair part. No, I’m talking about that person who makes you see red. They confront you, often times in a way that sparks an almost instant reaction. You go home and replay what they said over and over again, blood pressure rising, thinking of better comebacks. You tell your friends and family about this person with the most delicious, hateful details. She has just the grossest mole on the side of her neck that makes me want to vomit when I see it walking towards me. His teeth look like they are running away from each other. She smells like cheese. He looks like cheese.
The person you’re ranting to is probably not giving you the reaction you want. You build intensity, you tell them that they had to be there, to meet the person, that they just can’t fully understand how terrible it all really is. Sometimes, as you list off all the things that make this person so unbearable, the rant-reciever will say something just simple enough that you stop: they can’t help that they have a weird mole.
There is an awkward half-step of silence in the conversation as you say something along the lines of ‘yeah but-‘ and try to pick back up with a new, weirder detail from there. It’s not JUST the mole, that’s whatever. It’s how she chews her gum when she stands beside me.
Despite your best attempts, the rant-reciever is never as impressed as you want them to be with how you manage to put up with this miserable sewer rat of a human being. You know why that is, and I know why that is: the person who rubs us the wrong way isn’t really all that bad.
People are mirrors. They reflect back to us our personal irritations, expectations, insecurities. Because we can’t put our finger on why they fundamentally irritate us, we are left grasping at irrelevant details as we try to share our frustration with other people. It’s not about the mole, it’s about something in the tone of their voice as they ask certain things. It’s about something in the back of their eyes when they say something that hits a little too deep. But how can you put into words something so intangible?
These people, the ones who you react strongly to negatively or positively, are soulmates. They connect quickly with you in a good or bad way, catch you off guard, and summon unexpected and illogical reactions. Negative soulmates may in fact be one of the best things we can experience in our lives. As Rumi says, “If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?” Being ‘rubbed’ is never comfortable when the cloth is corse. But, if we can use each swipe to remove the grime and cobwebs and to see things more clearly, we have utilized that negative soulmate for good.
Every bad relationship has the potential to show us what to avoid the next time. It can push us further towards who we are and what our expectations will be in the future. Every person who puts us down is the opportunity to become better at setting boundaries. Every passive aggressive interaction is the opportunity to develop assertiveness. Every aggressive interaction is the opportunity to develop diplomacy, wisdom, and grace.
Some soulmates will be the micro fibre cloth: they will connect with you easily and comfortably. You can be yourself around them. Others will be a steel wool pad. They will be grating, corse, uncomfortable. There is tension between you. But the steel wool forces you to deepen your understanding of yourself and what you will allow in your life.
Both are tools that we can use to strip away old pretences and align us more closely with who we’re striving to be. And, if we ignore the person, run away from confrontation or personal development, there is something strange that I’ve found to be true for myself: they will keep reappearing throughout your life in different ways and through different people.
Until you’ve had the conversation you don’t want to have, your negative soulmate will be your own personal ‘whack a mole.’ So, the next time you are angry about the cheese person, or the mole lady, just remember that they are nothing more than opportunities for growth. Instead of focusing on the details, turn inwards and deal with whatever they have touched on.
Soulmates: pretty great, right?
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” – Rumi.