Beliefnet
You're the author of the best-selling book "Soul Mates." What do you mean by the term? Is it different from what many of us think of?
I think that my use of the word "soul mates" is probably a little like what everyone else thinks and a little different. I do think that there is such a thing as the sense that fate has brought people together or that there is a person who not only matches their personality or seems compatible but is someone who stirs them so deeply that they feel a connection in their souls. That understanding is, I think, legitimate, but I don't think it covers the whole territory.

Most people think of a soul mate as the one person meant for them. Do you agree?
I do think there are a number of people with such a connection that you could consider a soul mate. It may not be a romantic connection-it might be a friend or a coworker or a family member. I also think it's worthwhile to consider the idea that there's one person out there. But if you take it literally, you could wait forever and feel so anxious and distressed because that one person has not come. In the meantime, you could have been overlooking a lot of good potential relationships.

Do you have to have a spectacular sexual relationship with your soul mate?
Some people may have a great sexual relationship, but everything else is horrible. And vice versa-people may not have a very good sexual relationship but there's so much else that's valuable. I do happen to think that it's really worth spending time to work out a sexual relationship. Sometimes a bad sexual connection is a sign of other things not being quite right. So it's definitely worthwhile exploring together what could make that sexual connection better.

Do we try too hard to find the perfect relationship?
We often try to manage our relationships according to an ideal, overlooking the importance of the contradictory and uncontrollable aspects. Whenever I see a couple in therapy, I try to help one partner see the mysterious nature of the other. I believe that if we allow ourselves to be unpredictable and even eccentric, we might tolerate and enjoy the same qualities in another.

What brought you and your wife together?
Several things.we share a vision in which the arts are very important-she's a painter, I'm a musician and a writer. It was a big thing to find we could easily understand one another at that level. A second thing was we're both very spiritual people, although we're very different in that regard. She teaches yoga and has been part of a Sikh community, although she has a Catholic background. And I have been in a Catholic monastery. I tried yoga, I don't want to do yoga, that's not my way. We go our own way spiritually, yet we respect what the other does.

Why is it that people seem to have such a hard time dating? You always hear complaints that there aren't any good people out there.
Some people sit around waiting for the right person to come along, while others are more actively in search of a potential partner. I believe that you can find a mate or a partner not only by searching but by developing your own life, by becoming an interesting person. If you're making your life interesting, I think you'll have a better chance that people will look at you and say, "I'd like to spend some time over there."

What does soul have to do with love?
Let's say that the soul is the real depth, your own depth.

Doesn't soul have to do with God and spirit?
No, I don't think so. Soul is different from spirit-the deep soul is the way we live everyday, our longings and our fears. It's those feelings that really make life worth living. The way desire and love fit into it is that what you really long for, what you really want, takes you to your soul, who you are at the very deepest level.

How does this relate to loving another person?
It's quite mysterious. When you're with someone else closely, there are more demands on you and you have to love in bigger ways or different ways than you expected. So it's a kind of a learning or ripening process.

Can you give me an example?
An example would be loving a person who asks for more honesty than you're used to. It may feel like a demand on you, but it might be teaching you that if you're really going to love someone you're going to have to open your heart a lot more than you ever thought. I think that's part of the maturing of love between people, and it's part of the development of a soulful relationship because as you become more articulate about what you're feeling-you find more about who you are. You find resources within yourself you didn't know you had. That's the discovery of soul, really.

What aspect of dating do you think gives people the most trouble?
I think people expect their partner to be like themselves, or they have an idea of who their partner should be. As you grow up and get better at dating, you realize that you have to let the other person differ from you or your expectations. You have to let them do things that you may not either approve of or understand. And that's tough.

I think that as you really let the other person be "other"-you have an opportunity to allow yourself to be "different." It's about two different people sharing a life, and the richness is in the difference.

A relationship is an initiation, in a way. It's a rite of passage to really be in a relationship. The point is not just to have things work out so that you're happy. You have to deal with certain things, like differences. As you work things out, you actually become a more mature person. That's a very good way in which a relationship serves your soul.

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