By Anne Gagliano
A mate. We all long for a mate, a companion, a match that turns our single into a pair. Someone to hang with, talk to, and hopefully share the deepest of physical intimacy. Spend holidays with. Someone who keeps us from being alone. A trusted friend, a committed relationship. A mate.
But there isn’t just one kind of mate; there are, in fact, two. Phonetically, they are the same, but in reality, in meaning, they are infinitely different. A few questions you should ask yourself as you read further are these: Which kind of mate do you prefer to have, and which kind are you willing to be–a “sole” mate or a “soul” mate?
A sole mate. Sole, singular, exclusive, the only one. I will have sex with just you and no other. Monogamous, and committed to be so for now, and possibly longer if things go well. I will share with you and only you my physical presence for as long as the relationship lasts.
A soul mate. The soul—the spiritual part of a person, their morals and emotional warmth. Their vital force or essence of heart, substance, individuality, and disposition. This is what I will share with you; my deepest thoughts and nobler qualities of affection, honor and duty, poetry, reverence, and beauty. I will long for your company as well as your touch. We will have a connection beyond that which is just physical. And I will share it with you, all the days of my life.
A sole mate. I will live with you in comfort and safety. We’ll build a house and have nice things. We will establish boundaries and ownership and work out the business of life. We’ll function as co-workers; each will do their share. A partnership; I’ll do my part if you do yours. But I will always hold something back, in case the relationship fails, in case you don’t hold up your end of the bargain. Safe, not too risky, comfortable. And nice not to be alone. An exit plan in the wings, just in case, as nobody’s perfect.
A soul mate. Our love is a bright star that shines in the darkness to guide us home, which is never a place but simply wherever you are. And in our home I will share with you all the blessings that come our way and endure whatever misery we encounter firmly by your side. Your good is my good; your pain is my pain. We will be poor, we will be rich, and we will be everything in between; it does not matter to me. All that I have is yours. Your happiness is more important to me than my own. My happiness is to be forever with you—my home.
A sole mate. Our communication is necessary to co-habit. Perfunctory, brief, friendly. Our darker thoughts, we keep to ourselves. Our deepest dreams are just that—deep, unknowable, best kept private. Our struggles are our own; your work is your business; my work is my business. We have many friends with whom we can share; no need to dump all your problems on me. We keep it light, we keep it easy, we keep it fun. Anything more, and it’s no longer comfortable.
A soul mate. With one glance, I know what you’re thinking. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say—about everything. Each word, every gesture conveys meaning that only I can read. We finish each other’s sentences. We know each other’s stories. Inside jokes, a secret language, a catalogue of shared memories available to draw on. Our lives so intertwined I no longer know if that memory is from your childhood or mine. I was not there, but I experienced it with you just the same. That’s how well I know you.
A sole mate. We avoid conflict like the plague that it is. No harm, no foul. We agree to disagree—peace at all costs. Not a lot to argue about, as boundaries are firmly placed. We’re good friends; cordial, respectful, but slightly distant. After all, you can’t surrender all that you are to another person—that would be foolish. You have to have pride and a strong sense of self. You stay in your space and I’ll stay in mine; we’ll come together for sex. If problems arise, one of us will simply have to walk.
A soul mate. So in sync are we that even the smallest of infractions feels monumental. We’re in agony if all is not right, if we’re not heard, if we’re misunderstood. I cannot function if distance forms between us. The world tilts off its axis if anything is amiss; I will not rest till we are, again, as one. A night apart would be unthinkable; I cannot sleep till all is forgiven, your hand resting in mine. To you I will bare my soul, my body, my will—and submit wholly, lying exposed and vulnerable at your feet, knowing I’m completely safe there.
A sole mate. We have warmth, we have company, we happily co-exist. We even have fun. Ours’ is a relationship that works. We are bound together by a piece of paper, nothing eternal. We are animals that feel compelled to mate, so we do. And we conform to society’s rules as needed, especially when children are involved. But moving on may be necessary if too much of myself is lost to you, or if my needs are not being met. Someone younger and better just may come along. Survival of the fittest. I will never risk too much; my best interests must always come first. You are my “sole” mate because you are of benefit to me, and there is no one else. If that ceases to be the case, I will end this, or you will; that is the law of the jungle.
A soul mate. Ours is a lifelong romance, a passionate never-ending love affair. You are my ideal, my fantasy, my dream come true. Our decades-long marriage has taken on a life of its own—a spiritual entity greater than just the two of us individually or together. “Our marriage shines around us and between us with an otherly light, a sacred habitation for our shambolic humanity. It is soul stuff made visible.”–Andrew Klavan, The Great Good Thing. Our long love reveals a realm beyond the ordinary—the miraculous, the eternal, the divine. And the fact that such a marriage is possible leads to belief in a God who designed us so perfectly for each other and then with His guiding hand, joined us as one flesh. You are my destiny. My one true love. My soul mate.
What will you be? Will you settle for sole, an exclusive mate only, one that works but has no real spiritual depth? It’s all very nice, it’s all very easy, but not very good. Or will you aspire to that next-level, passionate intimate connection that brings fire and electricity and meaning to your marriage? It is the greatest risk of all, to bare your soul to another—to lay it all down on the altar of self-sacrifice. An intertwining of souls is absolute; if one goes, you both go. If you lose that one true love, you lose it all. Sole or soul, you decide.
Anne Gagliano has been married to Captain Mike Gagliano of the Seattle (WA) Fire Department for 31 years. She and her husband lecture together on building and maintaining a strong marriage.