Of Soul Mates and Kindred Spirits

I found an article (Can’t
find your soul mate? This is why
) on the Netscape
Network today that began with a shocking statement:

It’s easier
for women to find their soul mate than it is for men. That is the surprising
conclusion of a study by researchers at New York’s Adelphi University,
who blame the disparity on the "intimacy gap," reports Reuters.

Not so shocking, of course, because (and forgive me if I’m
stereotyping) a woman wants a soul mate more than a man does. Not that a man
doesn’t want a soul mate, mind you. It’s
just something that the typical man doesn’t much think about.
(See Dave
Barry
‘s classic treatment of the subject. It’s
much more insightful than anything I can say about it.)

Actually, the ease with which you can find a soul mate depends less on your
biology and more on your definition of "soul mate." If
you think a soul mate is a specific person born with specific traits that fit
perfectly with your personality, preferences, and life ambitions, then you
will probably never find that person. You may, if you’re
lucky, find one or two people close to that, but I consider such a person a
kindred
spirit rather than a soul mate. Even if your perfect kindred spirit exists,
you would be hard pressed to find him or her in a world of six billion or so
other
people. On the other hand, if you have a more realistic—though
not necessarily diminished—expectation of a soul mate, your
chances of meeting him or her increase exponentially.

To me, a soul mate and a kindred spirit are completely different. You are
born in agreement with a kindred spirit. When you meet him, you automatically
love
him. The two of you, when you meet, feel like you’ve known each other your
entire lives. You can go years without talking and never miss a beat when you
see each
other again. You like the same things, share similar feelings, laugh at the
same obscure and nonsensical jokes, find excitement in similar places, and
are just
different enough that you can like each other even when suffering debilitating
bouts of self-hate. A soul mate, on the other hand, is someone completely different
from you. When you meet her, you may take an immediate liking to her or you
may not. But eventually, you grow into each other so that the two of you are
inextricably
bound to one another. Your souls, in effect, mate. Kindred spirits bring out
the best in each other. Soul mates make each other better than either of them
could be on their own.

In short:
kindred spirit=safe harbor friend
soul mate=intimate, lifelong companion

I don’t know for
sure that the concepts of kindred spirit and soul mate are mutually exclusive.
I have one of each in my life, but my soul
mate (my wife) would never suffice as a kindred spirit and my kindred spirit
(a male friend from college) would never work out as a soul mate. So, to answer
the question posed by the Netscape article, if you can’t
find a soul mate, it may be because you’re searching for
a perfect match of personalities or settling for a safe harbor friend rather
than recognizing
the radical intimacy that’s possible when two different
souls mate.

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