I have had two serious relationships in my life (this obviously excludes the Shorewood boy with whom I was set up on one blind date and never saw again, and Levi, my coworker at Taco Del Mar who kept trying to grope me when I was working the register). The first was with an exchange student, Rob, my sophomore year in high school. Tyler is obviously the second.
In retrospect, I hesitate now to classify Rob's thing as a serious relationship because I realize now how one-sided it was. He was extremely selfish, egotistical, and uncaring, but often acted depressed in an effort to get others to build him up. He was also lazy. He had huge elaborate dreams he wanted to fulfill, but backed off whenever anyone offered to help him acheive. He also spent a lot of time trying to (unsuccessfully, thank goodness) get me into bed.
But here's the problem; I was extremely infactuated with Rob for a time (remember, he was the first relationship, first kiss), and I thought I was in love with him. Because I told him utterly everything (and he told me everything), I thought he was my soulmate. When I was out to dinner with my Nana Dixie for my 16th birthday, I told her that Rob was my soulmate. I should never have done that.
He wasn't my soulmate. He was an emotional drain. But ever since then, whenever I see my Nana Dixie, if we talk about Tyler, she reminds me that I said Rob was my soulmate, and I inwardly grow furious. She knows damn good and well that relationship is long over and I was an impressionable sixteen year-old at the time who had never known anyone else (probably another reason I was close to Rob...I had been alone all that time and wanted to feel loved). Is she doing it to make me angry? Is her memory that bad, or that good? I told her that almost seven years ago and she still brings it up, and every time she does, it stabs.
It doesn't hurt because of Rob...I could care less about him and would be happy to never see him again. It hurts because it's a slant on my judgement and how I perceive people, and it says that I was willing to give a large part of myself over to someone that shouldn't have had it.
I try to be careful about these things, and my judgment towards these matters is important to me.
When Tyler and I separated two years ago (before getting back together), one of the things that crushed me the most was that all the most secret things I had shared about myself, and all the loving things I had said or done for him, seemed suddenly ugly and worthless. Because those things were important parts of me, and it felt as if Tyler was rejecting me, it felt as if those parts were being rejected as unworthy, childish, or clumsy. The separation was devastating because I was suddenly less than who I was before. I wasn't just without Tyler, I was without Tyler and without the part of myself I loved the most. I lost more than I had gained.
Things are good between us now, and I love Tyler deeply, but there are lasting effects. I have turned inward more and have been less willing to share the most precious parts of myself for fear they'll be rejected again. If we do part, at least I'll have those things, unsullied. But more than that, I've been unwilling to ever again think of someone as a soulmate, largely for the same reason.
If you love someone so deeply, and think of them as your soulmate, and then they turn out to be someone you hadn't thought and reject you, what does that do to your perception of yourself? A soulmate (whether in a romantic sense or not) loves you unconditionally and never leaves you, even through physical separation. If someone you had loved as a soulmate leaves you, not only does it shatter your perception of your own judgment (and God help you if you told anyone else that he was your soulmate, because they'll rub it in your face for years), but it leaves you feeling diminished. You've grown and interwoven in such a way that part of you is ripped loose at the parting. What if you have many relationships, as I have not? How many "soulmates" can you go through before the word loses all meaning?
I don't ever want to ruin that word in that way.
Because of that, I've been holding back, and I hate it because I don't feel that I'm being honest. I also feel that one of the things I loved before was having no secrets, and knowing that every thing I said would be loved and cherished, but I'm too unwilling to risk it now. No matter how much I love someone, I'm unwilling to ever use that "S" word because I can't bear the thought of feeling that loss again, if it should happen.
Is that the right thing to do? All sorts of people will wax philosophical about how love is always worth the risk, and love is the answer, and 'tis better to have loved and lost, etc. etc. -- all the sorts of things you hear on easy listening radio. That's a lie. How can it be good to ever call someone your soulmate in an imperfect world where the risk of being hurt is so real? Are people really willing to be so careless?
I don't know if I'll ever get past that again. For now, I am content to love, and love fully, but my soul remains my own.