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On boos and soulmates

| Monday, April 26, 2021

Not so long ago, the basis of marriage had very little to do with love. The calculus for choosing a partner or partners for marriage had to do with other considerations, such as necessary labor power to produce food and other items like prestige, familial ties etc. Indeed, residues of this tradition still hold in many societies today where modernity hasn’t yet sufficiently penetrated. With the onset of modernity, marriage and the calculus for marriage partners was one of the institutions and/or traditions that were transformed as sex-love gradually, and successfully, established itself as the primary basis for marriage amongst the moderns as part of the broader liberation of the individual from the yoke of tradition. One of the presuppositions of sex-love is that one can only love one person, an idea captured by the present-day colloquialism of a ‘soulmate.’ Thus, many of out here waiting patiently for their patented soulmate to show up in their life so they can live happily thereafter. But does this claim of modern love as we know it hold any water?

The experience of my friend Sarah has led me to review some of the claims about modern love as we know it. I have known Sarah for over seven years now. During that period, Sarah has been in at least five relationships, an average of at least one relationship per year. I have been a witness of Sarah’s nature as a hopeless romantic in each of these relationships. I have seen and heard Sarah shower each of her so-called ‘boos’ with the same platitudes. “You mean the world to me,” “you’re the best thing that has ever happened to me,” “I love you to the moon and back,” “I don’t know what I would do without you,” “why did you take so long to find me” and much more. Nonetheless, all these ended same the way: in tears. A few days ago, Sarah called me sobbing inconsolably after a bitter break-up in what had seemed to be the most promising thus far of all attempts at finding her ‘soulmate.’ As the good friend that I think I am, and with all the experience that I have garnered in consoling inconsolable souls, I tried to help Sarah deal with her umpteenth heartbreak. 

This time, however, Sarah’s grief struck a chord that inspired this article. I wondered how it is that Sarah has managed to ‘love’ with almost the same intensity six different people. I have witnessed her heart literally on fire for each of her ‘boos’ during the peak moments of each relationship. Moreover, I wondered on, how can Sarah claim to be searching for her ‘soulmate’ yet her heart has had room for six different individuals all of whom have set it on fire in similar ways? In other words, is Sarah’s search for a soulmate in vain if she has the capacity to love multiple people? Regardless of how bitter the ending was for most of them, she loved them dearly. And she moved onto the next one with the same ‘juice,’ as football players would say.

So, I thought to myself, maybe the claim that we can only have feelings for one person is a temporal one. That is to say that while it is possible to love i.e., to have feelings for more than one person as in Sarah’s case, it is not possible to love more than one person at the same time. Admittedly, Sarah’s experience only proves that we can love more than one person with the same intensity. It doesn’t prove that we can love more than one person at the same time. Yet, with the proof of the ability to love more than one person, it wouldn’t be an overstretch to extrapolate and claim that we can love i.e., have feelings for more than one person at the same time. That is, if we can show that one can feel for more than one person, we don’t need to show that it happened at the same time to prove that it’s a possibility. What matters is the capacity for it, which Sarah’s experience, as that of many other people, proves. 

Feelings, it seems, are neither a scarce nor a non-renewable resource. They are like God’s love; always flowing yet ever abundant and ever renewable. There is no evidence that having some for one person precludes having them for another person, simultaneously. But this remains an untouched area for anthropological research. So I’ll leave this underdeveloped thesis to the anthropologists to develop.

Trevor Lwere is a junior at Notre Dame majoring in economics, with a PPE minor. He hails from Kampala, Uganda and lives off campus. He is a dee-jay in his other life and can be reached at [email protected] by email. 

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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