A Soul Mate? One Right Person? Nope.

There are more fish in the sea!

I try to "pick my battles" on Facebook and generally ignore many posts concerning God made by theists. People might post things like "everything happens for a reason, God has a plan." I let it pass. I certainly also ignore comments such as "x is with God now" when people die. That's simply good form.

Recently, a college friend of mine posted the following status on Facebook:

Feel like ill never be happy :( and its probably the most hurtful feeling ever to wakeup and realize your the only one god didnt create a soulmate for <\3

I felt a need to respond to this claim because I wanted to make her feel better and help her realize that it's irrational to believe that there is only "one right person" because she's been beating herself up about this for quite a while. She's aware that I'm an atheist and we've had conversations about belief in the past. She knows I'm public about my non-belief and that I'm all about skepticism.

I responded:

I'll try to keep my response short.

There is no such thing as a "right person" or a "designated person" (not to mention there is no such thing as God or a soul). If you're going to live under the assumption that there is a "right person" or someone you are "destined to be with," you're going to sink in cognitive quicksand very easily. There are many, many, many people in the world that we meet merely by accident. Who are your friends? The people you happen to meet. There's a reason why most of your friends aren't people from high schools in Alaska...you've simply never been there.

We can try to salvage the concept of a "right person" and think of people as compatible or incompatible. But when you really start to think about it, you'll be compatible with hundreds, if not thousands, of people whether they are in relationships or not. If we were placed in different areas, we're just bound to find compatible people.

There's a very important and relevant principle in Social Psychology called the Propinquity Effect [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propinquity]. We happen to like those around us and are more likely to like those who we live near to, sit next to, etc. We're simply more likely to form relationships with people we encounter more often.

Also, while it may suck being single, I would wager that you're better off single than with someone who you're incompatible with. Overall happiness also shouldn't rest on whether or not you're in a relationship. There are, of course, many other factors. Keep looking and don't settle for mediocrity.

My critique didn't even focus on her belief in the supernatural (she knows I don't believe in any supernatural claims anyway, so what would be new?). I tried to help her by explaining that she can be compatible with many people and soon find a like-minded person. I used what I've been learning in psychology classes and my internship paired with some common sense to make her feel better and think rationally about her situation.

If someone's going to live with unsubstantiated assumptions and impossible expectations (God made one specific person for me to be with), he/she really will be disappointed. Say, for example, you expect to be a professional Chess player and you get very mad because you're losing to novice computers. You think that you could master the game in a month...and don't. A friend should tell you, "You can't master Chess in a month. It takes a great deal of time to reach the level of grandmaster. You'll lose along the way. Don't beat yourself up."

How is the Chess situation and the "God made a soul mate for me" situation any different? Friend should help friends and people shouldn't get mad for this. I explained my stance to her and hopefully she understands...or will better understand after seeing this blog post. My critique of her status wasn't me bashing her, trying to "take away her God belief," or anything else other than "Don't beat yourself up, there are lots of people who you can be compatible with."