We’re either taught from a young age, or we pick up from movies, TV, etc., that our ‘soulmate’ is out there, somewhere. Unfortunately, more often than not, it’s the guy we’re swooning over on TV that we think will end up being that soulmate of ours. It’s easy to be quickly reminded of late 1990’s ‘boy band’ groups when we’re thinking about this concept.

Think back to 1999, for example: The popular music group, The Backstreet Boys, were at the peak of their popularity. Everywhere they went, they would be met with crowds of screaming fans (mostly young girls), holding up signs, shouting out words of adoration, and even offering marriage proposals. If you ever had someone’s poster hanging on your bedroom wall, or if you ever found yourself thinking that celebrity, or that older student at school, or even that professor in college, was the ‘one’ for you, you’re not alone.

Unfortunately, you’re also part of the problem. But don’t worry, most of us are! We’ve been brought up that way, time and again, to create the idea of a soulmate in our head that equates to some sort of fantasy. Deep down, we know these fantasy situations will never actually happen, but that doesn’t stop us from hanging the posters, or dreaming about what it would be like to have any kind of experience with that person.

And while there certainly isn’t anything wrong with fantasy or even a few daydreams, the problem with soulmates, when you look at the fantasy aspect of it, is that they’re usually just that; fantasy. Meanwhile, you might have a snoring husband laying next to you, who loves you with all his heart. And he’s a great guy, sure, but you might think to yourself sometimes…he’s not a Backstreet Boy. Well, of course not. And maybe to him, you’re not Cindy Crawford. But, you both found your way into each other’s lives, and obviously share enough love and devotion to become a couple.

The problem arises when the idea of a soulmate – your idea of a soulmate, completely takes over your relationship. Chances are, you know everything about the person you married, or the person you’re dating, or the kind of person you’re looking to date. They’re not going to fit every single quality of the fantasy you’ve built up in your head about your perfect soulmate. And is that something they should somehow be ‘punished’ for? Absolutely not. Our own expectations often let us down in ways other people cannot. It’s our own thoughts, feelings, and emotions that end up getting the best of us.

Maybe your spouse doesn’t have six pack abs, or a flowing head of hair, and maybe they can’t sing you a love song at any given moment – but that’s certainly not their fault, and a problem can arise when you treat it as though it is. When we start to place expectations on the person we’re with, we’re typically doing it for selfish reasons. Some things, a person simply can’t change; the way the look, talents, etc. Other times, we feel as though if our partner dressed differently they would be better, or if they worked out they would be more appealing, etc. While of course, those are things anyone can change, trying to force someone into those ideals is only going to end badly for all parties involved. There comes a point where not only are people mostly happy in their ‘ways,’ but feeling forced to change something about themselves can actually lead to resentment, and a bitter sort of relationship.

It’s okay at some point in your life to be the screaming, adoring fan, and to live in a bit of fantasy here and there as you daydream about your ‘soulmate,’ but the terms itself is attached to fantasy far too often, giving us unrealistic expectations about what a soulmate should really be, and how we should appreciate who might already be in our lives, for who they already are.

That’s right – take a closer look at that guy snoring next to you. Maybe in this particular moment, he doesn’t offer the same appeal as a Backstreet Boy, but there’s a good chance he’s more of your actual soulmate than a member of a boy band will ever be. It’s time to drop the labels attached to our expectations in relationships, and focus more on loving the positive attributes of the people we’re with. If we don’t, we’re simply trying to mold them into someone they’re not, and that could unfortunately end in a lot of pain for everyone involved.

Being able to understand the past and these old, pushed away feelings and memories will help you to effect positive change in your life and not repeat what has caused suffering in the past. As a couples therapist in Pasadena I understand the obstacles and challenges that individuals and couples face. Donna Shanahan, LMFT Couples Therapy Pasadena, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.