We were asked whether soulmates necessarily share all the same values. In a word, we believe the answer is no.
We are, of course, naturally drawn to people whose overall value system is similar to our own. If I believe that children will develop into their best selves if they are given a safe but wide-open space to explore in, it’s unlikely I’ll be drawn to someone who believes that the most important way to help children develop into successful adults is to shape them with well-defined guidelines and a firm hand. And vice versa!
These different approaches are simply two different systems of values, or beliefs, about how best to raise children. You will likely feel yourself aligned more with one than the other, based on your own values. In the most basic sense, what we call “values” are really just collections of ideas in which we’ve chosen to invest our belief. In other words, our values are collections of ideas that we believe are important. Once we understand that our beliefs—and thus our values—are choices we make (consciously or unconsciously), things become a little easier.
We each have our own life experiences that contribute greatly to our personal value systems. For example, although my partner and I may agree on the surface about what “respect” means—our definitions may sound quite similar—out in the world, all of our life experiences, our current situations, and our other desires and beliefs come into play and can make our day-to-day expressions of respect look quite different in many ways.
We get into trouble when we try to make someone else’s beliefs conform to our own. That’s because it’s practically impossible to force someone else to change their beliefs. And even if we do manage to get them to modify their behavior to line up better with our own beliefs, we’re going to have to deal with something that can be even tougher on a relationship than conflicting values: resentment.
For instance, suppose I hold the belief that my partner should show respect for me by not looking at other women when we’re out to dinner. When we go out, if he’s trying to abide by my wishes, he will try not to notice attractive females. He’ll still notice them; he’ll just try hard to pretend he doesn’t. This may make me feel more comfortable in the short term, but it may well introduce some level of resentment into our relationship that can be difficult and even devastating in the long run.
Now suppose that I am practicing being more flexible with my belief system, and that my partner and I are able to create a safe space to talk about such things. He might get me to understand that he loves me just as much when he’s looking at me as when he’s noticing the attractive woman who just walked by. In fact, he might feel even more love for me if we come to an understanding that I’d like to get to a place where he’s comfortable being human around me, something he’s never experienced with a significant other before! (Of course, to change my belief about this, I’ll have to look deeply into why I have that belief in the first place, and perhaps find ways to raise my own sense of self-worth—which can only have positive benefits for me!)
Now, is it always MY responsibility to adjust my belief systems, or values, rather than my partner’s responsibility? Well, no. But it’s the only real choice I have—besides either remaining frustrated with the way things are or leaving the relationship altogether.
We can’t change our partner, though we can be a catalyst for change through demonstration. If my partner sees that I’m able to change my belief about something to create a more harmonious experience for myself, he just might be willing to try it himself.
The more receptive we are to working with whatever shows up, and the more flexible we are with our beliefs, the greater the possibility there will be to connect on a soul level.