Soul Mate or Cell Mate

Is your spouse your soul mate or your cell mate?  That was the question that a friend on Facebook asked.  I was intrigued by that question and I told him that I would create an article about it.  So here it is.  I have been married for 23 years and I have known my wife for almost 30 years (we met in college).  I have evaluated my marriage relationship and observed other marriages of those close to me in addition to frequenting online marriage forums.  I have also spent a lot of time studying the marriage relationship from both the biblical and secular perspectives.  From these I have learned a lot and share my knowledge and experience with others in an effort to help them in their troubled marriages or to make their marriages better.

Before I dive into the topic at hand I need to say something very important about marriage--at least I think it is very important. I believe that many people if not most people do not invest enough time into the marriage relationship. When a man and a woman gets married they seem to think that things just work out. Marriage is a new experience even if you are remarrying. The more educated you are about the marriage relationship and your personal relationship then the better you would be. However, I find that most married couples that I have encountered do not put the time into nurturing their marriage. They just go on with the day-to-day responsibilities especially when children come into the picture so to speak. People spend more time researching the best home to get, the best vacation to take, or the best car to buy than they do "researching" their own marriage relationships. No wonder about 50% of all marriages fail and I'd say even more than that are miserable, stuck in their cells as we wall investigate shortly.

Ok. Back to our topic. I became immediately curious when I saw the title, "Soul Mate or Cell Mate" on Facebook.  Let’s investigate that question.  First of all what is a soul mate and what is a cell mate?  Different people will have different answers to those questions.  However, I think we can all agree that a soul mate is someone that you are joined to at a deep level in your soul.  The two of you connect.  I call this togetherness.  One of the aspects of marriage that I believe in very much is the concept of togetherness.  That is when a couple journey through life together after marriage.  Their relationship is beyond functional and is very intimate.  They are connected at a deep level in their soul and spirit.  They are indeed one flesh as the bible says.  This however, is the one thing that I find lacking in marriages.  Instead of being soul mates I find couples are more likely to be cell mates.  Let me explain.

A cell mate can be defined as two people stuck in a particular "place."  This "place" in a marriage is typically going to work, raising the kids, taking care of the house, going to church, etc.  It is the daily routine.  The marriage and household is at a functional level not a heart (or spiritual) level.  The marriage is based on duty not togetherness.  Things that are most important to the couple are such things as taking care of the kids, career, cooking, home maintenance and lawn care.  They both have jobs in what I call Marriage, Incorporated.  They are not together at the heart, but simply meld responsibilities to keep things going functionally. The are in the same place not of one heart.

How do you see your marriage?  Are you soul mates or cell mates?  Do you run Marriage, Incorporated or are you and your spouse enjoying life together.  Is the marriage life a journey or mesh of responsibilities?  Now some people are happy with Marriage, Incorporated (or Family, incorporated if you have children).  Some people get married because they want to have kids.  However, some people get married thinking that life will be happy ever after only to find that they are in the same cell with another person.

What happens when you find yourself in the same cell with someone else and you want to get out?  You married because you wanted to be together with our spouse not in the same cell with him or her. Of course many people end the marriage in order to pursue the "green pastures" so to speak.  Others try to move their marriage to a point of togetherness so that they are soul mates instead of cell mates.  The problem that I found with this is that if only one person is trying to get the two of them out of the cell then chances are he or she will not make it.  You’ve heard the saying, "It takes two to tangle."  Well if only one is trying to "improve" the marriage and the other is content with doing his or her job in Marriage, Incorporated then he or she will most likely be stuck—the ball and chain.  This is very unfortunate and can lead to many adverse effects in the marriage including neglect or even infidelity.

It is natural for a human being to avoid things that cause pain. If your marriage causes you pain or unhappiness then you will subconsciously avoid it. If you are in a cell with your spouse but you wanted to enjoy life with him or her then you will try to get out of the cell. This can take many forms from staying at work later and later, going places with others besides your spouse (hanging out with the guys or gals for example). It is a very bad thing to be in a relationship that you don't like to be in. It is very dangerous for a marriage for one or both spouses to be unhappy in the marriage for a prolonged amount of time. The bible says that hope deferred makes the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12). However, that same scriptures says that when the desire comes it is a tree of life. This means that though your marriage may be making your heart to despair obtaining a good and happy marriage will be life to you. This means it is better to work at a happy marriage then to merely abandon a bad one.

What is the solution?  The solution is to come to an agreement as to what you both want in your marriage and work towards it.  You should talk about your expectations in marriage before you get married so that you can determine if your potential spouse is on the same page as you so to speak. If you have been married for a while then begin talking today! It would be a bad thing if one person wants to get married because he wants to have a family, own a business and live comfortably, but the other person wants to trek through life with her spouse and enjoy life together.  If you are already married then you still need to sit down and discuss what marriage means to you, come to an agreement as to the goals of the marriage unit and pursue those goals together.

Having a cell mate when you want a soul mate will add a lot of stress to the marriage relationship and can manifest into undesirable conditions within the marriage.  Over time one spouse may not like to be with the other because life is so monotonous in the cell.  He wants to enjoy life with his wife, but she just wants to do her job in the household, career, and the children. The strain on the relationship will increase over the years until perhaps a breaking point.  I recall a marriage counseling session I gave to a couple where the woman said she couldn't understand how a couple could be married for 20 or 30 years and then get divorced. However, in my mind it is very simple. One person was dedicated to making it work and was very patient (the years go by fast). After many years she just comes to a realization that her misery will not go away and she seeks to be free of the ball and chain so to speak. So it is best to resolve this issue sooner than later so that stress is relieved and both husband and wife are happy in their relationship.

The bottom line is that marriage takes work, which I find many couples do not do. They work at everything else except their marriage (and even their relationship with God). So work at establishing a great marriage and a soul mate and enjoy life together. If you and your husband simply want to be cell mates then go for it too. It is all about what the two of you want not necessarily what someone else says a marriage should be.

By William R. Cunningham
April 2011