In an excerpt from Plato’s “Symposium,” Aristophanes recounts a Greek myth on the origins of love. According to ol’ Aristophanes, humans were once four-legged, four-armed and double-sexed. Fearing human beings were becoming too powerful, the deity Zeus sliced them in half, facing inward so they could eternally measure their bodies’ absences. They were doomed to feel incomplete until they found their other halves. And when they did, they would throw their arms around each other and weave their flesh in an attempt to become one again.

This myth is the blueprint for the concept of soulmates, the idea that every person is only half of a whole, and so without a predestined companion, we are incomplete—doomed to wander life alone. If we’re alone, is there something inherently wrong with us? In other words, do we buy Aristophanes’ definition of romance?

If we do, it means assuming loneliness is a transitory hallway we’re just passing through on the way to an inevitable partnership. It means telling yourself, ‘yes, I’m alone, but I’m not lonely,’ even though it’s untrue. It means wondering whether the fear of being alone is biologically or socially inherited.

I say romance is socially inherited. Romance is one of the largest social constructs passed down through generations of humanity; it’s treated as a predestined outcome and appears in our day-to-day lives. It’s parents shoving toddlers together and hoping the pair will get married, pushing Legos together as a kid and matching them into personified pairs, relatives asking if you finally have a significant other at every family gathering, walking into a restaurant for dinner alone and seeing each table pre-set for two, when a couple announces their engagement on social media to hundreds of likes, loves and comments, and the age old dichotomy between ‘just friends’ and ‘dating.’ In a myriad of ways, romance means seeing each other through a constructed social hierarchy, as if each relationship is not meaningful in its own way—romantic, platonic or otherwise.

This modern construct of romance still speaks to Aristophanes’ ancient paradigm of soulmates: romantic love is the paramount prize of existence; the prevailing idea that romance is normative and necessary—that you need to find someone else to complete you, and when you find this person, you date, get married and eventually procreate. It’s society expecting all these things of you and judging you when it turns out hey, maybe you don’t want that.

Maybe, just maybe, there are other ways to experience connections— every relationship doesn’t have to be romantic. And if no relationship is romantic, well that’s okay too. Every connection is equally significant and should be treated as such. But we shouldn’t forget ourselves. You don’t need someone else to be complete. You can be happy, content and whole on your own. Consider the idea you are your own soulmate.

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