Every morning, I wake up snuggled in my husband’s arms and feel so blessed to have found my soul mate.
After a kiss good morning, I roll out of bed and head to the kitchen. My bare feet pad silently across the hardwood floors as I make a beeline for the coffee bar. The morning is still young but I can already hear the kids outside playing on the trampoline. I smile as I hear the roosters crowing nearby; that means the kids did their farm chores without having to be asked.
I sip a cup of fresh coffee as I stare out the big picture window at the little farm in front of me. My husband wraps his arms around me from behind and kisses the top of my head. “Good morning, my love,” he whispers in my ear.
I snuggle in closer to him and let out a big happy sigh—this is my bliss. My big, blended family and hobby farm full of animals might not be everyone’s idea of nirvana, but it’s exactly what I always wanted.
In this world of skyrocketing divorces, hopelessly broken people, and shattered dreams, how did I get so lucky?
First of all, luck had nothing to do with it.
When you are young, love is everywhere and it all seems so easy—you meet, fall in love, and get a place together. The hardest decision you have to make is whether the two of you should get a cat or a dog.
However, once you have done all of that and then gotten married, had children, and finally admitted that it was all a mistake and divorced, you realize that true love is a lot more elusive than you’d been led to believe. And forget the idea of soul mates; they are as mythical as unicorns, right?
Growing up, the only example of marriage I had to observe was that of my grandparents, and it was a soul mate match if there ever was one. They made love and family look so easy, so effortless. I think I believed it was that way for everyone.
When I married my first husband, I was young and didn’t know myself or what I was looking for in a life partner. Ten years and two children later, we had to admit that we were very different people who no longer had anything in common.
We parted amicably, and I immediately jumped right back into a relationship, even though my family and friends all told me that I needed time to heal and adjust to life alone.
Time for what? I asked myself. Time just makes you old and ugly, and I was determined to find love again while I was still young.
I crashed and burned.
When I was finally able to extricate myself from that disaster, I immediately jumped back into another relationship.
I crashed and burned, again. Clearly I was a slow learner.
Next came two short relationships before I finally started to become more cautious; instead of jumping into a relationship after a couple of dates, I decided to slow things down and try several coffee dates first.
I had done just that and then progressed to talking on the phone quite a bit to one guy in particular. He was really funny but honestly, other than that, he didn’t have any other qualities that would mesh well with who I was or what my life had become—namely, an educated, hard-working, single mom who loved horses and farm life. Still, I soldiered on.
He invited me over to his house one night for a BBQ with some of his friends. This was the first time I had spent time with him outside of a coffee shop. His friends were nice, but seemed stuck in their 20s and the party life. I, on the other hand, had progressed to the dinner party and game night stage of life.
Later that evening, he asked me if I would help him write a book about his life. I’ve always had a carpe diem attitude, so I enthusiastically grabbed a pen and asked him to give me an outline. Things went rapidly downhill from there as he became frustrated with the suggestion that a book needed an outline.
I tried to explain that an outline would help him decide what the book was about and in what order to tell the story. As his frustration mounted, I backtracked a bit and asked if he could tell me how he wanted to the book to start. I thought that breaking it down into smaller steps might help him to not feel so overwhelmed. Instead, the suggestion seemed to make increase his frustration.
I went outside to sit on the deck and let him cool off. I was not at all impressed with his behavior—but I didn’t get up and leave. Looking back on it now, I can’t believe I didn’t grab my keys and sprint for the door. I hadn’t invested much time in him (just a few coffee dates and some phone calls), and I had absolutely no emotional investment at that point either.
But I’ve always been a mixture of eternal optimism and stubborn determination—either that or I was just completely banana crackers.
Eventually, he came outside and sat down beside me. “Do you think this is working?” he asked.
I couldn’t say it was, but I still remember being surprised that he suggested we would never work as a couple. How could he recognize that when clearly, I was the only sane one of the two of us? We talked a bit more as I tried to understand his feelings, but eventually, we shook hands, wished each other well, and I went home.
On my drive, I remember feeling disappointed. Not disappointed that we would never date, but disappointed that I had failed again. When I got home, I climbed into bed, completely exhausted, and decided that I would have a good heart-to-heart with myself in the morning.
The next day, I woke up early and went for a run down the red dirt country roads that surrounded my farm, my faithful dog at my side, the sun glinting off the dewy fields. When I got home, I went straight to my favorite thinking spot—a picnic table close to the trees. I climbed onto the table top, crossed my legs, closed my eyes, and just listened for a moment to the wind gently blowing through the leaves, the chirping of the birds, and the sound of my horses softly munching grass around me.
As the sun warmed my face, I remember thinking that the truest answers come when we connect with the energy of nature.
And then, with the full intention of digging deeply into my psyche and being completely open and honest with myself, I asked:
“What the hell, Jennifer!?”
Why had I stayed in two bad relationships after my divorce?
Why had I agreed to go on another date with a guy my brain had already identified as somewhat unstable? A guy I could never see being a father to my girls? A guy I didn’t think was smart enough, capable enough, or mature enough to be my match?
Why can’t I get it right?
The answers came with brutal honesty:
You don’t want to be alone.
You believe that a real family needs two parents.
You don’t believe in your own value and that’s why you allow people to treat you badly.
You accept anyone who comes along. You let them choose you instead of you choosing them.
You haven’t decided what you need in a partner because you have not acknowledged that your needs are valid ones.
By this time, it had been about 10 years since my divorce, so this kick in the pants was long overdue!
It was these harsh truths that finally led me to my soul mate. Allow me to qualify that he didn’t magically appear in my life. I didn’t say an incantation or just put him on a dream board and wait.
Instead, I followed the steps below, which put me in the right frame of mind to know what I was looking for and how to recognize him when he finally came along.
If you’ve been out of the dating game for a while, after a few coffee dates you might start asking yourself, “Is everyone hopelessly broken?”
I had my own set of issues when I first started dating again, but it seemed like everyone I met was far more broken than me. I took everyone for who they were at first and kindly overlooked their emotional shortcomings. Worse yet, somewhere deep down inside I believed I could fix them.
Eventually I came to the realization that while a lot of people come out of childhood and/or marriages with deep scars, I couldn’t fix anyone but myself.
So I took a break from dating and I read everything I could get my hands on—books about relationships, self-help, meditation, gratitude, positive thinking, energy healing, manifestation. I did some counseling, some Reiki, lots of exercising, and meditation on my favorite picnic table.
I can’t tell you that one thing worked better than any other. I believe that my success in healing my scars and grief can be largely attributed to the fact that I was willing to look closely at my shortcomings, understand where they came from, and work to heal them. I’ve come to realize that not many of us are willing to lift up the corners of those deep scars and poke around underneath for their source. However, if you really want to make some big changes in your life, you must be willing to do what’s hard or even painfully uncomfortable.
I also believe that there is a strong connection between a healthy mind and a healthy body. So while you are working on your emotional health, now would be a good time to start making some healthy eating and fitness goals.
Believe that you Have Value
A big part of allowing a man to be the one to always choose me—rather than me choosing him—had to do with my inability to recognize that I had value, that I deserved to be treated well, and that I had a lot to offer the right person.
It is not uncommon for people to not recognize their value and settle for less than they deserve. Unfortunately, I don’t have any magic secrets that will allow you to wake up in the morning and recognize your value. It is something that you will slowly start to see as you move through the process in step one.
I can tell you, however, that in order to see your value, you have to first love yourself. This includes forgiving yourself for your past mistakes and showing as much kindness inwardly as you do outwardly.
Embrace Being Single
It’s not uncommon to jump from one relationship to another; most of us are afraid to be alone. I told myself it wasn’t fear, I just liked companionship. In retrospect, I think it was a combination of that and the subconscious belief that I couldn’t give my daughters a real family without another adult.
Whatever the reason, I was dead wrong.
My realization that the three of us were a beautiful and perfect little family all on our own came in two parts: first, I acknowledged that I was a great mom and I could give them everything they needed. Second, I acknowledged that in my rush to fill the position of “dad,” I had made poor choices that had actually taken away from our family.
I embraced family life with my daughters. We went on adventures, big and small. We rode our horses, ran at the track, laughed until we cried, baked, picked berries, made forts in the living room, and had girls’ nights.
Life became joyous and I became utterly and completely content.
Know what you Need and Want in a Partner
I went from my mother’s home to my own home as a married woman and then to two other relationships. I never once stopped to ask myself what I wanted or needed. I never actually picked a man. I tended to just accept whoever came along.
When I stopped dating and hit the reset button, I started journaling. One day, I got out my journal and I wrote down everything I was looking for in a husband.
Deciding that I wanted a husband was the first part of the process. This is not an argument for or against marriage. My point is simply that you have to ask yourself what you really want and that means starting with the basics. Your list is just that—your list. Don’t feel that you have to share it with anyone or ask for advice. In fact, I recommend that you don’t. You want your list to be purely about what you need and not what anyone else thinks you need.
I wrote down every quality I knew my future husband needed in order for our relationship to be happy and healthy, long-term. For example, I’m an affectionate person. I knew my future husband had to be the same or he would likely get tired of me always trying to cuddle and one or both of us would end up disappointed. I knew he had to be intelligent, because if I thought I was smarter than him, I’d lose respect for him and our relationship would be doomed. I had to be able to envision him as a father to my daughters. I could never be happy in the city so he’d have to love the farm life, too. My list of attributes was a full page long.
This step brings your life into sharp focus. It’s almost like you are in the shadows of your own life when you simply accept the first person who comes along and shows interest in you. However, when you make a conscious decision to make your needs a priority, it’s like you step out of shadows and into the light.
One day, when I realized that I had fallen in love with my then-boyfriend, I pulled out my list. I was completely floored. Two years before meeting him, I had perfectly described the man who was sitting beside me.
Some people will argue that I basically made a dream board and I manifested my husband into my life—and maybe I did. However, I think “manifestation” is a buzz word that instantly confuses and puts off a lot of people. They haven’t been able to manifest a winning lottery ticket yet so they don’t believe they know how to do it properly. Instead, I like to think that I made a template for a complicated puzzle piece that perfectly fit with mine. When a man came into my life, I could mentally hold up the template and if he didn’t fit inside, I knew I hadn’t found my match yet.
Stick to the List
The list should detail exactly what you need in a partner, so don’t deviate from it! Any quality not on the list should be considered a deal breaker.
Sometime after I made my list, I made the conscious decision to start dating again. I no longer believed that I needed a man to make my family whole. Instead, after spending a lot of time working on myself, I had become comfortable with my life as a single mom. The three of us were happy and content with our little family. We were ready to welcome the right person in, but we could just as easily be happy on our own if the right man never came along.
This was the beginning of my “speed dating era.”
I didn’t actually speed date. I just went on a lot of short coffee dates. Within one minute of sitting down with a man, I could answer my number one most important question: could I see this man parenting my daughters? If the answer was no, then I would finish my coffee, converse politely, and then find a way to end the date. There was no point in wasting his time or mine.
If he passed the first question, I would go down my list in my head and see if he matched my other criteria. Basically, I was looking to see if he fit into my puzzle piece template. I probably went on 50 or 60 coffee dates, and even I was beginning to question my methods.
However, like a lot of other people with a history of failed relationships, I had often “settled” in the past and overlooked characteristics and core values that didn’t match mine. I was used to accepting pretty much the first person who came along, so being sensitive and in tune with what I needed was new to me.
When I looked at it from this perspective, I decided to stay the course. And I am really glad I did.
Believe your Soul Mate is Out There
When people tell you to “stop looking and the right person will come into your life,” I think it’s actually a metaphor for “be patient—it will take as long as it takes.”
I don’t believe that the right person will just fall from the heavens into your lap. However, put as much time and effort into the search as makes sense for you.
But be honest with yourself: if you don’t believe in soul mates, why would you find yours? While it will take as long as it takes, your attitude will determine the end result. I might have questioned my methods at times and wondered if I should make my template more forgiving, but I never stopped believing that there was a perfect match for me out there somewhere.
You’ve probably heard the term “attitude of gratitude.” In order for this to work, you have to have an “attitude of belief.” Know your match is out there like you know the color of your eyes.
One Last Thing
Keep working on your emotional and physical health while you search for your soul mate—and after you find him or her!
You know how some people go on a crash diet, lose a bunch of weight, go off the diet, and gain it all back? Well, finding and keeping your soul mate is pretty similar—you have to make a lifelong commitment to personal growth if you want lasting results.
And above all, I hope this advice helps you find your forever person, just like I found mine!