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As someone who studies non-monogamy and the messed-up gender norms in heterosexual relationships, I’ve never been super into the concept of soulmates. It sounds nice on paper, but I’m more interested in proof, like who has your back when the going gets tough.

One of the main points I’ve made about non-monogamy in the past is that it’s pretty natural to love more than one person…if you’re talking about more than just sexual or romantic love.

Like, nobody goes around asking parents which child they love more. And even when it comes to sexual or romantic love, it’s common to love one person at a time rather than one over the course of your lifetime, though I guess some people might have that experience, or some people might be aromantic, and so on.

I do believe some people are more compatible than others, and this of course has to do with a variety of factors: values, lifestyles, priorities, you get the idea. But it seems a large leap to get from “there are just a few people I’m likely to be highly compatible with” to “there’s only one person for me, ever, in this whole wide world.”

Of course, I don’t think Americans are necessarily having this critical-thinking level of discourse about love and relationships, which includes the idea of soulmates. As I’ve said, I’m not against monogamy, I’m against the fetishization of monogamy as we see in pop culture and relationship discourse, which leads to a normalization of monogamy in a way that shuts down discussion and exploration of other options.

But while I’m not thrilled with the way monogamy is presented in mainstream American discourse, that doesn’t mean I think all relationships are awful. Yeah, I have my cynical moments (and goodness knows my marriage was not all that great), but I still think relationships can be nice, when we find people who lift us up and support us rather than trying to control or abuse us.

Given that we’re entering year three of the pandemic, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to see people being more or less empathetic and supportive, depending on where they started and how they responded to *gestures vaguely at the past and current trash fire* everything.

As I’ve said, I’m not against monogamy, I’m against the fetishization of monogamy as we see in pop culture and relationship discourse, which leads to a normalization of monogamy in a way that shuts down discussion and exploration of other options.

For instance, I don’t think there are any anti-maskers or anti-vaxxers left in my life, because I find their interpersonal politics abhorrent. Someone who wants me and mine ill or dead doesn’t exactly deserve a place at the table, ya know? Same with Republicans (not that the Democrats are exactly hitting it out of the park right now, I know, but at least they don’t usually explicitly endorse bigotry).

So while I’ve been taking a long, hard look at the relationships in my life, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that while the idea of soulmates is sexy, it’s ultimately unsubstantial. I’ll eat that shit up in romance novels, but my life doesn’t exactly fit a single genre.

In real life, especially in a society where precarity is becoming the norm and nobody is coming to save us, substantial and supportive relationships—whether monogamous or not, whether romantic or platonic—is where it’s at.

And while I don’t discuss my private life much in my public-facing writing, I will say that last night when I blew out a tire in a pothole (damn you, Indiana roads!) I knew I could count on someone in my life to meet me at 10pm in 10-degree weather (Fahrenheit) to help me change the friggin’ tire.

And that knowledge—that I could count on someone to be there for me like that—bolsters me far more than any notion of a soulmate ever will.

Jeana Jorgensen

FOXY FOLKORIST Studied folklore under Alan Dundes at the University of California, Berkeley, and went on to earn her PhD in folklore from Indiana University. She researches gender and sexuality in fairy...