published Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Worth the wait: Self-described soul mates travel many paths to find their fated partner

ARE SOUL MATES REAL?

Times Free Press readers respond to that question on Facebook.

"I know that I do, she has been my best friend, wife and soul mate for over 37 years. I know that our light will never go out. We will remain as one forever. I love this woman with my whole being, and she certainly is my life's inspiration."

— John Stadler

"Both of us were getting painful but necessary divorces, and we met again by chance. We finish each other's sentences, stand by each other no matter what, and still sit together and hold hands and kiss each other in public, even when our kids wish we wouldn't."

— William Skinner

"I found my other half over seven years ago. On June 6, 2009, we said 'yes' to eternity. He is my best friend and my eternal love. I would be lost without him."

— Heather Walker

"I found my soul mate at the age of 21. He passed away suddenly on September 3, 2009. Those were the best years of my life. Once you've had such joy, how can you dare ask God for a second miracle?"

— Angela Davis

"I have been with my soul mate almost 34 years. Still waiting on this state and country to acknowledge that all love is equal. I would be honored to be married to him one day."

— Todd O'Dell

"I was at the lowest point of my life when I met her on a blind date in September of 1993. I will never forget when she opened the door that night and her eyes shot arrows into my heart. Cupid's arrows, I suppose. It was really love at first sight."

— Henry Camp

"Saw mine from across the room, and there's been no one else ever since. Fourteen years ago on April 1, I became love's fool and Philip followed me."

— Heather Beene Booker

"In April, we will be married for 27 years. He is my heart. God created him for me and me for him. We are best friends and fight like cats and dogs. I cannot imagine ever loving anyone but him. There is no doubt he was made for me and we were meant to meet that day.

— Dawn Thornton

"We met in 1999, and within a week we were married at the courthouse in Chattanooga. We have had our ups and downs just like everyone, but we can't imagine our lives without each other. Every time I see him I fall in love with him all over again."

— Mandy Collake

Forget hard to find. Sometimes, the quest for one’s fated partner can feel like trying to lasso a greased unicorn. For some, despite years of waiting and hoping, it never happens.

But those who believe they’ve found the love of their life say the search was worth it, given the sense of wholeness they now feel.

According to a 2011 poll by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, two-thirds of Americans believe in the existence of a predestined soul mate, and those who say they’ve found theirs have a myriad of stories for how they ended up together.

Some locals who describe themselves as soul mates met as children but didn’t feel a deeper connection until much later in life. A few were perfect strangers who fell in love as soon as they were introduced.

Occasionally, a soul mate was a first love. Others found each other after a previous marriage ended. Some were blind dates. Many were high school sweethearts.

Ben Reichel, 47, literally went to the ends of the Earth to find the woman he describes as his other half.

“About this time last year, I prayed … that if there’s someone out there for me to send her to me and bring us together,” Reichel says.

Thank God, he says, for the Internet. Shortly after he asked for divine inspiration, a link to an online dating service appeared on his Facebook profile. In a move he describes as being completely out of character, he clicked on it, wondering all the while: “What if my soul mate is on the other side of the world?”

She was.

Shortly after joining the site, Reichel says he met the love of his life, Victoria Fernandez. A 26-year-old English teacher living in Cebu City, Philippines, she wasn’t on the exact opposite side of the planet — she was actually about 400 miles off-target — but she was close.

Despite the distance, Reichel says the chemistry was immediate. They video chatted on Skype almost daily. Last fall, he met her in Hong Kong. Now his fiancee, she was approved in January for a K-1 visa whose validity is dependent on them marrying within 90 days of her arrival in the United States this spring.

“This feels different [from my other relationships] because I don’t feel like I have to pretend or act,” Reichel says. “I can be my total self around her. There’s no pretense to it. It was like that from the first moment I talked to her.”

THE GOOD, THE BAD

The concept of a soul mate is embraced by the majority of Americans, but its roots date back thousands of years to the other side of the Atlantic.

In 360 BCE, the Greek philosopher Plato suggested in his “Symposium” that each person’s soul is only part of a predestined whole. The gods tore the whole in half to create man and woman, and soul mate love is a reflection of the innate longing for a sense of completion.

“Each of us when separated … is but the tally-half of a man, and he is always looking for his other half,” Plato wrote. “When one of them meets with his other half, the actual half of himself … the pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy.”

The longing for a romance that was written in the stars is a common topic of conversation in the office of Chattanooga-based clinical psychologist Dr. Kim Gaines Eckert. Finding one’s fated love might seem desirable, Eckert says, but when a client begins holding their partner to an unrealistically high standard based on their perceived soul mate, it can weaken the relationship.

“More often than not, that gets in the way, especially if people say, ‘I’m not happy. Maybe I picked the wrong person. I made this wrong turn and now everything is awful,’” she says. “If you’re looking for a ‘Jerry Maguire/You complete me’ moment, that can be troubling.

“Looking for someone else who will make you a whole person can get in the way of finding happiness in the normal, everyday life instead of the big-drama moments.”

On the other hand, Eckert says, when someone believes they’ve found their soul mate — she says she believes her husband is hers — they often are much more likely to endure the rough patches that even relationships between soul mates can go through.

“If you believe, ‘This is the person for me,’ then you’re more likely to compromise and stick it out when things get hard,” she says. “Believing your partner is your soul mate is positive, if it makes you be more committed to the marriage.”

SOMEONE FOR EVERYONE?

Not everyone believes in the concept of soul mates. Some say the chances of two people finding their perfect partner out of all the potential candidates stretches plausibility to the breaking point.

“It’s all compatibility,” writes Michelle Haines Sipsy, of LaFayette, Ga., in a comment posted to the Times Free Press Facebook page. “The chances of one person finding one other person out of billions? No one would reproduce.”

Meagan Rae Landrum is similarly disillusioned. Love, she says, is a matter of making concessions, not waiting on the stars to align.

“I believe in circumstantial compatibility and the human ability to compromise,” she writes. “Fate is a comfortable but false notion.”

Sometimes, the path to finding a soul mate is faded and full of switchbacks, but Cora Lindsay says the person waiting at the end for her was worth the trek. Last February, Cora Beaty, 37, met Greg Scott, 34, at the Volkswagen plant. She was working logistics; he was filling in for a sick forklift driver on the docks.

He was quiet and — she admits — cute. They snuck glances at each other all day. At the end of their shift, he asked to friend her on Facebook, and she said “yes.” In retrospect, she says, the chances of that encounter were dependent on a huge number of factors out of their control, but they’re both convinced fate had a role to play.

“I asked once, ‘What if Andre hadn’t been out sick that day? What if you hadn’t been put on my shift?’ He smiled and said, ‘I would’ve found you somehow. We were supposed to meet,’” she says. “It has been a long road, but I am happy to say that I found my soul mate at long last.”

Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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