When I got married, I had a new experience of association which I had never had as a single person. My husband and I were together for three and a half years before we got married, and yet, in all of that time, people rarely expected him to be with me everywhere I went. But once we were married, if I came to any social gathering alone, people started asking “Where is your husband?” or “Where is your other half?”
Thinking about this closeness of association makes me smile. I have the utmost respect for my husband and to be seen as “belonging together” to this extent is one of the biggest compliments someone can give me. But I find the “other half” language is both unintuitive and rife with bad implications. It gives the impression that, since getting married, I shrunk into half a person and forgot the other half at home.
The “other half” language is routed in a particular concept of “soul mates” which is really quite antithetical to a Christian anthropology. Plato articulates (but does not affirm) this notion in his Symposium, in the speech of Aristophanes. Aristophanes posits that human beings were originally created as powerful (and perhaps somewhat humorous) orbs. Because these human beings were so powerful, they could rival the gods and ascend Mount Olympus. Thus, Zeus decided to cut them each in two lest they become a threat. According to Aristophanes’ account, eros is the soul’s search for its other half in order to be complete again. Should one find this soul mate, they would have a love which once again could rival the gods of Olympus.
As Christians, we are Trinitarian, that is, we believe in a God who is One in essence and Three in Persons. The Unity of God’s essence is not a composite one and we, as human beings, are created in His Image. Also, we were created as male and female, not as splintered orbs. The union of husband and wife is no more a union of halves than the Trinity is a union of thirds.
We believe that the union of husband and wife is akin to the union of Christ and His Church. And this Christian doctrine of union with distinction is rather unique. We do not believe with the Mormon Church in the doctrine of Exaltation, that human beings are not united to God but instead become our own Gods alongside him. On the contrary, we believe that union with God is real. We do not believe with Sufi mystics that union with God is being consumed or obliterated by divine fire. When Christ united humanity with divinity in His person, He did so without absorbing His humanity into His divinity. We become one with God and yet we remain ourselves. We worship Emanuel and truly believe it possible for God to be “with us.” This means that Jesus is the Church’s Bridegroom, not the Church’s “other half.” The union is real, but it does not obliterate the distinctness or wholeness of the unified Persons.
On a practical level, this notion of marital halfsies combined with a little dash of Calvinistic predestination, invites single people to think that the search for a mate is a search for one person in all of the world that God has created with the simple purpose of making them happy. Likewise, it invites married people to question their spouse’s soul-mate-hood as soon as the undulation of connection and disconnection in marriage sets in. On the other hand, if anyone would like to inquire about my “other whole,” my “sweet companion,” or my “favorite person in all the world,” I would be happy to oblige.
Photo Attribution: “Fir0002/Flagstaffotos”