I once worked with a couple who met when they were “WWOOFers” in New Zealand. These are people who travel around the world working on organic farms. This couple was united by their commitment to organic foods, sustainable practices, and creating a community of like-minded people. They felt they were soulmates meant to be together.
When we first meet someone—especially when in the temporary glow of surging love hormones—we are primed to notice all the ways we are alike, which creates a confirmation bias. We look for evidence to support this bias. We read the same favorite books as kids, have the same favorite films, and even both prefer New York-style pizza—certainly a “sign.” All soulmate proof, for sure.
What this couple didn’t talk about was how they wanted to live in the country, how the vegetables, herbs, and flowers would be arranged, and the ways they were going to manage the farm. They each had a different image in their heads, while speaking of what seemed a common dream.
By the time they came to my office, they were arguing about everything. Where they had once seen only similarities, all they saw were differences in pest management strategies and how to improve the soil. She wanted a farm where all the flowers, fruits, and vegetables intertwined (“intercropping”) and were planted among one another; he wanted strong lines separating each crop from the other.
This divide showed up when they started to create their dream and discovered how different it looked to each of them. She had imagined working in a day job nearby and employing local people to do a lot of the labor; he saw them each in their overalls digging in the dirt together, dreamily watching the tomatoes grow and the bees buzz happily.
They came to counseling to communicate better, but what each was really looking for was a chance to prove that their way was the right one. They each admitted to feeling misled by their partner in their early dreaming, but it wasn’t betrayal.