Why Gatsby and Daisy Aren’t Soulmates

Carey Mulligan and Leonardo DiCaprio

Baz Luhrmann’s  “The Great Gatsby” got me thinking about what makes a soulmate.

Picking out Daisy’s green light at the end of his dock, Gatsby has “orgastic” dreams of romping “like the mind of God,” of  listening to “the tuning-fork that had been struck upon a star.”  Daisy, in Gatsby’s mind, is his soulmate.  She catches something boundless in his imagination that Fitzgerald likens to the Old World explorers’ discovery of our shores.

Anyone who has fallen in love knows this larger-than-life feeling:  at long last you’ve met someone amazing, someone unlike anyone you’ve ever known.  Someone who seems to have transformed your world from black and white to color.

But that intensity alone  is not enough to make a person your soulmate.  A real soulmate also gives you a feeling of deep understanding.  He or she really gets you.  Like musicians in a band, you tune into each other.  You finish each other’s sentences.

And because of that deep understanding, soulmates are comfortable being who they really are.  There’s an ease about connecting, a sense that you can be vulnerable with each other.  You’re dazzled, yes, but the paradox is that at the same time you can be yourself.

That being-yourself part matters a lot, because one day even soulmates run into conflict and rough patches.  (Your true soulmate will challenge you right at your own growing edge, but that’s a whole other blog post.)  When tough times come, partners need the down-to-earth capacity to work things through, to be both loving and honest. Learning that takes courage and practice.  You don’t just meet your soulmate; over months and years, you grow into soulmates.

Gatsby and Daisy never forge that deeper connection.   Only Nick, the narrator, recognizes the truth about Daisy, her voice “full of money,” her “vast carelessness.”   Gatsby never sees beyond his infatuation, and Daisy’s interest, in the end, is in herself.

When a couple come in for counseling, I always ask them how they met and what attracted them to each other.  Often — even though they’re frustrated and disappointed in their relationship — they turn to each other and smile at the memory of those early days.  And that tells me something important:  they felt like soulmates once, and having shared that profound discovery, they are probably willing to work at finding a way back to each other.

More of my blog posts on soulmates:  

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