The Good Place – Part 1 – Soulmates

Posted on November 27, 2019


Spoiler Alert: I am going to talk about Season 4, Episode 9 of The Good Place which aired last week.  To give some context, I also need to discuss what has come before.  If you are one who does not want to know anything about a show before you see it and think you might yet watch this, read no further.

I called this part 1 because I could probably get several posts out of that one episode even though, for all intents and purposed, nothing happened.

A little back story, way back in the beginning of season one, Eleanor awakens on a couch in a waiting room.  She is invited into Michael’s office.  Michael explains to her that she has died and that she is now in the good place as a result of the good life that she lived on Earth.  As he shows her around, he explains to her that she has a soulmate, Chidi, and introduces them.

By the end of the first season, we learn that they are actually in The Bad Place, Michael is actually a demon, and the neighborhood was all designed to torment four specific human beings.  Across the course of the following 2 seasons, Michael changes sides and actually end up trying to help the humans get into the real Good Place.

That is about as concise a recap as I can give you of 3 ½ seasons of a show.  All of that is in the interest of setting up the context to a conversation between Michael and Chidi regarding soulmates.

Chidi: Can I ask you a question? Soul mates aren’t real, are they?

Michael: Chidi, in all honesty, I don’t know, but I don’t think so.  I knew what you expected to find when you got here; answers.  Also, if I recall from your file, a magic blackboard?

Chidi: One that anticipates your lesson flow.  That’s the dream.

Michael: But mostly you wanted answers.  The soul mate one, in particular.  So, I used it to torture you, which, again, sorry.  If soul mates do exist, they’re not found.  They’re made.  People meet, they get a good feeling, and then they get to work building a relationship, like your parents.  They didn’t magically stay together because you proved they should.

Chidi: It wasn’t my logic or my representation?  It was the feeling they got watching me, this scared little kid, telling them that he needed them.

Michael:  It was also what you made them remember.  You know, they loved each other.  Sometimes people forget.  You reminded them of what they already had.  It convinced them to go to counseling.

Chidi: I never knew they went to counseling.

Michael: Yeah, kids are idiots.  If they knew half the stuff their folks were up to, they’d lose their minds.  Turns out life isn’t a puzzle that can just be solved one time and it’s done.  You wake up every day and you solve it again.  Terribly inefficient.


Much as I hate to agree with a demon (even one who is now trying to save humankind), I think Michael has a good point here (maybe two points).  Soulmates aren’t found; “they’re made.  People meet, they get a good feeling, and then they get to work building a relationship.”  That is pretty spot on.  If you really want to be married to your soul mate, you work on building a relationship.

To my thinking, the keys to the whole thing are love and empathy.  When we are talking about love, we are not talking about a feeling.  Love is something you do.  In English, that one word, love, means a lot of different things.  In New Testament Greek, the word that usually gets translated love is agape.  This is an unconditional, self-sacrificing love for the benefit of the one being loved.  We humans never really quite get there, but that is the goal.

The other key for which I would make an appeal is empathy.  If you have read much of my stuff, you will have heard this before from me.  I maintain that for empathy to be effective, it requires 3 components.  1) I get what is like to be you.  2) I care what it is like to be you.  3) You experience #1 & #2 as being true.  The more you can see the world through your partner’s eyes, and the more you care about what that is like, the more you will want to act lovingly toward your mate.

When you get to a place where you both really understand and care about each other’s experience, and you choose to act lovingly, you are well on your way to being soulmates.  As you are reading this, if you are thinking, “yeah, my partner really needs to change his/her ways,” you are missing the point.  You can’t control your mate.  You can only control you.

When you took your wedding vows, you didn’t promise to demand that your partner love you unconditionally.  You promised to love your partner.  And when your friend who just missed the cut for the wedding party read from 1 Corinthians 13, the word that had been translated into “love” in English, was originally written as agape.

Michael’s other aside also is worth highlighting.  Regarding Chidi’s parents, Michael said, “You know, they loved each other.  Sometimes people forget.  You reminded them of what they already had.  It convinced them to go to counseling.”

In marital therapy, early on in the process, I want to know this couple’s courtship story and what originally brought them together.  What was it about your mate that made you say out of the other 3 billion men/women on this planet, you chose this one as someone to commit to for life?  My working assumption is that the initial attraction was real.  I want to know what that looked like before you lost touch with that.  Also, it may have been a while since you heard your partner talk about your positive qualities, so I accomplish making that happen.

If you want to be married to your soulmate, love the partner you have.  Understand and care about what it is like to be your partner.  Your mate really is a treasure.  You can be intentional about developing eyes to see it.  Look at your mate and really see him or her.  It is worth the effort.  Being married to your soulmate is an amazing experience.

Happy Thanksgiving.