In my opinion, “soulmate” is more of a concept...and one not everyone believes in (me, for instance!).
First of all, let's see how the world's best dictionarians and dictionaries define the word:
Merriam Webster: 1 : a person who is perfectly suited to another in temperament 2 : a person who strongly resembles another in attitudes or beliefs
American Standard Dictionary: "One of two persons compatible with each other in disposition, point of view, or sensitivity."
Collins English Dictionary: "A person for whom one has a deep affinity, especially a lover, wife, husband, etc.
Princeton University: "Someone for whom you have a deep affinity"
Oxford Pocket Dictionary: "A person ideally suited to another as a close friend or romantic partner."
In reading these definitions, two things about "soulmates" as a CONCEPT pop out at me: 1.) compatibility (in temperament, beliefs, and disposition), and 2.) deep love/affection. But look closely: the one thing that does NOT appear in ANY definition is a concept of a soulmate being "the one and only". Thus, we can logically conclude that the definition of "soulmate" could also apply to the relationship between parent and child, close personal friends, siblings....and W's with GOWs/WOWs.
As a concept, it would appear that "soulmates" falls within a timeframe: Perhaps LW WAS your W's soulmate AT THE TIME of their partnering. However, TODAY - the "here and now" present - YOU are his soulmate. Different times, same concept.
Another thought: Many people attach some kind of ethereal, religious, or "other world" concept to the word "soulmates", i.e., some kind of Higher Power selected LW and W and, because of this, they are destined to be inextricably linked forever and for all eternity.
OK...let's break this down:
I think the concept of "soulmates" differs from religion to religion. As a Christian, I DO believe that God has a plan for all our lives, and yes, I believe He DOES select our lifemates based on what He thinks is in our best interest AT THE TIME, and...based on our oh-so-human choice. I believe all marriages are ordained by God, but not all marriages are made in Heaven. Thus, yesterday's "soulmate" CAN become today's ex-husband! Inextricably linked forever and for all eternity? I think....not. The Bible itself is VERY clear about how God feels about widows/widowers remarrying (He's OK with it! ) In fact, we get a glimpse of this in the wedding vows when we hear a couple utter, "...’til DEATH do us part"...meaning that God thinks of death as a complete separation of soulmates, thus freeing the surviving spouse to find ANOTHER soulmate for the remainder of his earthly days.
In conclusion, I believe the word "soulmate" as it is bantered about today is NOT how the concept was originally meant to be defined and designed. In the aforementioned definitions, there is too much "wiggle room" inasmuch as the word is defined as a noun and not as a concept. As well, the definitions seem to apply prima facie (or "as is") to many other kinds of couples other than that of husband and wife.
If I were a dictionarian, my definition would read something like this:
"Soulmate: A concept in which a partner in couple's earthly life is compatible with the other partner and with whom each shares a deep affinity until such time as the couple is separated by death; after which the surviving partner is free to connect with a new partner until separation by death; thus, perpetuating the concept throughout one's earthly lifetime."
In Judith Sills' book A Fine Romance, she talks about the relationship traps and circle of blame that people can get caught up in what she calls "The Right Person Theory." This totally underscores what I have said about the misleading folklore that there is only one soul mate. Judith says that "Mr./Ms. Right is a myth of our culture and contrary to popular belief, romance can develop with a lot more “someones” than we allow ourselves to believe. Love is not an event – it’s a creation. Love isn't something we find – it’s something we develop." Judith Sill's bottom line is: "There is no one right person - only our ability to give and receive love."
Having read my lengthy dissertation, I'm sure you feel better about the word "soulmate" in that it does NOT mean "the one and only". Still, there will be people who don't "get it" and will fall into the majority of society's ignorance and confusion about the word. The only thing you can do is remember what you have learned here today - and smile at those ignorant lemmings following society's altered twist of the concept. Feel sorry for them and their desire to romanticize a word that just doesn't track, neither logically nor intellectually. Smile...because although LW was his soulmate THEN...YOU are his soulmate now.