In the thirteenth episode of Steven Universe Future, HELP ME, THIS WRECKED ME. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe.
Trigger Warning: For a brief segment towards the end about death/grief
A soulmate is a compliment, not a missing piece.
Lord, I wish I’d heard that a long time ago. There’s so much work done here in under eleven minutes to dismantle a lot of notions of what love is and what we are entitled to if we do happen to fall in love with someone. It’s so easy to internalize messages about marriage, partnership, proposals, and the like, to believe narratives as “normal” when sometimes, those same narratives can potentially be harmful. On a more interpersonal level, “Together Forever” also makes it clear that sometimes, a person (or people) can mean the absolute best and still give bad advice.
All of this is rooted in the existential crisis that Steven is still in the midst of. The show has been following his uncertainty in these thirteen episodes, and he still hasn’t figured out what he wants his future to be. In many ways, this is a deeply teenage experience, at least here in the US. Steven is of the age where we’re supposed to starting choosing what we want to be when we’re older. Which is a scam, for the record. It’s been almost twenty years since I left high school, and I can’t believe I was asked to plot out the rest of my life at that age. So yes, it makes complete sense to me that Steven is further upset when it seems like Connie knows exactly what she’s going to do.
Just because Connie has plans doesn’t mean she knows what she is doing, though. Steven kinda glossed over that Connie couldn’t make a decision about what to major or minor in because by comparison, he had figured out so much less of his future. Connie had defined interests, but does that mean her future is certain? No, it doesn’t. At the same time, I do understand Steven’s reactions here. He’s afraid. He’s anxious. And suddenly, he was presented with a solution that seemed perfect:
He could just be with Connie forever.
The title of this episode gave me pause when I saw it because I suspected there was a twist in the meaning, and LO AND BEHOLD, HERE WE ARE. Steven, after expressing his frustrations with Ruby, comes to the conclusion that Connie is his future, especially since he wants to be around her all the time and feels so comfortable as Stevonnie. And I get it! Especially after the events in “Bismuth Casual”! It makes so much sense that Steven would latch on to this as a solution because he’s ready to latch on to ANYTHING as a solution to his angst right now! I also believe that he loves Connie and perhaps is in love with Connie.
But is that reciprocated? I admit that I felt like the show didn’t make I clear if they were dating, though I’m not sure if these two needed that label. Obviously, they love and care about one another, and given what Connie says after the proposal, it’s not like the idea of being with Steven is terrible to her. I also wonder if that’s the point: Steven never bothered to check in with Connie to see if this was even on the table with her. Truthfully, I bet if he had? This wouldn’t have happened.
But it did. Steven got it in his head that proposing to Connie would provide him with purpose. When he asked Sapphire about it, I was expecting her to point out how unlikely this would be, but now I know that Sapphire and Ruby were biased. Why would they ever have discouraged Steven from proposing when that worked out so well for them? Well… their ages are different. Connie quite literally brings up this point later: Steven and Connie are so young! Do they really want to make a decision while sixteen that will last forever? That’s where I think the show is doing some interesting things to dismantle common narratives. In our heteronormative society here in the US, this is the expectation we place upon kids: that one day, they’ll meet their “soulmate” and will marry them and stay together forever.
Which is already deeply toxic even when you analyze that within the context of Steven Universe. Greg may have met his soulmate in Rose Quartz, but they didn’t stay together forever. What happens when you lose a parent?
What about divorce? Death? What about parents drifting apart? What happens if your soulmate changes, so much so that they don’t seem like a soulmate anymore?
I can’t even remotely claim that I am exempt from this, despite being queer. I believe I’ve written about my disinterest in marriage before, but if you’re new around here, a moment of your time, please! I grew up both knowing I was gay/queer and accepting that marriage would never be for me. It couldn’t be, by legal and societal definitions. So I accepted that it wouldn’t happen, and I’ve never seen it as a goal in my life. I’ve been interested in it when I’ve been in love, but it’s still never manifested within a romantic relationship of mine.
Yet that doesn’t mean I haven’t internalized messages about love like Steven did. Because I really thought I had a soulmate… TWICE. Twice! (In hindsight, I really should have examined that notion because… if it’s a soulmate, you can’t have two of them? At least by the heteronormative definition of that term that I grew up with.) Watching Steven do all this for Connie… Oh, I was so, so nervous. I was worried that even though she clearly thought highly of Steven and loved that song he sung (I DID, TOO, OH MY GOD), it wasn’t going to have the result that he wanted. Because what was obvious to me was that Steven was putting the entire weight of his future on someone else, and I had to learn the hard way that this is a terrible thing to do. I wish I had had someone like Garnet tell me what she told Steven:
Because someone you see as a soul mate should never feel like your missing piece.
That’s the mistake I made, and it’s the mistake Steven made. He wanted Connie to be someone else for him, and it isn’t fair. She may love being Stevonnie as much as him, but she needs a life separate from Steven! (Which is fascinating since this episode also showed us that Ruby and Sapphire learned this same lesson. They spend a LOT of time unfused, which explains why we haven’t seen Garnet as much.) Is it painful to think she’ll be halfway across the country? Yes. Does that mean she doesn’t love him or that they won’t eventually end up together? No. Not everything needs to be decided when you’re sixteen! (ME, TO ALL OF THIS DAMN COUNTRY.)
I feel for Steven. I really do. I’ve spent the last two years of my life having to reckon with thinking of someone as my soulmate. What happens when your soulmate disappoints you? What happens when they die? Since March of last year, I’ve been working with a therapist to deal with complicated grief because I convinced myself I was not a whole person without someone I loved. And that’s my journey: to accept I am a whole human, now and forever, and to make sure I never get to a place where I think someone else is a missing piece.
It’s not an easy journey. But I’m glad Steven has people helping him through it.
One last thing: that messed up cake joke at the end of the episode was one of the funniest things in this whole show. I CAN’T.
The video for “Together Forever” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
– My third novel (and middle grade debut) THE INSIDERS has been announced! Check out the cover reveal and pre-order links here.
– If you’d like to stay up-to-date on all announcements regarding my books, sign up for my newsletter! DO IT.