Even 73% of Americans believe in soulmates.
We have been conditioned by media that there is one perfect person for us out there, who is sent by the universe or the god or whoever just for us.
But is it really the way our relationships and love in general work? Is there really a perfect person for us, waiting for the moment when we will meet, or is it just a social construct, like so many other things we were raised to believe in?
Let’s start by going way back to when the concept of soulmates was born first.
A brief history of soulmates
The concept of soulmates has been around for thousands of years; the very first mention was recorded in Ancient Greece. According to Greek mythology, humans once were very powerful and great, and they all had four legs, four arms, and a head with two faces.
Greek goods felt threatened by the humans, and they wanted to destroy them before they could take their place as Gods, but Zeus offered a better alternative — to punish the humans for their might and pride by splitting them in two, letting them live in the misery of missing their other half.
So, Gods did just that and split the humans in two, leaving them with one set of arms and legs and one face, feeling forever unfulfilled, longing for that other missing half that would make them feel complete.
While the concept of a soulmate has its roots in Greek mythology, ancient greeks themselves didn’t really believe in soulmates and didn’t practice it in their love lives.
Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness, authors of The Passion Paradox, write, “ancient greeks, who viewed love as a practice of continually learning about and growing closer together to one’s partner — more a process of cultivation than an instant attraction.”
And this was true for many centuries in various cultures around the world. “Instead of being preoccupied with searching for the perfect match, for centuries, people worked to develop intimate bonds over time,” they explain in their book.
It wasn’t until the 19th century, when the Romanticism era came, giving more weight to one’s emotional feelings rather than cognitive thinking, that people started embracing the concept of soulmates.
Since then, romanticism has gone mainstream and infiltrated our lives, our minds, and media, painting the picture that the most important thing in one’s life is to find that one perfect person for you, or you’ll never feel full-filled.
The negative effects of believing in soulmates
While at the first look, you might think that there is no harm in being romantic and believing in that one perfect person for you. So what if you’re looking for the right person and don’t want to settle for less, right?
Well, it turns out that there might be more negatives than positives in believing in the concept of soulmates and the destiny of love:
1. Leaving when the first issue arises.
When you first enter or start a new relationship, everything feels exciting, and the love you feel for your partner can be intoxicating. You’re full of passion and have great sex, and it feels like the person just perfect for you.
But sooner or later, that phase ends (and it always ends, unless both partners put in a lot of hard work), and then the first obstacles in the relationship start. This is when people who believe in soulmates tend to run into issues.
Instead of staying and solving an issue in a relationship, people tend to leave. As Brad and Steve explain, “Researchers have found that those who subscribe to a destiny belief system of love are more likely to end relationships when the first hint of conflict occurs; in essence, they decide This person must not be the one and move on in search of someone who is the one.”
This is harmful because then the person is stuck in the never-ending circle of looking for the perfect partner, always being in the trenches of the dating world, hopping from one relationship into the next one.
2. More difficult relationships.
People who believe in soulmates also tend to have more difficult relationships overall. When you’re looking for the perfect partner, who knows you and understands you perfectly without much effort, you’re setting very high expectations and pressure on the relationship.
Dr. Jess explains, “If you’re looking for your partner to fulfill your every need, it can become toxic and set you up for inevitable letdown when your expectations aren’t met.” It’s not healthy to expect your partner to be perfect right off the bat.
Also, people who believe in soulmates tend to focus on the wrong things in relationships, making it difficult for the relationship to grow and mature between two partners.
Behavioral investigator and author Vanessa Van Edwards says, “They believe in ‘deal-breakers and are constantly looking for the ‘perfect’ person. They often view compromise as settling. When something negative happens in the relationship, they think, “Better move on and find my person.”
People who don’t subscribe to the idea of soulmates tend to focus on things like being a better partner, growing to love each other, even when passion ends, how they can get closer to their partner and improve their communication.
3. Jumping into impetuous marriages.
That intoxicating feeling we experience early on in a relationship when you can’t seem to keep your hands to yourself or leave your partner alone can also lead to poor decision-making when people believe in soulmates.
Shauna H. Springer Ph.D. calls this the “cocaine rush” phase of love. She explains, “We are all susceptible to some degree of love blindness when we first meet an exciting new partner. In the early days of relationships, when we have little information about the other person, we are particularly prone to what researchers refer to as obsessive identification. In other words, we see what we want to see.”
Now, when this happens, people can rush into marriage because they believe that it’s meant to be. Springer explains, “a person who becomes convinced that they have found their soul mate is effectively telling themself, “It does not get better than this.” For this reason, those who believe that they have found the “One” or their “Soul Mate” are likely to be at greater risk for marrying prematurely after a relatively short courtship.”
Jumping into a marriage too soon or too quickly, without seeing the person you’re marrying for who they truly are (after the initial rose-colored glasses are off), can lead to an unhappy marriage and life in general.
Instead of finding a soulmate, become one
The hope for love is not lost, though. While technically, you can’t find a soulmate and there is no one perfect person created just for you, it’s possible to become soulmates with your partner.
That is, of course, if you both are willing to put in the work.
Dr. Jess describes her relationship with her partner as such, “I think I found someone incredible — he’s kind, compassionate, thoughtful, hilarious, and always willing to work on our relationship — and we’ve become soulmates. We didn’t find one another as soulmates. We became soulmates. And over the years, it has entailed effort, openness, vulnerability, and more.”
Here is how you can become a soulmate with your partner:
1. Accept the fact you both are ever-changing people.
People change with years, for the better or for, the worse. That is why hearing things like “we grew apart” after long years in marriage are very common.
My best friend, who has been with her current husband for over five years has admitted, that even in such an amount of time, she had changed so much that if she would meet her husband right now, she wouldn’t even look in his direction.
Springer explains, “the wide use of this explanation for the dissolution of marriage demonstrates that the soul mate notion overlooks a critical truth — that we are not static but are instead in a continual process of growth and change.”
Now, changing though is not a bad thing and, in fact, could be good for your relationship and keeping it alive and passionate for years to come. However, it’s important to realize that this is the nature of human beings, so we need to learn to change together with our partners.
2. Invest in your relationship.
Relationships and sex is hard work, just like learning a new skill or climbing your career ladder. Yet, people refuse to spend the attention and time needed on their relationship, thinking that it should flow naturally or it’s not worth their time.
Compatibility is one of the most important aspects of a successful relationship, and working on improving it is one way to invest in a relationship. And yes, it’s possible to work on being compatible, just like it’s possible to work on becoming soulmates.
Compatibility is much more than being the same. In fact, it has nothing to do with it at all. Dr. Jess explains, “when I think of compatibility, it’s not about sameness. You don’t have to want all of the same things, but you do need some cross-over. But compatibility, to me, is about being willing to put in a similar amount of effort to make the relationship work — to find common ground for fulfillment.”
Investing in a relationship can mean a lot of different things for people, from getting to know each other, working on compatibility, mutual respect, and learning to listen to your partner better. Whatever it might look like, investing in your relationship is going to pay off.
As Springer explains, “[marriage] is not a passive process — marriages don’t get better as a function of time alone, rather they get better as a function of two partners continuing to treat each other with love and respect, despite the challenges which life brings.”