Let's Get To The Bottom Of This: Are Soulmates Actually Real?

The concept of having a soulmate has been floating around since practically forever. The idea behind it is simple: There’s one person out there who is destined to be your other half.

Of course, this is a little controversial. While some people are all in with the idea of having a soulmate, others think it’s total B.S. Still others are in the middle, with the belief that you can have several soulmates during your lifetime.

Before we get into whether soulmates are real or not, it’s important to hammer out what, exactly, they are.

What is a soulmate, really?

The definition kind of depends on who you’re talking to. “The actual meaning of the notion of ‘soulmates’ varies from person to person,” says Joseph Cilona, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist in Manhattan.

Still, he says, it’s fair to say that the most common belief around the term is that there is only one person in the world that is your soulmate, that that person is the perfect match for each of us, and that you must find that person to be happy in love and marriage.

“Furthermore, the thought is that if we do find them, the relationship will be perfect and blissful,” Cilona says. “If we don’t, any other relationship will never be as good.”

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Other people define soulmates by what they do. A soulmate is “a person who appears in your life in order to teach you an important lesson,” says clinical psychologist Suzana E. Flores, author of Facehooked: How Facebook Affects Our Emotions, Relationships, and Lives.

“They can shake up your soul by providing experiences that change the way you perceive yourself and the world,” Flores explains. “Soulmates challenge you to transcend into a higher state of consciousness.”

Interesting, so why is the idea of soulmates controversial?

Here’s the thing: The concept of a soulmate is really romantic—provided you’re with someone you love and feel really, really good with. But experts have some issues with thinking your S.O. is your soulmate for a slew of reasons.

For starters, the concept implies that you’re not whole without someone else, and that’s pretty messed up, says relationship psychologist Karin Anderson Abrell, PhD.

“If you’re stuck on the notion of soulmates, you could feel this void throughout your single years,” she says. “Feeling like you need someone to complete you is a horrible way to approach dating and relationships because it comes from a place of need.”

Then there’s the fact that being in a relationship with someone, even when you’re an amazing match, can never be a totally flawless experience. The concept of soulmates can delude us into believing that once you find your person, everything will be perfect and easy—and that’s not real life.

“I feel strongly that the entire notion ofsoulmates is totally toxic, completely false, and that the expectations and beliefs that it fosters can very often sabotage relationships and undermine for many the quest for healthy romantic love,” says Cilona. (A little harsh, maybe, but definitely not wrong.)

Doing the math on this also doesn’t work out here. If there’s only one person out there for you somewhere in the world, the odds that you’ll actually find them are pretty crappy. Not only that, you’re pretty likely to click with plenty of different people.

“The reality is there are almost 8 billion people in the world now, and many of them can be well-suited to be in a healthy, fulfilling, satisfying, romantic relationship with each other,” Cilona says.

While people often talk about the importance of things like values, common interests, attractiveness, education level, and cultural background, “the single-most important indicator of the likelihood of two people coming together is simply geographic proximity,” Cilona says.

Not exactly romantic, but it makes sense: “People who are near each other and come into more frequent contact with each other are much more likely to get to know each other and develop feelings of attraction and romantic love,” he continues.

And finally, what if something happens to your soulmate? What if you get divorced from someone you thought was your soulmate or, worst-case scenario, they die? Are you supposed to just take yourself out of the relationship pool for life? That seems kind of…sucky, to say the least.

What’s a healthier way to think of soulmates?

How about this: A soulmate doesn’t have to be limited to a significant other.

“Soulmates don’t necessarily have to be reserved for romance,” says Abrell. Think of Meredith and Cristina on Grey’s Anatomy. Or Monica, Rachel, and Phoebe on Friends. Or Sex and the City‘s Carrie Bradshaw and her girls. Sometimes you have a BFF who just gets you like no one else—and that’s magical on its own.

“Soulmates don’t necessarily have to be reserved for romance.”

With this broader definition, you can feel more fulfilled in life by the high-vibration connections you have with multiple people. And there’s less pressure to make things perfect that way.

So I should let go of the idea that romantic soulmates are real?

If you’re single and doing the whole dating thing, you don’t want the fairytale idea of love to blind you from potential partners just because they may not seem like the soulmate match you’ve envisioned. Being a hopeless romantic can definitely ding you in that department.

But if you swear you’ve found your soulmate in life and you feel like an otherwise happy and fulfilled person, there’s no harm in thinking the concept is legit, Abrell says. Just keep in mind that, on a romantic level, it’s really not something that science can prove or that most relationship experts even support (if, ya know, that matters to you).

You also need to remember that “soulmate” or not, relationships take work. Cilona stresses the importance of clear and effective communication, mutual trust that develops when each person’s words match their behavior over time, mutual respect, and mutual caring. (Clearly, lots of mutual stuff here.)

It’s also crucial to have a life partner who doesn’t want to change you, Flores says. Sure, some things about your S.O. might annoy you, and vice versa, but accepting your person as a whole is what makes a good relationship a great one. Being comfortable spending time apart and doing your own thing also helps couples go the distance, Flores says.

Bottom line: It doesn’t really matter if soulmates are real—as long as you are realistic about love and what it takes to nurture it.

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