Have you ever wondered if there’s a person out there whom you’re supposed to be with? A person who, within moments of meeting them, you’d just know that you were meant to spend your life with them? A person who was tailor-made for you, and you for them?
That’s what movies like The Notebook, Titanic, Romeo + Juliet, and Serendipity tell us. The idea of having a soulmate is a popular one; it’s a dramatic, romantic, whimsical notion that there is one single person out there who will complete us like a missing puzzle piece capturing our innate desires for meaning, purpose, and perfection.
This is hardly a newfangled idea. Plato’s Symposium quotes Aristophanes, an ancient Greek playwright, as saying that humans were originally created with two faces, four legs, and four arms. Fearing how powerful they would become, Zeus split them in two, making for an “other half” they would eventually reunite with: “And when one of them meets with his other half, the actual half of himself…the pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and one will not be out of the other’s sight, as I may say, even for a moment.”
This is certainly an intriguing idea for a fantasy book series, but are soulmates actually real? Is there really someone out there that we’re meant to be with?
The Short Answer Is No
Hopeless romantics will swear up and down that their boyfriend/husband was made for them – that they knew from the moment they laid eyes on each other that this was their “person” for life, and they’ve never looked back since. In fact, 73% of people in one poll stated that they believe in soulmates.
73% of people in one poll stated that they believe in soulmates.
While we should be all-in when it comes to our choice of a husband, the reality is that there is no one perfect match for everyone alive, as much as we feel like our husband truly is perfect for us. The idea of soulmates is regularly shown to be both false and unhealthy by researchers.
Believing in Soulmates Leads to Unhealthy Relationships and Patterns
While the notion of having an “other half” is enough to make us swoon (and will certainly get us to root for two star-crossed lovers in a movie), believing in soulmates will actually negatively affect our relationships.
First, it causes us to place too much pressure on our boyfriend or husband to be faultless; a soulmate isn’t supposed to ever hurt us. They’re supposed to know exactly what we’re feeling and thinking at any given moment. They’re supposed to communicate with us perfectly. We’re not ever supposed to get into fights or disagreements.
These unfair, unrealistic expectations might end up making us call it quits on a relationship that actually had potential, all because we were expecting the “right” relationship to always be easy.
Another issue with believing in soulmates is that it can lead us to stay in unhealthy, toxic, immature relationships and ignore red flags that are obvious to everyone else because we can’t let go of the idea that we’re meant to be together. So we whiteknuckle it through a relationship that we should’ve walked away from a long time ago.
Love Is Something We Feel, but It’s Also Something We Choose
Believing in soulmates leads us to think of love as something we never won’t feel – an overwhelming, starry-eyed, excited feeling that will never disappear or dissipate. Typically, we feel this way about our boyfriend when we’re still in the honeymoon phase, and in our mind, he can do no wrong. These feelings are caused by a hormone called oxytocin, what’s known as the “love drug,” which speaks more to our biological desire to find a mate to settle down and have a family with than it does to this man being our one true love.
Love is an act of free will rather than a predetermined destiny that we have no control over.
Ultimately, one of the biggest problems with believing there’s a soulmate out there for us is that it strips us of the opportunity to experience what love really is: a choice. While it’s far more idealistic and romantic to think of love as something we should always feel strongly, after years of being with the same person (who is imperfect, will annoy us, and sometimes leave us feeling misunderstood), the truth is that our love for someone is a choice we will continue to make every day. It’s an act of free will rather than a predetermined destiny that we have no control over. This is what makes love – the committed kind that endures, matures, and grows for years – so powerful.
French writer Victor Hugo expressed this notion of choosing to love someone who’s imperfect this way: “The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.”
No, soulmates aren’t real. But love is. The person we choose to love and spend our life with won’t always feel like a soulmate in the sense that we think. Things won’t always feel simple, exciting, effortless, or passionate. In fact, there were most likely a few people we could’ve chosen to spend our life with. That’s exactly what makes our choice to love a single person, faults and all, so much more romantic than if it hadn’t been a choice at all.
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