There tend to be two kinds of people in the world: those who believe that there’s one perfect partner out there for everyone, and those who think soulmates are a bunch of baloney. But no matter which camp people fall into, there’s one thing most of us have in common: Whether we believe soulmates exist or not, what we’re ultimately looking for is sustainable relationships.
So is it likely that there’s a soulmate out there for each of us? Here’s what experts have to say on the subject.
The Theory of Soulmates
If you’re a believer in metaphysical energies, souls and the like, you’re probably aware of the general concept of soulmates. Historically, the theory stems from an ancient Greek belief that men and women were once a complete entity. This entity was split in half, resulting in one female and one male being brought to earth, constantly feeling incomplete until they’re reunited once again.
Other theories abound too. Some people claim that soulmates are simply people whose energies align with one another on a deep, spiritual level. According to this camp, soulmates can be romantic or platonic, and there are probably many of them out there.
In his book, The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle states that, being male and female, we are indeed two halves of a necessary whole, which is why we seek union with a mate. But, he also explains that we have the same connection to our mates that we have to random strangers on the bus…it’s just that our mates are more compatible with us, and therefore reflect love back to us at a higher intensity than anyone else.
Of course, many of these traditional soulmate theories completely ignore romantic love between people of the same sex, polyamorous relationships, and basically anything other than heteronormative romance.
What Science Says
Now, let’s leave the metaphysical realm for a second to talk about science. Mathematically, if you’re looking for one person out of all the beings on the planet, it’s highly unlikely that you and your soulmate will ever cross paths at all.
“Let’s suppose you lock eyes with an average of a few dozen new strangers each day,” writes author Randall Monroe in his book What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. “If 10 percent of them are close to your age, that’s around 50,000 people in a lifetime. Given that you have 500,000,000 potential soul mates, it means you’ll only find true love in one lifetime out of 10,000.”
But of course, for the romantics out there who tend to believe in soulmates, odds aren’t exactly the point. And besides, those of us who know a thing or two about metaphysical concepts like these are familiar with the theory that we choose where and to whom we’ll be born. Who’s to say that, prior to our current lives, we didn’t select a location near our soulmate, or put ourselves in a position in which we might run into them someday?
What Psychology Says
On the other end of the spectrum from improbable metaphysical concepts or potentially irrelevant mathematically calculations lies one field of study that may actually hold some real bearing in the soulmate situation: psychology. Psychology offers a window into what does and doesn’t make people happy, and how deeply loving couples often stay together. So what does psychology have to say about soulmates?
“While I do not believe there is such a thing as ‘finding your perfectly matched soul mate,’ I’ve seen plenty of evidence that we can become each other’s soul mates as the result of a deep and lasting love relationship,” writes Shauna H. Springer, PhD, for Psychology Today.
When two people with strong emotional and physical chemistry meet, they tend to hold one of two beliefs: Either they decide that they’re destined for each other, or they begin to suspect that, if they work really hard at making the other person happy, they could’ve struck relationship gold.
And there are very different outcomes between the two camps.
People who consider themselves soulmates tend to be much more likely to break up, or suffer through emotionally turbulent relationships that end up being toxic, according to a paper by researcher C. Raymond Knee. These individuals tend to view relationship trouble as a sign that their partner isn’t “the One.” Therefore, they usually end up breaking it off so they can get back out there and look for the perfect soulmate.
Meanwhile, those who Knee defines as “Growth Believers” are less quick to jump to judgement. They will probably take relationship problems in stride and, rather than considering them red flags, consider how they might be a better partner and avoid similar situations in the future.
Over time, this mentality makes for much healthier relationships.
“…ultimately, it isn’t the couples who had the most movie-worthy courtships that have long, happy unions,” Springer says. “It’s the couples who consistently try to see each other’s viewpoints, responsively listen to each other and maintain a mutual respect that are going to last.”
So, is there really one perfect partner out there for everyone? No one knows for sure, but you’re probably better off believing not.