You can certainly see the appeal of a soul mate. Somewhere, someone is out there that is destined to be with you. Someone who will make your happier and more satisfied than anyone else in the world. With our lives full of stress and heartache, this beacon of hope can make us strive forward in relationship after relationship, seeking that one and only true love. Movies and TV shows perpetuate this idea, showing us happy couple after happy couple that have overcome all obstacles to be together. But soul mates are often discussed in the relationship research as a myth – an idea that holds no truth in the empirical data we see. Yet the idea continues to remain for many of us. Should it? Are soul mates even worth search for? Simply put, probably not. But the answer why may give you some insights into how to improve your existing or future relationships.
1. Searching for soul mates make us think the grass is always greener
Finding a soul mate puts a lot of pressure on you. Even if you think there are 5, 10, or even 50 "soul-mates" out there, there are billions of people in the world and millions of dating partners. What if you get it wrong? If we hold to the notion of soul mates, when we get into a relationship and experience the inevitable challenges of those relationships, we sometimes start to wonder: "did I make the wrong choice?" We may even begin to notice other potential partners around us that may appear on the surface to be better options or potential soul mates. We call this type of behavior alternative seeking and it strikes at the core commitment between two people. As soon as we wonder if others may actually be our soul mate instead of our current partners, we will invest less effort into our relationship and it may undermine the stability of the relationship itself.
2. Searching for soul mates makes us miss what's right in front of us
In a similar way, looking for a soul mate often makes us ignore the positive element of our partner. People who are searching for a soul mate often focuses a lot of their attention on their partner's negative traits, after all, soulmates aren't supposed to have things we don't like. Focusing on these negatives might lead to the alternative seeking mentioned above but it can also make use miss all the positive elements of our partner. Every person has faults and makes mistakes but healthy relationship partners realize this and celebrate the positive aspects of their partner. They cherish the good times and look up to their partners for all the strengths they bring into the relationship. Those that seek soul mates often miss out on this positive and reinforcing element of relationships.
3. Searching for soul mates makes us forget about ourselves
One of the keys of any healthy relationship is that it involves two people who realize they are flawed themselves. They want to be better people for their partners. Those that seek soul mates often forget to work on improving themselves as relationship partners. Soul mates are meant to be perfect right? So why should I have to work on myself, I just need to find the person that fits with me perfectly? Unfortunately it is this type of thinking that get in the way of many relationships that includes one or two partners who fixate on soul mates. Their partners often sense that they are not willing to change themselves, instead expecting the other person to make any and all changes. This breeds resentment and negative feelings.
While the idea of soul mates seems romantic, the reality is that such a belief often gets in the way of healthy relationship formation and commitment. If you've found yourself waiting for Mr. or Mrs. Right to fall into your lap or have found that these types of beliefs may have had a negative effect on your current relationship, consider reevaluating the value of believing in soul mates. You may find that true soul mates are created by two partners who grow and build a life together, not two people that accidentally meet because of destiny.
This article was originally published on Relate Institute. It has been republished here with permission.
The Relate Institute is a not-for-profit organization that revolves around the aim of distributing the Relate Assessment - the most comprehensive premarital/marital assessment available - to as many couples and individuals as we can reach. We believe that all may benefit from assessing personal strengths and weaknesses as relationship partners, and work to help make relationship success a reality.