Do you believe in soulmates?

If so, you’re not alone. According to a Marist poll:

  • 73% of Americans believe in soulmates.
  • More men than women believe that they are destined to find their one, true soulmate (males: 74%, females: 71%).
  • 79% of people younger than 45 believe in soulmates, while only 69% of those over 45 do.

I was pretty surprised to see how many people believe in soulmates. And then I got to wondering–does this help or hurt us?

Does your relationship have a destiny?

The Science of Soulmates

I wish I had science to tell you if soulmates are in fact real, but instead I found a set of amazing research looking at whether the belief in soulmates helps or hurts us. It all boils down to how you answer this question:

Do you believe there is one person who is meant just for you?

Researcher Raymond Knee and colleagues wanted to know if there was a difference in how people answered this question. He found that people have either:

  • Destiny Beliefs: I am destined to be with a specific person. I have a soulmate. I have one person who is meant for me.
  • Growth Beliefs: Relationships progress slowly and we grow to fit together. Relationships take effort. You can build love.

Which camp do you fall in? This is no small question. Your answer to that question greatly dictates the success or failure of your relationship. Specifically, here’s the big news:

People who believe in soulmates are more likely to break up, give up and have difficult relationships.

People who believe in soulmates are using their mental energy to assess the person they are with. In other words, they are constantly asking themselves:

  • Is this my person?
  • Can I do better?
  • Is this the best I can do?
  • Is this it?

Whereas, people with growth beliefs are asking themselves very different internal questions:

  • Are we a good fit?
  • How can I be a better partner?
  • How can we get closer?
  • What can I do to make this better?

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The Soulmate Trap:

If you believe that there is only one person for you, you are more likely to spend energy and time looking for that person instead of cultivating existing relationships.

Destiny Believers have passionate, intense, fire-y short-term relationships, but often times become disillusioned and frustrated when something inevitably goes wrong. 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.”

Growth Believers take a bit longer to commit. Even early in the relationship they are more motivated to find solutions, compromise or explore new ideas. They often view compromising as growth. When something negative happens in the relationship they think, “Better work this out.”

implicit_theories_growth_destiny

From Knee et al. (2001)

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The Soulmate Solution:

Looking for your soulmate decreases the motivation to make relationships work. This doesn’t mean settling, it means being open to growth and adaptability. Here are a few ideas for you to think about:

Step One: Patterns

In the past, have you been overcome by deal breakers? Do you flee the moment you hit a bump in the road? Are you dating the same person over and over again? I want you to examine your relationship patterns and connect this to your idea about soulmates. If you are a destiny believer, see if this belief has served you in the past. If you are a growth believer, examine whether your history can be learned from.

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Step Two: Changeable or Unchangeable

Not all bumps in relationships are minor. Of course, we have deal breakers that are there for a reason. But there is a distinction between a fundamental value difference and an annoyance. Think about current or past bumps and deal breakers. Were they fixable? Compromise-able? Changeable?

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Step Three: Adaptation is Advancement

Flexibility, growth and compromise are signs of strength NOT weakness. We tend to believe that adapting our refitting our ideas to someone else’s is a sign of weakness. The truth is:

The strongest people are sure enough in their own values and beliefs that compromise becomes a gift.

When you love someone, you grow for them, you grow with them, you change together.

I personally don’t believe there are ‘perfect’ people, people without flaws or people without areas for improvement. We can all be better. Let’s help the people we love get better with us. I think a true ‘soulmate’ is someone who challenges you to be better and you do the same for them.

About Science of People

Our mission is to help you achieve your social and professional goals faster using science backed, practical advice. Our team curates the best communication, relationship and social skills research; turning into actionable and relatable life skills. Science of People was founded by Vanessa Van Edwards, bestselling author of Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People. As a recovering awkward person, Vanessa helps millions find their inner charisma.

16 replies on “Are Soulmates Real? Here’s the Science”

  1. Rebecca

    Great article. I agree that a growth mindset is most important for healthy relationships. I think its normal for most people, at least some point in their life, want to believe in soulmates because it gives them something to look forward to in life to think that there is one person out there for them who truly understands them like no one else and will make their lives feel euphoric. And sometimes people do find strong “soulmate” like connections that give them more reason to believe it.

    To me that doesn’t necessarily mean the person you have a strong connection with is a soulmate but instead, just a person who has probably had similar experiences and problems as you so are good mirrors for you to see yourself through and feel accepted/aligned with your mission. There are plenty of matches like that out there for individuals though, but they are just harder to come by in our short lives which is why people like the concept of soulmates. I think the danger of these connections though, is that they are sometimes only good temporarily to show someone where to grow and can be toxic to linger on to if you are no longer helping each other grow but because of the strong emotions the partners refuse to let go.

    That’s why a growth mindset will help people stay clear of this trouble and choose wisely about who they enter a relationship with. And growth minded people usually find deep intimate healthy relationships anyway since they are less afraid to be vulnerable, keep putting themselves out there as authentically and honestly as possible attracting the right people in their lives, have strong boundaries and know what they want which keeps out people not good for them, are complete and happy individuals on their own so not looking for a half, and are excellent honest communicators which builds the trust, understanding, and intimacy most people desire in their relationships.

  2. Nena

    I truly believe in Soulmate. 2 bodies became one- mentally, spiritually. It’s a sacred union. You can’t breathe without the other. Faith and honestly would survived its challenges. 1st Corinthians 13 about Love will define a soulmate as a guide .

  3. abby sanderson

    The concept of soul mates is interesting topic and one that would rage on for years to come. But I however am not sure I believe in it. As Vanessa has already stated people who are soul mates or who believe that there are soul are under the impression that is one person for them.

    I like to add something further that was told to me a few years ago and it is mostly based on faith. We all have souls or rather we believed we have souls, though science has yet to prove we do not we believe that we do. The concept of a soul mate also ties in with that belief. People who believe that there are soul mates also believe that although we get one life on this plane of existence when we die we would be re-born man or woman it makes no difference. All that matters in the next life there would be drawn to their soul mates and cycle would be again when they die, over and over again to the end of time.

    For me this plays into the concept that you only destined to have one great love. If that is the case it would explain why people cheat on their spouse and why they are so many divorces. This is because on a soul level they are trying to find their soul mates.

    For the me person I hate that idea because it implies

    1) If one does not find their soul mates it means that there will never be happy with whatever partner they choose and they would cheat on them and I cannot accept that.

    I believe in love but not in soul mates.

  4. Howard Luder

    As an afterthought “you can have a different opinion about many topics, just as long as you share the same values… Maybe its interesting to this about what are the key questions to unlock to what extent you share the same values, or not..? i.e. Maybe you share the value about being faithful, but I am always surprised to see that many couples often have different levels…

    Here are a few questions that I thought of:

    “what is the most stupid rule that your parents asked you to obey..?”

    “Assuming that I caused a traffic accident with bad injuries to others and drove off, would you report me..?”

    “If I had tried heroin or cocaine, would you really need to know about it..?

    “If you were to tell me your darkest secrets including that darkest one, would I like you more or less..?

    “Do you think having had an affair that would never ever be discovered, would that be cheating..?”

    “Would you walk naked around the block, if you were to receive 5 years extra to live..?”

  5. Howard Luder

    What a great subject…nice choice Vanessa..! I think if I look at myself I consider myself a “destiny” person and do believe in soul partner(s)… However… as we live longer than in the past, we adjust to what we may look for in a partner..I think the biggest danger is to rely too much on placing any future happiness on the premise that one has to meet to someone to achieve this… The same with the destiny question… Sure, you can put your trust in the universe and rely that the right destiny might happen, but one can also play an active part in making this happening. Often its when we are busy following our paths, that we meet people that are walking in the same direction…!

    1. Danielle McRae

      Very insightful comment, Howard. Thank you for sharing with us.

      Danielle | Science of People Team

  6. Alex

    This is such an important topic. My wife believes we are soulmates and I like to take a more practical approach. But I’ve always talked about values with her even before we were dating. Thank you for posting this, it’s good insight into relationship building, not relationship finding.

  7. Richard

    Soulmates are hard to find these days,so what counts is the belief in destiny that is Independent and relates to the selfsufficiency of the human ego.If we want to have a soumate we must temper and partly give up our ego.

  8. Ian B

    I, too, am a believer in soulmateS – we need to discern which journey it is we most need to take. It is my belief that I married my soulmate. That also leads me to believe she is meant to teach me what I need to learn – even if, and especially if, it is difficult, or next to impossible. That is what makes her my soulmate of over 33 years!

    1. Danielle McRae

      33 years?! Congratulations, Ian! Teaching each other what you need to learn is an inspiring goal for all relationships. Thank you for sharing with us 🙂

      Danielle | Science of People Team

      1. stacjam

        Hello I used to believe in soul mates and a long time ago I thought I had met mine we talked for hours my heart ached when we were apart intimacy was
        awesome ..but then he would turn into Jeckyl and hide and it got worse and I found out he lied to me from the beginning about many things he also had a chemical imbalance so I moved on and met my now husband of 22 yrs however in the beginning if he tried to tell me even a little fib I knew itright away having been duped b4 but as time went by I began to trust completely and 6 kids later I found out he had been cheating on me off and on for 16 yrs. And my world was crushed shook me to the core. I am trying to forgive becuz even tho these things happened I was so shocked cuz I knew he loved me like crazy but we had a rough beginning lacking the ability to communicate also we had children when we met so never had time it seemed to talk but I still thought he’d never hurt me like that..I feel theres something wrong with him he always lacked empathy so im the person that has to know why and anyway I dont believe in soulmates anymore. I believe in building and forgiving the person your with if u truly love them and they do u then thats how you figure out if she or he is worth your forgiveness and what you’ve built together can be salvaged it def test your whole being .but if u can forgive each other and be better lovers friends partners then thats the destiny you make ! Nothing preordained or why have life insurance. That’s fantasy

  9. Nikki Thornton

    Im a believer in destiny and i believe in soulmates….plural! I have not found my soulmate yet but i look on that as a positive as there could still be many out there for that serendipidous moment! Fabulous article super awesome!

  10. Alexa Beyer

    I absolutely loved this, Vanessa! Excellent job on air, too. I love those hosts every time I see them and they really seem to like you…

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