science of soulmates

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?

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Do you believe in soulmates?

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?

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)

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.

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?

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 Vanessa Van Edwards

Vanessa Van Edwards is a national best selling author & founder at Science of People. Her groundbreaking book, Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People has been translated into more than 16 languages. As a recovering awkward person, Vanessa helps millions find their inner charisma. She regularly leads innovative corporate workshops and helps thousands of individual professionals in her online program People School. Vanessa works with entrepreneurs, growing businesses, and trillion dollar companies; and has been featured on CNN, BBC, CBS, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur Magazine, USA Today, the Today Show and many more.

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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..?”

  3. 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…!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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

  7. 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!

  8. 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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