Science Answers the Question: Are Soul Mates Real?
By: Rosie Valentine |
Do you believe in soul mates? A soul mate is, according to Wikipedia, “a person with whom one has a feeling of deep or natural affinity.” Which means, contrary to popular belief, it can extended beyond the type of love we’re all familiar with, that of star-crossed lovers who swear their hearts to each other. It can involve, “similarity, love, romance, friendship, intimacy, sexuality, sexual activity, spirituality, or compatibility and trust.”
Personally, I love the idea that soul mates can be friends. It makes the idea of soul mates a little easier for me to believe in. I shy away from the idea that there’s only “one soul mate for everybody” and that this soul mate is your “one true love.” Because otherwise, what if you don’t find them? Are you screwed? Do you just deem whomever you’re with as your soul mate to escape the crushing feeling of “what if”?
So are soul mates real? It probably depends upon what you’re willing to believe.
According to an article by PsychCentral, there are different kinds of soul mates, and I don’t mean friends vs. lovers. They’ve picked out three different kinds of soul mate relationships.
First, there’s the karmic connection. This kind of soul mate comes into your life to teach you something about yourself and love. Debbie Nagioff, a “working clairvoyant”, says this karmic soul mate exists because, “A lesson has to be learned and a debt repaid. This can be extremely painful, but necessary for our spiritual growth. Once the lesson is learned, the relationship has done its job.” So this kind of soul mate isn’t a forever and ever kind. This soul mate comes and goes into your life. To me, that sounds like one particular relationship I had in which our connection was very strong but we didn’t last long, and when he left, it was incredibly painful — but I learned a lot from that relationship.
Then, there’s the “soul mate connection”, and what’s great about this type of connection is that you can have more than one. This type of soul mate is closer to the aforementioned Wikipedia definition, as it is a “relationship which makes you feel positive, an instant uplift of the spirit, energy boost up from within. A soul mate can be of the same gender, best friend, mother, father, sister, brother or anyone.” This is the definition of “soul mates” that I am happiest to believe in. To me, it sounds the most realistic.
Finally, there’s the The Twin Souls/ Twin Flame Connection. This is the connection that you typically think of when you think of the term “soul mates” — with this one, you’re in it for the long haul. Nagioff explains, “Here, there is an instant attraction of energies, the energy of the two souls connecting over time, over miles, and sometimes over years.” But it isn’t quite that easy. Often, there is one part of the couple that is a little more reluctant to give into the process. “[…] one half of the duo is more spiritually awakened and ‘gets it.’ The other half may not be quite there, but nevertheless, they are deeply touched by the experience.” Like the name “Twin Flame” suggests, this is more of a slow burn. Another note about the Twin Souls connection — it might hit you when you least expect it. Timing is everything with this relationship. Nagioff states, “Twin soul connections never happen at convenient times. There is often the matter of existing and committed relationships, money issues, and a whole million other practical and logical reasons why these two, on the surface, shouldn’t be together.” So it’s going to take a very patient and enduring couple to make it happen.
I like that notion, that it takes hard work, that just because you have a soul mate doesn’t mean it’s an instant happy-sunshine-and-rainbows thing.
Has any of this changed your belief in soul mates? Psychology Today reported on a study in 2011 in which they polled Americans to see who believed in soul mates, and 73% of Americans believed in the idea of one true soul mate. Surprisingly (at least for me), more men than women believed in the notion, with 74% to women’s 71%. Unsurprisingly (again, at least for me), younger people are more inclined to believe in soul mates. Seventy-nine percent of people under 45 believe in them, as opposed to 69% of individuals over 45.
Psychology Today went a little further and determined that believing in and looking for a soul mate is actually not the best way to go. Why? Because of the karmic connection theory – that you’ll meet someone and have an incredibly passionate relationship that will burn out. They reported on Research by Knee (1998) who found this to be true. He compared the relationships of those who believed in soul mates to those who believed in “relationship growth”, which they define as, “a belief that relationships are developed with work over time.”
They discovered that those who believe in soul mates were actually less likely to be committed to one partner, particularly when problems in the relationship arose and things became difficult. Maybe that’s because those who believe in soul mates believe that when you find that one person everything will “click” and the “instant happy-sunshine-and-rainbows thing” that I mentioned, happens. And when it doesn’t, they’re out, believing that soul mates don’t actually exist, when really, it’s just that every relationship takes work.
Also, they found that soul mate believers tend to be more anxious in their relationships and aren’t as forgiving as those who believe in relationship growth.
This is why they maintain that you shouldn’t believe in soul mates, reminding you that, “Ultimately, no one is perfect – or a perfect fit for a partner. It takes work, growth, and change to keep a relationship going and satisfying over time.” The people who believe in relationship growth are those who take the time and patience to work out their kinks and resolve their issues. Thus, their relationships tend to last the tests of time, instead of flaming out.
Writer Elizabeth Gilbert even goes as far as to suggest that you don’t marry your soul mate, saying, “A true soul mate is a mirror….A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave.” This definitely goes against what most of us think of when we think of soul mates — that it’s someone we find and marry and spend the rest of our lives with. I don’t know if I necessarily agree with her advice, but I definitely agree with not marrying someone who causes you pain, and if that’s what a true soul mate does, then I’m out.
I believe that ultimately, it’s simple: if you meet someone you fall in love with and can’t live without, sure, that can mean they’re your soul mate, but you’re still gonna have to work on your relationship. A soul mate does not equal a perfect partner or a perfect relationship, which I think is something people forget. Because really, we’re all people, with our own individual likes and dislikes and ticks and annoyances and habits. When you enter a relationship, you have to learn to adapt with these factors, or it will never work, soul mate or not.
SO, what do you believe? Do you believe in soul mates, and if so, what kind? Or do you believe in something else instead, like relationship growth?
Image via WeHeartIt.