Why I Don’t Believe in a Soulmate—and Why You Shouldn’t Either

It’s clear that America is obsessed with the idea of true love. America’s hyper-romanticized culture is traced back to misconceptions like love-at-first-sight propaganda, romantic-comedy fantasies, and Disney’s influence on our perception of relationships. The idea of true love—the undying devotion and never-ending passionate bliss with someone— is making us unhappy. It’s preventing us from fostering positive relationships by creating unrealistic expectations of what a relationship should be. These depictions of love portrayed in popular culture are fueled by the idea of a soulmate.

Meaningful relationships are built, not found.

The concept of a “soulmate”—the idea that we are all meant for one person and our goal in life is to find that individual— is causing much of the frustrations we have in our partners when they disappoint us, and with ourselves when our relationships fail. According to a Marist poll, 73% of Americans believe in the concept of a soulmate, however, several studies have demonstrated that this concept is detrimental to creating and maintaining healthy relationships. Meaningful relationships are built, not found. Re-structuring our idea of love will not only help us be happier in our relationships, but more accepting of one another.

The concept of a soulmate dates back to Plato’s Symposium, when Aristophanes told the story of an eight-limbed creature with two heads that the god Zeus decided to split in two, therefore making it weak. In order to restore themselves to their original, fulfilled states, humans would have to search their entire lives to find their other half. Fast-forward to present times, and naturally this concept has been exploited for the capital interests of the entertainment and corporate industry. It has created a false expectation of what a perfect relationship looks like, and what it means to fall in love.

A psychologist at the University of Houston ran a study on implicit theories of relationships and discovered that people have two fundamental understandings of love. There are people who have a fundamental belief in romantic destiny (soulmates), and people who have a fundamental belief in romantic growth.  These beliefs are based on people’s individual understanding of whether or not traits and characteristics in others are fixed. Those who are more inclined to believe in a fixed character trait, tend to believe in romantic destiny, while those who believe that traits are malleable, value romantic growth. As a result, those who believe in romantic destiny are more likely to value initial compatibility and positive behavioral responses from their partners. Inevitably, when conflicts and problems in the relationship arise, partners who believe in romantic destiny are more likely to interpret this as a lack of compatibility and move onto the next partner. Their relationships tend to be short-lived but initially euphoric. People who believe in romantic growth value partners that they can grow and cultivate a relationship with. The emphasis is not based as heavily on compatibility, rather on how the conflicts in their relationships are resolved. Their relationships tend to be focused on stability and long-term growth.

Photo by Henri Meilhac

Searching for a soulmate decreases an individual’s motivation to make their relationships work. This results in shorter, but passionate relationships that end when the first signs of difficulty appear. Taking the time to adapt and grow in relationships establishes trust and creates a real bond, rather than basing a relationship on a fantasy about an individual. People who take time to cultivate and grow their relationships have the opportunity to be more satisfied and lead happier lives. The social psychologist Art Aron, PhD reflects on six principles that define successful relationships, and states that one of these main principles is how couples communicate. Effective communication is one of the driving forces that builds genuine intimacy.

The belief in absolute romanticism fuels our dissatisfaction with one another and our endless pursuit of the perfect human. It places immense social pressures on both sexes to fulfill specific social roles. The idea of a soulmate prevents us from achieving these things, because this concept does not teach us the value of compromise and communication. Emphasizing romantic growth and cultivation in our relationships rather than a belief in a soulmate will lead to longer, more satisfying, and fulfilling relationships with others. This is beneficial in our romantic pursuits, but also helps us develop strong relationships in all areas of our lives.

By: Nadia Lopez