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May 29, 2021

Do Soulmates Exist & How Do I Find One?

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Every other Friday, I join Gill Deacon on CBC’s Here and Now for our new column, Love In Uncertain Times. Listen via the link at the bottom of this page and check out the text summary below.

1. You say that looking for a soulmate is unrealistic. What do you mean?

From a mathematical standpoint, connecting with your one true soulmate in a world of approximately 7 billion people means that the odds are decisively stacked against you. If we assume that 75% of the population is of dating age and you are only interested in half of them (if you’re bisexual your chances are even slimmer), you have a one in 2.625 billion chance of finding the one.

The soulmate myth also suggests that there is someone perfect for you and this is simply not realistic. Nor is the notion that love and commitment sounds like a dream come true. Who wouldn’t want a partner who loves them unequivocally? But the reality is that no relationship that is rooted in honesty, equality and respect is truly without conditions. We are partners – it’s not like a parent-child attachment relationship that is rooted in care-giving and dependence.

The basis of relationships is conditions. Take monogamy, for example; it’s a condition that many people agree upon. This is just one way that the soulmate myth has the potential to do harm.

2. What other harm can come from looking for “the one”?

There is no harm in looking for a partner. But if you’re looking for your partner to fulfill your ever need, it can become toxic and set you up for inevitable letdown when your expectations aren’t met. For example, perfectionism can wreck havoc on relationships. When you expect your partner to change their attitudes and behaviours to meet your needs, it can create a cauldron of pressure and lead to letdown, resentment, conflict and eventually relationship dissolution. Your partner is not going to be perfect for you or more generally.

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The soulmate myth as it relates to perfection suggests that if it’s meant to be, it will work out. This counts existing research suggesting that the belief in destiny can hinder relationship satisfaction.

For example, if you believe that destiny determines the outcome of a relationship, you may see conflict or issues as a sign that the relationship isn’t meant to be as opposed to a sign that the relationship requires some nurturing.

A few years back, a University of Toronto study found that those who were high in sexual destiny beliefs (like soulmates) were less satisfied in their relationship and sex lives than those who subscribe to growth beliefs (the belief that you can work on issues, make changes, and grow to be more compatible). This also ties in with mind reader expectations.

3. How does mind reading play a role?

Another issue relates to mind reading expectations – the notion that if you’re well suited your partner will just get you and know how to love you. Yes – intuition and compatibility can play a role, but ultimately you must communicate your needs, desires and boundaries to your partner on an ongoing basis. I often hear people say, “if I have to ask for it, I don’t want it.” And I get it – you want to be surprised. You want to know that your partner wants to treat you well. But if you’re not even willing to use your words to ask for what you want, how can you expect your partner enact the behaviours your seek.  If you feel the burden of asking it too onerous, what kind of burdens are you placing on them to not only read your mind, but put your unspoken thoughts into action?

4. What about folks who say they found their soulmate?

To some degree, I’m one of them, but I don’t think I found the one. I think I found someone incredible – he’s kind, compassionate, thoughtful, hilarious, and always willing to work on our relationship – and we’ve become soulmates. We didn’t find one another as soulmates. We became soulmates. And over the years, it has entailed effort, openness, vulnerability, and more. And it’s ongoing. The effort does not stop because we’re happy and we get along and we’re compatible.

5. So how do you become soulmates?

We don’t have a universal formula, but we can start by simply investing in our relationship. Yes – of course you want to find someone you like and want to spend time with and for most people, some attraction is important. But that’s just the start.

It’s easy to fall in love. The beginnings of things are exciting, alluring, hot, and full of passion. But when the passion fades, how do you invest in the relationship?

Research shows that kindness is essential, vulnerability breeds intimacy, commitment, and compatibility matter. When I think of compatibility, it’s not about sameness. You don’t have to want all of the same things, but you do need some cross-over. But compatibility, to me, is about being willing to put in a similar amount of effort to make the relationship work – to find common ground for fulfillment.

roberto-nickson-B4gRfP-zcR0-unsplashAnd fulfillment is a big topic to consider because it requires different components for different people. So, have you though of what a fulfilling relationship entails to you? What practical, emotional, spiritual, sexual, relational, affectionate elements amount to fulfillment? Imagine how much time it takes to just reflect on these six components and this is just scratching the surface. This also takes us to an important conversation about soulmates and fulfillment – do you need to get all of these from one person? And have you really communicated your desires to your partner clearly or have you even identified them for yourself?

We’re seeing a real shift in conversations to recognize that when we blame a relationship for deficit, we might be better off to look out for ourselves first. Which takes us back full circle to the topic of soulmates and unconditional love. As an adult, you can be your own soulmate. But if you want to also be a soulmate to someone else, it’s an ongoing process – much easier than looking for 1 in 7 billion, so even though this sounds unromantic, it’s actually very romantic in that it’s never too late and you have more options out there than you might immediately realize.

Listen to the interview on CBC here.