Your “Soulmate” is the Person Who Motivates You to Work on Your Relationship


African American couple. Soulmates.

Public opinion polls reveal that a majority of Americans believe in the concept of a “soulmate.” For instance, according to a YouGov poll of 2,984 adults conducted earlier this year, 56% answered yes to the question “Do you believe in soulmates?” The remainder either said no (25%) or that they were unsure (19%). 

 Interestingly, majority belief was evident across age: when looking at specific age categories, between 54% and 63% of Americans reported believing in soulmates, with 22%-31% doubting their existence. Thus, belief in soulmates doesn’t appear to be a generational thing. It’s not limited to any one geographic part of the country, either, although it does tend to be a bit more common in the Southern US than it is in the West and Midwest.

So what does it mean to believe in a soulmate? Public opinion polls don’t usually define this concept for participants, but we know from research that people who believe in the idea of a soulmate tend to think that, in general, relationships are either meant to be or they aren’t. They hold a broader constellation of relationship ideals known as destiny beliefs [1]. 

People with strong destiny beliefs tend to think that when you meet the right person, everything will just work out easily. Conflict and relationship problems are taken as signs that it’s not the right relationship. 

Those with strong destiny beliefs can potentially have long-lasting relationships, but only when their relationships are really satisfying from the get-go. However, high destiny beliefs are linked to ending relationships quickly when one is not initially satisfied, when problems begin to emerge, or when a partner starts to fall short of one’s ideals. Rather than attempting to work through these issues, they often up and leave (sometimes by “ghosting” their partners). 

The problem with destiny beliefs, of course, is that most relationships aren’t smooth sailing from beginning to end. When you’re with someone a very long time, conflict will almost inevitably arise and partners will occasionally behave in ways that don’t match up with each others’ ideals. That’s perfectly normal. 

In other words, it’s just not realistic to think that you’re suddenly going to find a “perfect” partner and that your relationship with them is never going to require any effort on your part. The relationships that stand the test of time are the ones where people find a way to work through their problems productively, and where they see conflicts and disagreements as opportunities for growth—as challenges that can be overcome together.

What this means is that we need to rethink the concept of a “soulmate.” Your soulmate isn’t the person with whom everything works out easily—it’s the person who motivates you to work on and invest in your relationship.

This doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to stop believing in destiny; rather, it just means that your destiny beliefs need to be accompanied by growth beliefs. In other words, you can still think that you’re “meant” to be with someone, while also recognizing that you’re meant to grow and change together. 

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[1] Knee, C. R. (1998). Implicit theories of relationships: Assessment and prediction of romantic relationship initiation, coping, and longevity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology74(2), 360-370.

Image Source: 123RF/HONGQI ZHANG 

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