According to a recent survey, roughly 73% of the (U.S.) population believes in soulmates. That is, we believe there is one special person who we’re meant to be with for the rest of our lives. But more than this, we believe that this person will be our perfect match in every way. And we will find ourselves so perfectly aligned that the relationship will be an effortless and consistent flow of happiness and fulfillment.
But the belief in soulmates is not based upon any sort of experience or evidence. Rather, it is based upon wishful thinking. After all, how many of us have actually found that perfect partner? And when we look back at our past relationships, how many times did we believe we had found our soulmate only to discover soon after that this person was not who we believed they were?
This is really very common, and there have actually been studies which suggest that those who believe in soulmates are less likely to experience long lasting successful relationships. And when you really begin to examine this kind of belief, it becomes clear why this is so.
One such study (conducted by Raymond Knee) divided participants into two categories; those he called Destiny Believers and those whom he called Growth Believers. Destiny Believers are those who believe that there is one special person that they are destined to be with, while Growth Believers, on the other hand, believe that relationships progress over time, requiring a certain degree of flexibility and personal growth. And this has an influential effect on how we each approach and engage in relationships.
When meeting someone for the first time, for instance, the Destiny Believer will question whether or not this person could potentially be their soulmate. They’re on the lookout for commonalities, but they’re also more sensitive to differences. And if they find that this other person is not perfectly aligned with them, they aren’t willing to invest time into the relationship. They will easily disregard that person to continue on with their search.
The Growth Believer takes a different approach. They will also be on the lookout for commonalities, but they don’t see minor differences as deciding factors. They don’t believe that there is one perfect person, or that anyone is truly perfect, but that we are all unique and we all have some flaws about us. So no matter how aligned another person may seem, there will naturally be some areas where we differ. The question is not whether that person is perfectly suited to us, but rather, can we work with these imperfections?
Because the Destiny Believer is constantly searching for perfection, they rarely experience long lasting relationships. Their relationships tend to be intense and passionate in the beginning, but burn out quickly with a great deal of frustration and disappointment. As soon as they discover some flaw in their partner they take it as an indication that this is not the person they’re meant to be with, and quickly move on.
The Growth Believer, understanding that no one is an absolute perfect match, is willing to spend time working to resolve differences, or at best to tolerate them. They understand that a relationship is about growth. When challenges arise, as they inevitably do, they don’t just turn tail and run. They explore constructive ways to deal with those challenges, including taking personal responsibility for their own imperfections.
Perhaps one of the reasons we believe in soulmates is that we notice couples who seem to be so well aligned, who get along so smoothly, and who are deeply affectionate with one another even after many years of being together. But what is likely is that these couples are Growth Believers. They’ve probably had their fair share of difficulties. But what made their relationships successful is that they didn’t see these challenges as reason to walk away. They invested themselves in resolving differences and overcoming challenges. They learned how to grow together. They were willing to be flexible, make changes in themselves, and to see challenges as opportunities for personal development.
As long as we’re searching for the perfect partner, we will go on searching forever, and inevitably wind up alone. But if we are willing to change our perspective on relationships, to see them as opportunities for growth, then we’re more likely to find ourselves in a successful life-long partnership.