Soulmates are considered to be separate souls that share a deep romantic or platonic connection. But, according to science, the idea of “finding a soulmate” may not exist.
People have an innate, scientifically supported need to socialize and form relationships throughout their life. This includes both platonic and romantic relationships.
Initially, you may feel a strong attraction toward another person, but then the complexities start. Every relationship — even the ones where you feel like you have met your soulmate — requires work, compromises, and sacrifices to remain a happy union.
Science does not qualify or seek to prove the existence of soulmates.
Instead, people either believe in the notion of having a soul mate, or they do not believe in the notion. Some anecdotal evidence suggests that a majority of Americans hold the belief that soulmates are real.
According to a 2021 YouGov survey of 15 thousand respondents, nearly 60% recorded believing in the idea of soulmates. To be clear, this was not a scientific study and may not reflect a broader portion of American viewpoints.
More important than the existence of soulmates appears to be how believing in soulmates may shape your romantic relationships.
In an older 2004 study, researchers looked at two implicit theories of relationships:
- Soulmate theory: finding a person who fulfills you or completes you
- Work-it-out theory: finding someone who you care for and are willing to work with to find and keep happiness
Research indicates that people who hold the soulmate theory (without necessarily knowing they do) have greater relationship satisfaction if – and only if – they feel they found the right person.
This held true even under stress, again, presuming they felt their partner was “the one.”
Another older study, from 2011, compared institutional models of marriage to soulmate models of marriage. They found those who held a soulmate model reported and showed the greatest satisfaction, but also high levels of conflict and divorce.
Those in an institutional model of marriage following gender roles, social groups, and religious institutions had the most stable marriages as long as they had adequate support from social networks and institutions.
Other studies suggest that following the soulmate model of relationships may help therapists provide more meaningful support to couples.
They suggest the decline in adherence to religious dogma, the sexual revolution, and other factors of modern life necessitate a need to help couples grow and develop together in a way that provides fulfillment to both partners.
There is no single way to know if you have found your soulmate. Most sources claiming to know ways to identify a soulmate base it on anecdotal evidence or other pop cultural references.
Anecdotal evidence suggested ways to know you found a soulmate can include that you:
- just know from the start
- have a strong “gut” feeling
- agree on both big and little stuff
- share a sense of humor
- feel at peace or comfortable with the person
Studies do suggest attraction and the desire to seek a relationship may start at first sight, which may further support some people’s belief in soulmates but may lead to relationship issues for others.
A 2022 review examined how people’s brains react when seeing a person they find attractive. Some note that seeing an attractive person activates the reward system part of the brain, while others note that neural responses may help predict romantic decisions based on initial attraction.
This could lead to complications as you may find yourself romantically attracted to someone at first, but as the initial euphoria wears off, you find more and more issues with your partner.
But it can also make it more difficult to identify people who may choose to cause harm to you. People may present attractive behaviors to gain your trust before engaging in negative behaviors, like manipulation or abuse.
There are no concrete steps you have to take in order to prepare yourself for love whether it has been years or a few weeks since your last relationship. Most anecdotal sources suggest general tips such as taking steps to:
- know yourself
- getting comfortable spending time alone
- general self-acceptance
But much of what makes love possible may be out of your control.
- Reciprocal liking: This involves showing signs that you like the other person and they like you, either through gestures, expressions, or verbal cues.
- Familiarity: Familiarity can occur if you have contact with the person regularly, such as at work, social outings, or knowing some of the same people.
- Social influence: Social influence can include aspects like acceptance of the relationship from friends or family as well as cultural or community acceptance.
- Filling needs: Before a relationship turns romantic, it typically needs to fulfill a person’s emotional needs. So you likely won’t fall in love with a person who does not fulfill your needs.
The notion of soulmates does not have scientific support, but the belief in soulmate vs. work-it-out relationship strategies may influence your love life and sense of fulfillment.
Neither model of relationships is inherently better, with evidence suggesting both can lead to fulfilling love lives. You may even find yourself somewhere in the middle, and that’s OK.
Falling in love may just happen with the right combination, but often relationships will require effort to maintain. If you’re interested in learning more, consider visiting our page on love being a choice.