When you’re in a new relationship, your hormones are racing and the newness of your love can be intoxicating. It can be tempting to feel like you have met your “soulmate,” the one person who is made for you and only you.
Even though this idea is very appealing and romantic, there are also down sides to thinking this way. The soul mate paradigm can raise your expectations to an impossible level, ironically making you feel less satisfied with your partner overall.
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“Soulmate” is an Impossible Standard
When you believe that there is such a thing as a soulmate, this can make you feel that the ideal state is one where you and your partner are perfectly aligned on all dimensions. You assume that there exists a person who can satisfy you sexually, romantically, intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally, and who has all the same hobbies, interests, and passions as you.
If your real-life partner falls short in any of these areas, you may believe that this indicates they aren’t “The One for You.” This would lead to ending relationships with partners you could be incredibly happy with, just because they don’t check all the boxes that a supposed “soul mate” would check.
I see many couples in counseling who seem dissatisfied with relationships because a partner doesn’t give them all that they need across every dimension of life. The The All or Nothing Marriage, a book by Eli Finkel, discusses the modern expectation that a partner will be all things: best friend, lover, activity partner, and coparent.
In previous eras, when people were more social and closer to family and friends, there were more people present to fulfill one another’s needs. Today, couples look to one another to be everything, which places a tremendously heavy burden on relationships.
A “Soulmate” Can Lead to Disappointment
Couples who originally considered each other soulmates can often feel more despondent than other couples when they undergo relationship conflict — their expectations were that they would continue feeling deeply aligned on all issues forever.
If you feel like your partner used to be your soulmate but no longer is, think deeply about why you may be feeling disillusioned. It may be that you or your partner are expecting too much from your primary relationship. It could be time to turn to couples counseling to explore how you are letting one another down and if there are ways for you to reconnect on a deep level.
Relationships are difficult enough without placing unneeded extra expectations on them. You and your partner can learn to reframe what love is, while respecting each other as separate people that may not agree on everything. Furthermore, your romantic connection will likely ebb and flow over the course of a long-term relationship. Expecting that passion will stay ignited at “soulmate pitch” can be disappointing and ultimately destructive for your relationship.
It’s OK to Be Different Than Your Partner
Instead of thinking about your partner as your soulmate, it may be healthier to envision them as someone you love deeply, but who is unlikely to meet every need and desire that you have. There are many ways in which you may not actually be compatible, but this doesn’t need to sabotage your relationship as a whole. On the contrary, having different interests across different life areas may be a source of constant interest and growth for you as a couple, particularly if you both make the effort to learn about, or at least be supportive of, the other’s passions.
I work with many couples that come to terms with the fact that, while they love each other deeply and profoundly, they are not going to be compatible in certain domains, even domains that they originally considered integral to their relationship (e.g., values about money, child-rearing, politics, and more). This allows them to love one another in a freer and more genuine way. Liberating yourself from the constricting “soulmate paradigm” can allow your real-world, flawed, human relationships to flourish and grow in new and fulfilling ways.