Do soul mates exist?
Have you ever considered the notion that somewhere out there in the world is that one special person who can ‘complete’ you?
Whether you’re a believer in romantic ideals or an inquisitive sceptic, you’ve more than likely pondered the concept of soul mates
Through films, music, poetry and novels, we’ve been told time and again that we’re fated to be with our other half – ‘the one’ – with whom we’re destined to share a lifetime of companionship and happiness.
Even if you don’t have a rose-tinted view of the world, it’s difficult to resist the temptation to desire such love – the kind of love where all needs are fulfilled. But, does such a love exist?
WHAT IS A SOUL MATE?
The age-old concept of soul mates can be traced back to ancient Greece when Plato, in his philosophical text, The Symposium, presents a theory that humans originally had four arms, four legs and a single head made up of two faces. According to the theory, Zeus, wary of the power humans had in this superhuman form, split them in half, condemning them to a lifetime searching for the other half to become ‘whole’ again.
Modern ideas surrounding the soul mate concept however, are often Hollywood-inspired and we are consequently inclined to characterise a soul mate as ‘the one’ – the illusive, all-understanding, romantic ideal who we’ll stumble across in a love-at-first-sight moment.
More recently, modern philosophers and thinkers have questioned these soul mate beliefs. Contrary to the commonly held view that soul mates spare us from heartache and disappointment, Elizabeth Gilbert, in her book, Eat, Pray, Love says soul mates can break our hearts and thereby transform our lives.
“A soul mate’s purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life,” she writes.
There are many different ways to define a soul mate, but the central idea is the same – a soul mate provides a type of companionship that is different and more sacred than any other relationship we share with others. But the question remains – soul mates: fact or fiction?
SOUL MATES: FICTION
If you find you’re constantly let down in relationships, it may come as a shock to you that perhaps it’s not your ex-partner who has the problem... it could be you and your unwavering belief in the soul mate myth, according to spiritual counsellor and Reiki master Cathy Budzakovski.
Budzakovski says the concept of soul mates encourages many women to form an unrealistic ideal and to have certain expectations in a partner.
“I’ve seen a lot of unhappy women who have high expectations – there are some women who basically think of certain things they’d like in a partner and for some reason, destiny is supposed to provide them with this person,” she says.
“But once you’ve found a partner who ticks all your boxes, what happens next? Ticking boxes doesn’t prepare you for what comes afterwards – you can’t theorise life in this ‘ticking boxes’ way because it never works.”
Studies into soul mates and the stereotypes surrounding sex, love and romance have shown that popular culture perpetuates certain myths that we’ve been duped into believing. According to researcher Dr Mary-Lou Galician in her study into love and popular culture, the media can often romanticise love, creating certain romantic myths and stereotypes for an ideal partner. These myths include ideas that the ‘perfect partner’ is cosmically pre-destined, all-understanding, physically attractive and is ‘meant for you’.
According to the perpetuated romantic myths, the love-at-first sight phenomenon is also a significant aspect of identifying a soul mate and many of us consequently leave our chances for love to fate and our heart’s instincts to recognise a great love.
“Love grows – you cannot know that individual spiritually or emotionally just by one glance,” Budzakovski says. Budzakovski says the process of getting to know a potential partner should be slow, gradual and obstacles as well as pain from previous relationships should be overcome.
In popular culture and in our everyday lives, soul mates are often believed to be special soul connections we’ve formed with another, but the concept can ignore the soulful connections we’ve formed with family members and friends.
“Soul connections can happen with anybody in your life as well – you can have a wonderful soul connection with your mum, your dad, a sibling or somebody else, which is why the analogy of a soul mate doesn’t fit, because it states that we can only have a special connection with that one person, whereas we can have many connections with many people around us,” Budzakovski says.
So, what should we do instead of look for our soul mate ideal?
“Rather than limit your options to a person who ticks those ‘soul mate’ boxes, it’s important to drop expectations and appreciate all people who come into your life because they are there for a reason,” Budzakovski says.
SOUL MATES: FACT
Those of us with sentimental values would like to hold onto the concept of soul mates and relationship psychologist John Aiken says we should.
“It’s a great romantic ideal that many singles hold onto, which keeps them hopeful and positive when it comes to relationships and dating,” Aiken says “It will mean different things to different women, but my take is that a soul mate is a person that you totally click with on every level. This includes being sexually attracted to them, being able to communicate openly with them, getting along with their family and friends and having similar values, interests and relationship expectations."
In addition to other soul mate types, which include karmic soul mates, companion soul mates and twin soul mates, metaphysical expert Stacey Demarco and medium Jade-Sky in The No Excuses guide to Soul Mates, explore the romantic soul mate concept and say they do exist. Their theory behind the existence of romantic soul mateship reinforces commonly held beliefs surrounding soul mates, that soul mates provide feelings of stability, intimacy, a sense of purpose, security, love, sexual attraction, and a desire to have children, but at the same time can arouse feelings of vulnerability and fear.
“This kind of soul mate relationship appears a lot in the traditional fairytales and movies – some famous examples are Cinderella and her Prince, Beauty and the Beast, Robin Hood and Maid Marian,” they say.
“The Romantic Soul Mate will often feel very familiar to you when you first meet, even if you have never met them before in this life. There will be a feeling of electricity or sexual chemistry when you are with the person,” they write. And according to commonly held views, soul mates are an embodiment of a companion, a sexual partner and a person who challenges and inspires you throughout your lifetime.
“A soul mate will be both a great sexual partner as well as a close friend – you’ll be able to share your deepest feelings with them, as well as connect physically and you’ll both become a priority in each other’s worlds,” Aiken says.
Is it then acceptable for us to then set high expectations for potential partners?
“I think women should have high standards for relationships – I see too many unhappy women who tell me they settled and now have a miserable life in a relationship that erodes their self-worth,” Aiken says. Aiken advises us to be disciplined and clear about what we need in a soul mate, and if they’re not right for us, we should avoid wasting time.
“Say no and move onto the next opportunity – finding Mr Right is all about getting good at saying ‘no’ to Mr Wrong.”