The Surprising Truth About “Soul Mates”
Didn’t fall in love at first sight? That’s okay—it may mean your marriage will last longer.
We’ve all seen the movies and read the novels... two strangers lock eyes across a crowded room and—BOOM!—the rest of the world melts away as they realize they’re destined to be together forever.
The idea of two soul mates who fall instantly and passionately in love is sweet, but it doesn’t always make for the most stable and long-lasting marriage, says Northwestern University professor Eli J. Finkel, author of the science-based relationship book The All-or-Nothing Marriage. People who hold “destiny beliefs” about relationships—the idea that you’re either meant to be together or not—are more likely to give up as soon as a challenge arises, he explains.
“The truth is, almost all of us are going to encounter conflict at one point,” says Finkel. “The question is, how do we think about it? If you have that ‘soul mate’ or destiny world view, then you will often catastrophize conflict and interpret as meaning that you’re now incompatible.” Studies have also consistently shown that people are less forgiving of their partner’s transgressions when they hold on to these “destiny beliefs,” Finkel explains.
But couples whose love story was less “struck by lightning” and more “took a while to get to know each other” may be able to weather those inevitable storms together in a much more constructive way. “People with a ‘growth belief’ about marriage understand that you have to work on a relationship over time to strengthen it,” he explains. “They don’t enjoy conflict, but they realize conflicts are inevitable and have to be resolved and that they are an opportunity to grow closer to their partner and learn about each other and themselves.”
But even if you started out your relationship with a destiny vibe, you may be able to transition into a healthier growth belief over time, Finkel says. “Assuming your partner is a decent person and there is some core goodness in your relationship, ask yourself if there is a way you can see yourself and the relationship growing through this conflict.”
Hard work and determination may not be the stuff of Hollywood romances, but they can be the stuff of long and satisfying real-life love stories.