It seems like every single rom-com is fixated on the concept of soulmates — two people who are meant to find each other and live out the rest of their days happily, without squabbling over petty stuff like whose turn it is to do the dishes. It's understandably comforting to believe in 'The One,' because it means that each of us is special and unique and has someone waiting out there who's *just* for us. But there are so many complex things that make us attracted to someone, and it just doesn't make sense that, in a world of seven billion, there's only one other person who could be a loving, supportive, and fulfilling life partner for each of us.
In fact, over-romanticizing someone can be harmful — the mindset that something is 'meant to be' can lead you to make rash decisions, or stay in a bad relationship just because you feel you're supposed to. Sure, looking back on your meet-cute and thinking 'What if we hadn't both been returning our library books at the same time?' can make it seem like it's fate (or something similar) that you met your partner. But that's true for each and every thing we do — so much of life is up to chance. It's totally fine to appreciate the circumstances that led you to the one you love, but when you start to fixate on the idea that someone is your soulmate, it can actually impede your judgment.
“Waiting for 'The One' — the perfect [person] whose soul will fit yours like a puzzle piece — sets the most unrealistic expectations for a relationship," says Robin Sutherns, Head Editor at Mantelligence. "Your soul is complicated: it has thousands of unique facets (likes, dislikes, passions, history, flaws, blind spots, and strengths), and it’s impossible that another person, with another complicated soul, will fit yours exactly... [Souls are] too complicated for perfection, and people are too deep to be puzzles. There will be arguments, anger, and resentment, even if you’re with someone who loves you, and fits your soul well. If you expect that, you’ll have a real, clear picture of what relationships look like — not a fanciful image of perfect-fitting souls.”
With all that said, everyone's entitled to their own worldview on mutually satisfying relationships. However, it doesn't hurt to understand why thinking of someone as 'The One' might not be all it's cracked up to be in the movies. Here are seven ways the idea of soulmates can actually be toxic for us and our view of relationships.
1. It Sets Unrealistic Expectations
"Searching or holding out for 'The One' can lead to the creation of unrealistic expectations," says Dr. Kimber Shelton, a licensed psychologist, relationship expert and owner of KLS Counseling & Consulting Services. "We can put too much pressure on the relationship, ourselves, or our partner to be perfect, meet all our needs, and be without flaws. We could end up missing out on a good relationship, as someone could feel overwhelmed by our expectations or feel as if we came on too strong."
2. You Might Maintain An Unhealthy Relationship To Keep The 'Fantasy'
"Learning that our partner is abusive, manipulative or controlling are all legitimate reasons to exit a relationship," Shelton says. "However, if we hold on to the idea that they are our soulmate, we could stay in a relationship that is unhealthy and possibly toxic. We wed ourselves to the idea of 'the one' instead of continuing to evaluate the quality of the relationship."
3. It Affects Your Self-Esteem
"[When we have] a healthy self-esteem, we realize that multiple components make up our happiness," Shelton says. "Chances are, there could be a number of people who would reasonably meet many of our relationship needs. Instead of focusing on 'the one', we allow relationships to challenge us to learn more about ourselves and empathize with others. We are not looking for the relationship to complete us, but remain open to relationships that empower and strengthen us, not giving up on love if our first relationship or the 'love of our life' relationship doesn’t work out."
4. You Might Make A Hasty Judgment About Your Partner
"In the early phase of a relationship, your brain is producing neurotransmitters, you are feeling elated, and you can think of nothing else but how in love you are," says Rhonda Milrad, founder and Chief Relationship Advisor at Relationup. "You tend to idealize your partner — exaggerating their virtues and denying their flaws. Given that your assessment of 'the one' is coming during a time when you are love-stuck, it is easy to get it wrong. And it can be very problematic to make impulsive decisions based on this conclusion."
5. You'll Be Discouraged If Things Don't Work Out
"Believing that there is such as thing as 'The One' can lead you to think that you only have one chance of finding him/her," Milrad says. "Consequently, your fear that there is no one else out there for you may keep you invested in trying to make an unhealthy relationship work."
Sh*t happens, and things don't always work out for any number of reasons. In the event you're divorced or widowed, you deserve to feel optimistic about finding love later in life, and you shouldn't think there's no hope after losing someone you'd considered your one and only soulmate.
6. You Might Run At The First Sign Of Conflict
"Believing that there is a 'soulmate' who will never disappoint or hurt us is completely unrealistic," says Lesli Doares, a Couples Consultant & Coach. "In addition, the fantasy of 'The One' implies that if we can find that singular person then there will be no challenges in the relationship, ever. If there are challenges then, ipso facto, the person isn’t 'The One' and we need to move on." Bottom line? That's simply not true. All relationships take dedication and hard work, and arguing with a significant other occasionally doesn't mean they aren't a compatible partner for you.
7. It Takes Away Your Agency
"Soulmates are something you can become through work, ongoing communication, clear expression of needs, negotiation and commitment — you’ll never find a soulmate," Astroglide's Resident Sexologist, Dr. Jess, tells Bustle. "Relationships don’t work out because you’re 'meant to be'; you can choose to make a relationship work or not work. This choice/agency is empowering and lays the groundwork for a much healthier relationship than so-called fate."
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