NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Relationships: Why Looking For a "Soulmate" Will Disappoint You

A soulmate is commonly defined as a special someone who is uniquely destined to be your  romantic partner forever. Usually, a soulmate is thought to be a partner who was placed on this earth just for you.  He or she is "the one."

Relationships: Why Looking for a "Soulmate" Will Disappoint You

The belief in soulmates is common.  For instance, a 2011 Marist poll revealed that nearly 75% of people believe in the concept of soulmates, and people often talk about searching for that unique person who is destined to be with them forever.

Why Searching For a Soulmate Will Disappoint You
So what's wrong with believing in a soulmate?

While it might feel comforting to believe that there is a special someone out there who is  meant for you and only you, this concept is unrealistic and it can also be damaging to the prospects of any potential long term relationship.

Most people who believe in soulmates believe their relationship with this person should be easy and effortless.  

After all, if this person is really "the one," there would be effortless compatibility.  There would be no need to work things out in a relationship of soulmates because, as per the logic of soulmates, if there were problems, this person wouldn't be a true soulmate.

The concept of one person destined to be your one true love is magical thinking.  While this might be fun to daydream about during your adolescence, if you continue to believe in this form of magical thinking, it will backfire on you and no relationship will satisfy you.

Clinical Vignette: Why the Search for a Soulmate Backfires
The following clinical vignette, which is a composite of many clinical cases with all identifying information changed, illustrates why the concept of soulmates is unrealistic and damaging:

When Nan was in her early teens, she and her friends would talk dreamily about how happy they would be when they got older and found their soulmates. Nan believed that they would each eventually meet the man of their dreams and they would live happily ever after like in the fairytales. 

When she was in high school, she began to date casually.  There was one boy in particular, Nick, that she really liked when she was in her senior year of high school.  At first, since they were both head-over-heels infatuated with each other, Nan believed that Nick was her soulmate.  But after a few months, they began to argue over their college choices. 

Nan wanted to attend a commuter school close to home in New York City so she could remain close to Nick and her parents.  But Nick wanted to attend a school on the West Coast where he was offered a full scholarship.  He tried to persuade Nan that they could maintain a long distance relationship.

As they continued to bicker, Nan no longer believed that Nick was her soulmate because if he was, they wouldn't be arguing.  From her perspective, since the relationship was no longer easy, he must not be the person she was destined to be with, so she ended it.

Nan's belief in soulmates continued throughout college and even several years after college.  Each time she fell in love with a man, she thought he was her soulmate.  But when even minor problems arose, she changed her mind because the relationship was no longer easy.

After experiencing several similar disappointments, Nan began to despair that she would ever meet her soulmate.  She wondered where he might be and how would she ever meet him in a planet with billions of people.

By the time she was in her late 20s, her disappointment and despair increased and Nan sought help in therapy.  She wanted very much to get married and have a "forever relationship" and she was worried that she might never meet "the one" who was meant for her.  

As they discussed Nan's views, her psychotherapist pointed out how much pressure Nan was placing on herself and on whoever was her boyfriend at the time.

Reluctantly, as Nan continued to attend therapy and as she observed her friends' marriages, she realized that there was no such thing as a "perfect" relationship that was destined for her.  She also realized that no one was going to be perfect and all relationships take work--even healthy ones.

Although letting go of the idea of a soulmate was disappointing, Nan developed more realistic ideas about relationships.  Instead of thinking that everything would magically work out with one person she was destined to be with, she realized that there were potentially many people she could be happy with if she gave herself and the relationship a chance.

She worked with her therapist to explore what was important to her in terms of being in a relationship.  Over time, she realized she wanted someone who would be kind, honest, dependable, and intelligent with values that were similar to hers.

Instead of being so focused on the other person's qualities, she focused on herself to develop those same qualities in herself.

When she began dating Dave, Nan realized that they had an emotional connection she hadn't felt before.  She also saw that he had all the qualities she wanted in a long term partner.  But when they bickered, she wondered if they were right for one another and she brought this up in her therapy sessions.

In the past, whenever even small problems arose, Nan would leave the relationship because she believed someone who was truly her soulmate would be perfect for her and the relationship would have no problems.

She had never tried to work out differences in prior relationships, so trying to work things out with Dave was new and scary for her.  

But, gradually, she saw that their small arguments were normal and common to all relationships.  She also developed the necessary relationship skills and confidence to pick and choose her battles since the most important aspects of what she wanted in a relationship were there between her and Dave.

Eventually, when they moved in together, Nan realized that her former ideas about soulmates were part of her childhood and that, as an adult, she had developed more realistic ideas of what to expect in a relationship.  

She also realized that no relationship is destined to be a "forever relationship," but if they continued to work together on developing themselves as individuals and as a couple, they would be together for as long as they were both happy.

The idea that you'll find a soulmate is a concept that is part of childhood and adolescence.  

As an adult, if you want a mature relationship, part of being an adult is letting go of magical thinking that leads you to believe there is one person who is uniquely destined for you.

When you believe in soulmates, not only will you be disappointed when you come up against the common problems of all relationships, but your unrealistic expectations will prevent you from doing the necessary work involved to succeed in an adult relationship.

Getting Help in Therapy
Change can be difficult and there are times when you might need help to get through a challenging time.

If you have tried unsuccessfully to resolve your problems on your own, you could benefit from seeking help from a licensed mental health professional.

A skilled psychotherapist can help you to overcome the obstacles that are preventing you from living a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.