What Exactly Is a Soul Mate?

What Exactly Is a Soul Mate?

We asked experts to define ‘soul mate’ and their answers might surprise you.


By: Laurie Sue Brockway

When Jennie E. Johnson and her husband, John, first laid eyes on each other, they knew they were meant to be together -- even though she lived in Seattle and he lived in Iowa. They met at her sister’s wedding one March, saw each other for a few days that July, and then again in September, when he brought her an engagement ring. They were married on New Year’s Eve -- 37 years ago.

“We both say that we knew that first night that we were meant for each other,” says Johnson, RN-BC, PhD. They still consider themselves soul mates.

Most people want true love and happiness, but these days many fancy the idea that they are married to -- or searching for -- their soul mate. What exactly is a soul mate and how does this concept differ from the average union?

“‘Soulmate’ is one of those heavily charged words that that has a different meaning for just about everyone,” says Arielle Ford, author of The Soulmate Secret. “Personally, I believe that a soul mate is first and foremost someone you can completely be yourself with, someone with whom you share unconditional love, and when you look into their eyes, you have the experience of being ‘home.’”

Some people associate the idea of soul mates with concepts from mythology and fairytales: The prince whose kiss will awaken his true love, heroes of ancient love stories, the modern day Superman whose heart longs for one true love, or the classic Romeo who cannot bear to be apart from the women he adores. Yet many modern couples see soul mate love as a connection so strong that it allows them to live more fully in the real world.

We asked experts and non-experts to share their thoughts.

Partners facing the world together. Some people view soul mates as mystical, but they are also practical. “During our lifetime, a soul mate is many things -- lover, partner, best friend, witness to our life, and perhaps most importantly, our designated companion and who helps us grow and accomplish mutual goals,” says Ford. “These soul mate relationships are designed to be bumpy at times. Some days are ecstatic and some days, things are brutally painful. This is normal.”

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Destine to be together. Barb Morgen, a public relations professional, was introduced to her soul mate by a friend who knew they shared an unusual decorating quirk -- each of them had a snowboard as wall art in their homes. On the first date, both knew something special was brewing. “A soul mate is one who is aligned in all the most important ways with the values and dreams you have for your future life,” Morgen says. “There is an element of destiny associated with the term. I believe that although there are probably many people who one can marry and spend a lifetime with, a soul mate is one who you can happily and even joyfully spend a lifetime of growth, happiness, and success

in the things that matter most, beyond what anyone can achieve alone.”

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You can share your true self. Samantha Vérant, author of Seven Letters From Paris: A Memoir, met her true love at 19 years old, yet it took her two decades to reconnect. “A soul mate is somebody you can communicate freely with, leaving no subject unturned, and leaving all judgments behind,” she says. “A soul mate brings out your best qualities and accepts your flaws. The connection is both emotional and physical. Finally, a soul mate is somebody who wants the same things out of life that you do and is the one person who is able to open up your heart.”

Someone who brings special life lessons. Our Western definition is a bit different than what other traditions hold true. “In the West, we tend to believe that a soul mate is the perfect match, and the perfect person for each of us for the rest of our earthly existence,” says Michelle Fondin, author of The Wheel of Healing: An Easy Guide to an Ayurvedic Lifestyle. “Our mental images of a soul mate tend to include a ‘happy ever after’ vision as in a fairytale. In the East, the perspective is presented differently. Soul mates are always present to teach you something about yourself and about life. The reason marital relationships tend to be so challenging is that we have this image of the soul mate being that perfect human being, when in reality, the soul mate is the perfect teacher for us.”

Some relationship experts worry that the expectation of soul mate love is not realistic.

“I think the ‘soul mate’ concept sets too high a bar and can often set people up to fail,” says Ramani Durvasula, PhD, psychologist and professor of psychology at California State University in Los Angeles. “But people in relationships should see the poet and angel in their partner and show gratitude and mindfulness in their relationships. Doing that can make even your seemingly ordinary relationship extraordinary.”

There is not just one quality that can define soul mate love, but Johnson sums up her relationship this way: “He is the song in my heart, even after 37 years.”

Do you believe in soul mates?


Laurie Sue Brockway is a journalist and author who has written extensively on love, marriage, parenting, wellbeing, and emotional health. Her work has appeared in hundreds of print and online publications, including Everyday Health and The Huffington Post.

Image ©iStock.com/FenrisWolf


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