The One. THE One. That person you’re destined to be with, somebody tied to you by fate. Throughout history, mankind has been obsessed with the idea of the soulmate. From early literature like Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to modern TV Shows like ‘How I Met Your Mother’, the majority of us believe that there is someone somewhere for us. Around 73% of Americans believe in soulmates with 74% of men believing in soulmates versus a close 71% of women. Similarly, around 43% of Americans believe that the person they are in a relationship with is their soulmate.
Not everyone believes in the red ribbon of fate. For the other quarter of the population, the idea of a soulmate is akin to Snow White or Cinderella—nothing more than a fairytale.
But which group is correct? Certainly, it would seem that the idea of a soulmate is impossible to prove without turning to philosophy or religion. To the untrained eye, there seems to be so much evidence that the idea of the soulmate is nearly impossible. But by shifting our perspective and looking at the psychology of it all, we can not only find that there is evidence behind the idea, but that the majority of us can and will find one.
Before looking into the science of soulmates, we should first look at the concept of a soulmate.
People who believe in “The One” usually fall into one of two categories. For those in the first, a soulmate is comparable to a ‘prince charming type—someone closely related to the Disney movies we watched growing up. This group of people believe that there is a single person in the world who they are destined to be with and that once they meet them, they will be complete. This idea stems from Plato’s Symposium, in which the founder of comedy, Greek playwright Aristophanes, details the origins of the soulmate. According to Aristophanes, humans were once connected in pairs, with two heads and two sets of limbs. The gods became fearful of these human-like creatures, so Zeus sent a lightning bolt to separate them in two. For many millennia, humans have been fated thereafter to roam across the Earth, seeking their other halves.
Other people may believe that a soulmate is simply one’s one and only match. Building on the previous category, there is a person only one person in this world that is perfect for you. This idea of “wholeness” has existed for thousands of years but was popularized in the nineteenth century. According to Stephanie Coontz, the author of the 2005 book “Marriage: A History”, with the rise of the market economy, men and women were separated into predetermined roles; men were forced into the workforce as the “breadwinners” of the household and women into that of unpaid domestic labour. “When these two spheres were brought together in marriage,” Ms. Coontz writes, “they produced a perfect well-rounded whole.”
At best, these perspectives are only a small part of the answer. At worst, they can limit our perspective, seriously hindering our chances to find that special someone.
A Lifetime of Waiting
If you’re still clinging to the idea of finding the perfect match, chances are you won’t ever will. Mathematicians from the University of Bath estimated that out of the 47 million adult population in the UK, only 84,440 people fit the average person’s romantic requirements, yielding a 1/562 possibility. To put it into perspective, even if you could date everyone attending the average Ed Sheeran contest, you would only find one suitable match.
Many fail to take into account that the match could be anywhere—of any nationality, race, gender, income class or geographical location. In What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, NASA-Roboticist Randall Munroe explains the kind of absurd-fairytale luck finding your soulmate takes. “The number of strangers we make eye contact with each day is hard to estimate.” Munroe writes, “It can vary from almost none to many thousands. Let’s suppose you lock eyes with an average of a few dozen new strangers each day. If 10 percent of them are close to your age, that’s around 50,000 people in a lifetime. Given that you have 500,000,000 potential soul mates, it means you’ll only find true love in one lifetime out of 10,000.”
Even looking at these statistics optimistically, there doesn’t seem to be any way to justify how we usually define soulmates.
What Even Is A Soulmate?
So, we’ve looked at the math, we’ve looked at some of the history behind the word. but if a soulmate isn’t your star-crossed mate, and they aren’t really your ‘perfect match’, then what is it?
In a literal sense, your soulmate is just that—your soul’s mate. Someone who in every sense of the word, is compatible with you and your lifestyle. This meaning, while it may seem simple or similar to previous definitions, encapsulates the idea of growth.
The logistics of the perfect match are daunting. It seems totally impossible. In this big world, how can so many of us find our soulmates? By shifting to this perspective, we find that the idea of a soulmate is not only possible, it’s probable.
Becoming ‘The One’
Making coffee just how they like it, giving helpful advice in difficult situations, and knowing exactly what they’re thinking without a word, are all examples of how people become each other’s soulmates.
A soulmate is someone who is compatible in every aspect of your life. To put it another way, soulmates are created when two people’s lives become so intertwined that they could never replace one another with anyone else. Sure, in the beginning, you may not have been your partner’s “one-in-a-billion” match, but as licensed psychologist Shauna Springer argues, by this stage you have surpassed such odds.
Without a doubt, this will take work, effort, and time. Becoming someone’s soulmate takes careful analysis and self-reflection, to ensure that both of your needs are met. This is why most couples reach this pinnacle point of intimacy in later stages of life, often after children leave the picture or in the transition to retirement.
In the search for “The One”, we tend to stay in the role of “seeker”, often excluding mutual effort from the discussion. People are malleable. With interaction, people can change over time and adapt to their friends and partners. So while finding that person who without time is your perfect match is near-impossible, the chances to find someone and mould each other to become each other’s soulmate isn’t.