Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis
The idea of a soul mate is quite a comforting thought. Many people go about their lives imagining that this other person, made perfectly for them, is just waiting for the right time to swoop in and change everything. So have you met your soul mate—your one and only, destined to be together, true love? If you ask couples therapist and author of Mating in Captivity and The State of Affairs Esther Perel, the answer is no. As Perel explains to Business Insider, she believes there's simply no such thing as The One.
"There is never The One. There is a one that you choose and with whom you decide that you want to build something. But in my opinion, there could also have been others," Perel says. For her, long-lasting relationships are more about finding someone you're compatible with and working to build a fulfilling life together.
It could actually be more harmful than helpful to look for an elusive soul mate when hoping to find a person to build a life with. A 2007 study found that people who believed two people are either meant or not meant to be together were less likely to forgive their partner for transgressions than those who held "growth beliefs," meaning they believed relationships take work and expect to have to overcome obstacles. Another study found that people who held those same "growth beliefs" were better suited to work through conflict with a partner.
There's even a psychological term—cognitive dissonance—that explains a common behavior you're likely guilty of. It's when you feel uncomfortable after doing something that doesn't align with your beliefs, so you create a rationale in your mind to remedy it. According to Perel, this process often occurs after a person believes they've found their soul mate. "We come up with all the arguments to justify why that was the right person. But this is the way that we like to have coherence; we can't agree with the idea that I chose this person, but it's not the right one. So we make it fit."
If you consider yourself a romantic, don't feel the need to overhaul your expectations of love. However, it may be time to take the pressure off of you and your partner's need to be destined for each other, instead taking the time to figure out if this is the person you want to experience life with, even when it's an effort.
Head to Business Insider for the full story, and read find out the number one sign you're too picky in relationships next.