Hopeless romantics and cynics alike, gather ‘round: let’s pretend for a second that everything we know about soul mates we’ve learned from television.
Lesson number one: They undoubtedly exist. There was never any doubt that Rachel would get off the plane for Ross or that Sabrina would ride off on the back of Harvey’s motorcycle. And of course, Cory and Topanga lasted long enough to spawn two children and a spin-off. Every show has its golden couple, and no matter what plot twist comes their way, they’ll be rightfully together by that series finale because they were always endgame.
Wouldn’t that be nice?
Translate that concept into real life, and suddenly things get complicated. Some of us would love to believe that if our lives were TV shows, there would be someone out there we were meant to be with. But do real relationships actually work that way? Sometimes it’s hard to believe that “the one” could be waiting for you in your boring econ class or at the next frat party. So whether you believe soul mates are inevitable or an urban legend, Her Campus has everything you need to know about them. Swoon or scoff—it’s your choice!
To believe or not to believe in soul mates
Spoiler alert: Ultimately, everything about the soul mate debate is up to you. Only you can decide whether they exist, how to define them or whether to call that person your soul mate, “the one” or even your lobster (sick of our Friends references yet?).
But just in case you’re still on the fence, check out these compelling opinions from fellow collegiettes that you might just be tempted to adopt.
“I totally believe in soul mates!” says Heather Baldock, a senior at the University of Oregon. “I think first you just have to love yourself and where you are in life… once you stop looking for guys and worrying about being single and instead focus on loving yourself, then you'll find the perfect person for you.”
Northwestern University graduate Iris*, on the other hand, doesn’t believe relationships are the package deal that famous TV and movie couples would have us believe.
“I think ‘soul mate’ is a concept perpetuated by the marketplace; an attractive ideal that keeps the masses attending chick flicks and paying for prime exposure on dating sites,” she says. “And frankly, I'd rather fall in love on my own terms than on the terms Hollywood scripts for me.”
For those of you who don’t feel like picking a side, don’t worry: middle ground is always possible, especially when it comes to something like soul mates.
“I'm not sure I believe in soul mates exactly,” says Samantha Galasso, a graduate of Villanova University. “I think certain people are more compatible than others, but I think every relationship you have—past, present and future—all bring something to the table, and just because they're not the person you spend the rest of your life with doesn't mean the time you spent with them is any less valuable.”
What does a soul mate look like in real life?
Putting the existential debate of soul mates on hold for a sec, what does a soul mate look like outside of a Hallmark card, anyway? We might not have all the answers, but we do have our love expert, our Real Live College Guy and a few lucky collegiettes to tell you their versions of the story.
Certified dating coach Marla Martenson, who wrote Excuse Me, Your Soul Mate Is Waiting and several other books on dating and romance, has a sweet and simple go-to definition. “My definition of a soul mate is someone that makes life sweeter and fun to go through with,” she says. “A soul mate can often challenge us to a higher standard, teach us patience and lead us to unconditional love.”
And of course, no discussion of soul mates is complete without the standard similes.
“I think that people are like puzzle pieces, and that some people are better fits for each other than others,” says Shira Kipnees, a senior at Franklin & Marshall. “My grandmother has a saying that every pot has a lid, and I think that is true as well. Everyone has someone out there who can make them even better or make them even happier.”
Sometimes, signs that your significant other is “the one” might come at times when you’re thinking about anything but your relationship.
“I knew I found that special someone when I had a major family crisis during my freshman year of college after only a little over a year of [us] dating, and [he] made sure everything would be okay,” Shira says. “Considering the fact that most guys would probably be unable to tolerate crying or even a lot of emotions, or offer to let me call at any time if I felt sad, I knew I had a keeper.”
Other times, unlike on television, “the one” might not even be just one person at all.
“I very firmly believe in finding someone to love wholly and completely for a long time—preferably a lifetime—but I also understand that one's wants and needs change as time progresses,” says HC’s Real Live College Guy, Dale. “I think it's entirely possible to have more than one soul mate in a lifetime, depending on where you stand at any given point in life.”
Have you found “The One”? Know the signs
While there are definitely facets of soul mates that are indefinable, how about some concrete tips for telling that he or she might be “the one”? There might be a million ways unique to your relationship, but Martenson has five good places to start:
- “He uses the word ‘we’ in conversation, and is planning on including you in his future.”
- “He ‘gets’ you and loves getting to know you and loves you for you.”
- “His values align with yours.”
- “He makes you want to be a better person and vice versa.”
- “You can be yourself with him. There’s a comfort level like coming home with him.”
The problem with soul mates
Stop right there! Is all of the above a bit too sweet for your taste? No worries… we know that the concept of soul mates has its dark side, too. “Our perception of a soul mate is often based on movies, television, books and fairy tales,” Martenson says. “The problem often arises because romantic love often falls short of that ideal.”
Even if you’re not sitting around waiting for your Prince Charming, committing to the idea that there is only one person out there for you can potentially lead to trouble.
Or, according to Iris, at least some extreme pickiness.
“I'll never love anyone the same way I loved my boyfriend when I was 15… and then I went on to love other guys and have more mature relationships,” she says. “And if I had been holding out for my perfect man—who is somewhere between Adam Brody and Neil Patrick Harris, so hey to all the guys out there—I probably never would have dated any of them.”
Our advice to not letting your belief in soul mates lead to your romantic downfall: If you’re into “the one,” don’t give up on it—just avoid coming up with a SparkNotes version of your perfect partner, because having too high of standards may mean you never take the time to crack open the right book.
Remember, you come first
Think of it this way: if you want to think of soul mates as two pieces of a puzzle, know that you won’t be able to fit with anyone until you have defined the shape of your own piece. Or, if you’re tired of metaphors: concentrate on your own life and self-fulfillment, and things will fall into place.
“I would advise college women to first work on themselves before searching for a soul mate,” Martenson says. “Getting in touch with who they really are and loving themselves first will out them into a position to make better choices in dating and selecting a partner.”
And who knows? Maybe your soul mate will arrive in a completely different package than you expected. Maybe he’ll be a Chandler instead of a Ross. Or maybe you’ll follow the words of wisdom of Sex and the City’s Charlotte, who suggested to her friends, "Maybe we could be each other's soul mates, and then we can let men be just these great, nice guys to have fun with." Maybe you’ll find three soul mates, or maybe you’ll discover you don’t want to find one at all.
Sure, that’s a lot of maybes, but like we said, our lives don’t have a series finale that dictates our endgames—that’s all up to you.
*Name has been changed.