Should we stop believing in soul mates?
The soul mates concept is one with a rich mythological history. According to Plato, Aristocrates described ancient human beings as having two faces, four arms, four legs and two sets of genitals. When humans threatened the gods, they struck all humans in half, casting them into utter misery. If a human managed to find the other half of their 'soul' there was a profound sense of completeness and understanding -- the greatest joy that there could ever be in life.
These days people regard soul mates as a romantic concept -- someone you feel completed by. A 2011 Marist poll found that nearly three out of four Americans believe there is one person on Earth that will make them feel complete.
Now scientists are saying that perhaps, the soul mates concept is faulty. A new study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology categorized people into two groups: those who categorized their relationships as a unity (soul mates) and those who framed their relationships as a journey that they're on with someone.
What they found was that those who described their relationships as a unity have more dismal romantic outcomes. The researchers asked the participants to prepare levels of satisfaction during times of harmony and times of conflict. They found those who believe in unity were significantly more upset in times of conflict than those who took the journey approach.
Now, previous research on the topic has found that the soul mate group tends to have short but intensely passionate relationships as they seek out the person that they feel a connection to.
Relationships for this group are shorter because when conflict came up, they had trouble coping with it and working towards a resolution. Instead they saw it as a sign that they weren't meant to be.
By contrast the people in the journey group were more likely to seek out partners that they could see themselves growing with, and not necessarily someone they had an intense passion with, right away. When conflict happened they were more likely to work through it towards a resolution and they more satisfying relationships overall.
The moral of the story: the soul mates concept can jeopardize a relationship if taken too seriously. Researchers at the University of Toronto say if anything, the finding are a great example of how the way we talk and think about relationships can greatly affect our success in them.