There’s No Such Thing as a ‘Soul Mate’

Relationship blogger Jess Downey has come to a conclusion not so new to our community. but downright blasphemous in the online dating advice world: There’s no such thing as a “soul mate.”

I love her explanation, too — a series of questions whose answers make less and less sense the more you think about it:

So what happens when you meet Mr. Soulmate at the age of 25 and he dies 10 years later? It seems strange to me that you would go on living your life completely closed to the idea of meeting anyone because you already met your soul mate and he tragically left you too soon. Sure, you might not rush out to find someone new, but I think it’s weird to say you would never date ever again.

… it’s still a lot of pressure to know that you think this other person is the one and only human being you’re destined to be with. It gives them a whole lot of something to live up to. And what happens if things go sour? What happens if you both don’t want the same things?

This is a fun, totally-unromantic game to play: How many ways can you destroy the idea of a soul mate? (It’s reminiscent of how George Carlin tore down the idea of parents who look down on their children from Heaven after they die, beginning at the 5:30 mark here.)

Soul mates don’t exist, but that doesn’t mean love is a foreign concept to rational people. If you’re lucky, you’ll meet someone whom you care deeply for and who cares about you back, someone who will tolerate your flaws just enough to not run away screaming, someone you’ll build a wonderful life with together, and someone who stays with you when things get tough. It could happen with any number of people, some of whom you’ll probably never meet, but that doesn’t make your love any less wonderful than that of people who believe God placed their partners in this world just for them.

(image via Shutterstock)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Art_Vandelay

    I’ll go ahead and be the first to drop this…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeZMIgheZro

    • Katwise

      Thanks. Tim always makes me smile.

  • McAtheist

    Smokey Robinson and the Miracles…..now there’s some ‘soulmates’!

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

    Or “sole mate,” unless it’s a matching shoe.

  • randomfactor

    I met mine, and she died ten years later.

  • CottonBlimp

    Before we go into a longish discussion about whether “soul mates” exist, don’t you think it’s important to define what “soul mate” actually means?

    I don’t think I was predestined to meet my current partner. I just think we’ve been together for so long, we’ve been such an intimate part of each others’ lives, we’ve been molded into shapes that only fit with each other (less wooey version: we’ve adapted behaviors optimal for loving cooperation with each other, behaviors too specific for another person to fit in without years of readapting them).

    That’s “soul mate” enough for me.

    • ortcutt

      Absolutely.

      Rule #1: Define your terms, people.

      If “soul mate” means the one-and-only person in the universe with whom you are well-matched, then arguing against “soul mates” is just arguing against a strawman. I mean, jeez louise. There are 7 billion people on the planet. People are looking for a soul-mate, but THE soul-mate.

  • blasphemous_kansan

    My wife sold her soul for charity at an event for KU’s Society of Open Minded Atheists and Agnostics years before we were ever together.

    So that’s a little joke that we share when the terminology comes up in conversation, and I realize now that it’s also how we debunk the idea of the ‘soul mate’: Can one still have a soul mate if they knowingly lack the required materials? Or is the ‘soul’ that you sell to a demon or auction for charity different than the ‘soul’ that recognizes love in another? Why, or why not?

  • busterggi

    Please – my ex-wife divorced me mostly due to the combination of pressure from her Baptist former sister-in-law (because I’m a blasphemous atheist) and that whole soul mate mythology.

    BTW, 20 + years later my ex & I are still friends while her former sis-in-law dumped her for not being religious enough.

  • Epinephrine

    Beat me to the TIm Minchin video, but I can be the first to link cectic:
    http://www.rudism.com/comics?cectic&100

  • http://www.facebook.com/ken.carman.12 Ken Carman

    We MAKE each other our “soulmates.” If from the start it seems absolutely perfect, be careful. Love is a lot of work.

  • JWH

    I think it depends on how you define a soulmate. Is there somebody out there that you are destined to meet and who will automatically be your one twue wove? No. Is there a very small subset of people with whom you are very well matched in terms of your personalities, physical attraction, etc.? I think that’s very possible. After all, the population of outgoing red-headed atheists who enjoy working out regularly, hate country life, but enjoy the works of Philip K. Dick is a very, very small group.

    • onamission5

      This. There is such a thing as a best closest match, there’s such a thing as the worst possible match, and then there is everything in between. People who are not necessarily each other’s best matches can still make it work, but if making it work is too much like capital W Work, it’s probably not working. ;P
      I like a lot of people. I’m just not particularly compatible with most of them. So, when I say that it feels like Spouse and I were “meant” to be together, what I mean is that we’re pretty damn close to the best possible match two people like us could get and I still find that amazing.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    I never thought that we have soul mates and hate the idea that you need someone to “complete you.” I define soul mate as the idea that there is only one person meant for you out of the billions on the planet.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    What happens if you buy a soul on eBay? Do you have double the chances of meeting your soulmate then?

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Bubba Tarandfeathered

    According to Bubbapeadia

    SEX=MC2 doesn’t allow for Soul Mates, with the exception being only if said soul mates are producing large incremental numbers of offspring and large generational numbers of offspring. This way matter-energy would be evenly homogenized over time-space.

  • Houndentenor

    The whole soul mate thing is a fairy tale. There is such a thing as compatability but I think one of the big problems in our society is that people think that once they find “the one” (a/k/a their soulmate) that they will then live happily ever after. Relationships require maintenance. That maintenance will hopefully be enjoyable work but it is work nevertheless.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-W-Busch/578120211 Michael W Busch

    And I will be the first to link Randall Munroe’s observations on this: http://what-if.xkcd.com/9/

  • amanda

    Is belief in “soul mates” a religious thing at all? I’m Christian and I don’t believe in soul mates and never have as far as I can remember. The idea never made sense to me. What if my soul mate is an Australian aborigine who will never travel more than 20 miles? And on and on and on…

    The point she makes here:
    “… it’s still a lot of pressure to know that you think this other person
    is the one and only human being you’re destined to be with. It gives
    them a whole lot of something to live up to. And what happens if things
    go sour? What happens if you both don’t want the same things?”

    is so relevant to the difficulty people seem to have in maintaining long term relationships. If you don’t want one, fine, but most of us do and their hope for success has been poisoned by this belief that there is one ideal mate out there- wherever that belief is coming from- and whenever a current mate isn’t absolutely perfect it must be indicative that he/she isn’t the right one.

  • Hazelares

    Can anybody explain the concept of “soul” to me to begin with?

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    If there was one person perfectly matched for one other person, what if one of them dies before ever meeting the other? The other soul mate wouldn’t even know their soul mate doesn’t exist anymore.

  • Polina Korneeva

    Personally I don’t believe in one person in this world made exactly for you. But I guess it would be kinda cool.

    I believe that in this world there are certain people who you are more compatible with in terms of your views, interests and goals. Because you are similar, you find it comfortable to be near each other and you can understand each other quite well either. Obviously, no relationship is based on understanding and comfort only: there are tons of other things that might affect it, such as ability to express your emotions, directly state your needs, willingness to compromise on some matters etc. But nonetheless, usually it is the way another person is and their beliefs that make you want to be with them, or so I believe. For example, according to research done, an insecure person would be more likely to feel more comfortable with an insecure person and secure person would be more likely to stick to a secure person…. But anyhow, I went a bit too far from the idea of soul mate. Basically what I am saying is that I see a soul mate as someone who you just simply feel comfortable with and, as it was mentioned in an article, ‘who is willing to tolerate your flaws just enough to not run away screaming’, and I think it makes sense.

  • Farty Fartsalot

    There’s always one person out there for.
    And another. And another. And a million more.

    So yes… it’s bullshit. No such thing as a “soul mate.”


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