Julia O'Reilly

Do soulmates exist?

If you couldn’t guess, I — the heartless bitch behind this screen, who often finds her faith in love dwindling in the presence of frat douches and alpha-male gym-bros — do not believe in such a pretty-picture concept. Shocking, I know.

But my unyielding “men are assholes until proven otherwise” mindset is not the only reason why. To be fair, I hope for the sake of probability that the one-person-for-every-person theory is untrue. Some, like a writer at the Atlantic, claim that “such expectations are correlated with dysfunctional patterns in relationships.”

Not only can the idea of soulmates hinder individuals from entering a relationship for fear that their significant other isn’t their one true person, but it can also lead to harmful tendencies between partners. It can be conducive to a belief in “mind reading” and other unrealistic ideas that align with the unrealistic nature of soulmates. Because it’s “cosmically perfect,” people believe that their relationship should be immune to issues and challenges. This misconception can wreak havoc on relationships, hindering forgiveness and escalating the severity of conflicts, as people may assume a person is simply wrong for them rather than choose to persevere through issues that could be healthy for a relationship to endure.

Additionally, there are fundamental flaws in the inherent premise of soulmates. Lots of those who marry their proclaimed soulmates get divorced years later. How does the idea account for widows and widowers? It assumes that another person completes an individual rather than encouraging individuals to complete themselves. It also justifies staying in toxic and, at times, abusive relationships because the criterion of being a soulmate surpasses all others that could possibly matter. Ultimately, the idea of soulmates allows for the compromise of personal standards, even though it is an archaic idea that has no reasonable basis.

While love and compatibility can be real and genuine, it is much more practical to assume that some people are just better suited for each other than others. And this theory, one of practicality, is contingent upon the single most human liberty an individual can possess — free will. Through the belief that a partner is not destined but rather found and worked for, people can see love from the vantage point that they have the power to choose. The theory acknowledges that love is not easy and shouldn’t be, and people should be satisfied because of their active choice to be with another person.

In Women’s Health, Sabrina Romanoff, a clinical psychologist at Lenox Hill Hospital, explains that the traditional soulmate belief “paves the way for significant disappointment.” Instead, Romanoff suggests soulmates be “created,” not found. Those searching for soulmates should spend time learning about their prospective partner and work through difficult times, Romanoff says. This investment of time and energy that cultivates a relationship is a healthy facet of love and all of its complications. It inspires one to exercise agency and maintain high expectations for themselves, fostering a progressive and empowered outlook on love.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for a good Nicholas Sparks movie night. But as much as the heart-tugging plots make me wish for my own Ryan Gosling to build me a white house with blue shutters, I just don’t think it’s that simple. But the gray, the messy and the complicated — that’s how love exists beyond the big screen. I can admit that if it were easy, it probably wouldn’t be worth much at all. I guess that’s the point — to look for a soulmate and find someone pretty damn close.

Julia O’Reilly is a sophomore majoring in biology.