I used to think it was really dopey.
A soulmate? Really??
You'd occasionally spot those long-term couples still looking all googly-eyed at each other and wonder what they were smoking. I mean, come on, relationships are hard work. At least that was my experience (and the experience of most of the couples I knew).
Walk into any restaurant and look around at the couples sitting together. They're either lost in their cellphones, silently focused on their food, or glaring at each other with barely restrained contempt. Unless the pair is newly attached and lust-driven, you don't see many couples holding hands, staring into each other's eyes, and lost in conversation.
I just assumed that the “soulmate” thing was an anomaly — a new age term coined to describe the rare connection between two people beamed down from the planet Woo Woo, destined to find each other through magical attraction love beams.
But then I found mine, and all bets were off.
Would I call him a soulmate? Yes, I guess that's the best term available, although there wasn't a bit of magic involved. Do I consider it an anomaly? It sure feels like one, but even though it seems like a one in a million connection between us, I've come to believe that anyone can find a great match (or even possibly create one with your existing partner) if you employ your head as well as your heart.
Finding the person who will still make your heart go pitter patter 10, 20, or 30 years down the road does involve a little luck and chemistry, but mostly it involves knowing yourself, who you're looking for, and some basic prerequisites for any successful relationship.
Here are 20 ways to find your soulmate:
1. Develop your emotional intelligence.
This is basic, foundational work everyone should undergo in preparation for a great relationship. If you have low emotional intelligence, or you don't know what it is, today is the best time to start working on it. Emotional intelligence is a set of skills that include control of your impulses, self-motivation, empathy and social competence in interpersonal relationships. It involves the ability to listen well, communicate calmly, and maintain self-control.
Without emotional intelligence, your love relationship WILL have problems, even if you are compatible in most other areas. Here's a post I've written on the subject that can help you learn a bit more about emotional maturity. Also, I highly recommend Daniel Goleman's book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ and Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry.
2. Work through your “stuff.”
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This is another foundational step toward finding your soulmate. We all have baggage we carry into a relationship, and some is more debilitating that others. These can include childhood wounds, past relationship issues, or other emotional scars we harbor that impact our behaviors, moods, and self-control.
The more unaddressed stuff you bring in to a new relationship, the more potential there is for conflict, low self-esteem, hurt feelings, and unhappiness. You are sabotaging your relationship before it ever gets off the ground. You've probably known people who've rushed into a new relationship immediately after divorce, only to have it end because they hadn't fully dealt with the divorce or problems leading to it.
I strongly believe all of us need some amount of therapy and counsel before we enter into a serious relationship, but this is particularly true if you have a lot of baggage. Do yourself and your future partner a favor, and work on yourself to heal the past and learn new coping skills. Try to be as emotionally and mentally healthy as possible so you have the energy and resilience to be fully present for someone you love.
3. Learn your love language.
The term “love language” was coined by bestselling author and marriage counselor Gary Chapman in his groundbreaking book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts.
These 5 love languages include: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. By understanding your own unique needs, and the needs of your partner when you find him or her, you both learn how to express love in a way that feels most loving to each other.
Take the time to consider how you feel most loved, cherished, and cared for. Find that out from your potential soulmate, and share your love language with him or her. If your partner isn't willing to offer your love language, or if you're resistant to offering it to your partner, this is a serious red flag that the relationship isn't sustainable.
You can take Gary Chapman's love language quiz here.
4. Define your core values.
You want to find someone who shares the most important guiding principles for your life. If your core values are different, then conflict is inevitable. Make it a point to look for someone who shares as many of the same core values with you as possible.
Here's a list of 400 value words to help you narrow down your own guiding life principles.
You won't share every single value with your partner, but define your top 5-10 life values — those that are simply non-negotiable for you. When you're dating someone, at an appropriate time find a way to communicate your values to this new person, and ask them what their core values are. If they don't know, share the list of 400 value words and ask them to define them.
If you discover you have wildly differing values, it's time to walk away.
5. Get clear on the biggies (kids, money, sex, religion, politics)
Do you want children? If so, how many? What will be your childrearing style and priorities? What is your philosophy about money? Are you a spender or saver? How much money do you want? How much do you expect your partner to make? How important is sex to you? How often do you want it? Are you more wild or tame when it comes to sex?
Are you religious? Do you expect your partner to share your faith or lack of it? Are you OK if he or she doesn't? Are you liberal, conservative, or somewhere in the middle politically? Does it matter if you're partner has differing political views?
These are topics that are frequently sources of conflict between couples. If you regularly differ on these big life priorities, it will cause a rift in your connection and eventually impact the respect and love you have for each other. Rather than waiting for that to happen by ignoring these differences, address them now and consider how you will handle them in a committed relationship.
6. Write down your ideal.
Putting things down on paper adds a level of clarity and reality to your goals and desires. Write down the qualities, attributes, and personality of your ideal soulmate. Get as specific as possible, focusing specifically on the areas that have the most longevity. For example, we all want an attractive partner, but eventually looks fade. Having someone with lots of money is great, but as we all know, money doesn't buy happiness.
Consider the qualities that speak to values, integrity, personality, commitment, communication, intimacy, respect, motivation, empathy, and affection.
You may not find someone who matches your ideal exactly, but having an ideal in mind gives you mental picture of the type of person you're looking for.
7. Pay attention to personality type.
Do you know your own personality type? If you don't, taking the Myers Briggs personality assessment, or another similar personality assessment, is a hugely valuable tool in helping you understand your own motivations, inclinations, and natural aptitudes. It can also help you find a compatible love partner.
There are a variety of free personality assessments online, and I'd suggest you take one of them to find out your 4-letter type. Then read this article about compatibility and personality type to see how you can find your soulmate by looking for people who have a complimentary type.
This is certainly not the only guideline for finding your soulmate, but the research suggest you have a higher likelihood of relationship satisfaction when matched with the best personality type for your personality.
8. Take the search seriously.
You can't sit around your house hoping and dreaming Mr. or Ms. Wonderful will show up at your doorstep. You have to get out there and look. Whether than means going out with friends to clubs or social events or signing up for a dating service, you must make the (admittedly uncomfortable) effort to search.
Even though Match.com sometimes gets a bad rap, I found it highly useful in narrowing the field of potential relationship candidates and quickly screening people who weren't compatible. Everyone (except some weirdos) on online dating sites are there to meet someone. You can find out quickly through an anonymous email or a brief phone call whether or not someone is serious about their own search.
If you don't like these ideas or if you want to broaden your search, tell friends and family you are looking and ask them to keep an eye out. People who know you can be great sources for finding the right match for you.
9. Search in the right places.
If you are looking for a creative, artsy woman, you may not find her in your accounting office. If your dream man has high emotional intelligence, don't sign up to be on “The Bachelor” if you want to find him. Ask yourself, “Where does my ideal man or woman hang out?” Then go hang out at those places yourself.
This may take some creative brainstorming, but you can find your match doing what he or she likes to do. And what you like to do as well. If you like sports or adventure or travel, get involved in sports, adventure, and travel and meet new people.
10. Respond to red flags.
Sometimes we're so eager to meet someone and fall in love that we ignore those little red flags that start to crop up early in a relationship. Ask anyone who has been in a marriage or long-term relationship that ends, and they'll tell you they saw the early warning signs, but they ignored them.
It's hard to acknowledge that everything isn't perfect in Wonderland, especially if you're having great sex and a lot of fun. But you'll save yourself a lot of time and heartache by responding to the red flags and addressing them early on. If they undermine your values or life priorities, or if they reflect immaturity, selfishness, extremely low self-esteem, or controlling/abusive behavior, you need to break free and move on.
11. Remember, chemistry counts.
Have you ever met someone with whom you were extremely compatible, you had lots of fun together, you shared the same values, you found them physically attractive and interesting, but you had very little sexual chemistry? They seem like a perfect fit, but you just can't figure out why sex is so boring or you just aren't attracted to them sexually.
Having a great friendship with your love partner is essential, but having great chemistry is essential too. Sex builds on the emotional intimacy you have as a couple and helps bond you together. It's tempting to commit to someone who has everything except sexual compatibility, but this isn't a romantic partnership. It's a friendship with bad sex.
12. Don't neglect compatibility.
So you have great sex, but you go your separate ways outside of the bedroom. That won't work either. You both may have your own individual interests, but you need areas of crossover where you spend fun, quality time together. You should enjoy each other's company and really want to hang out.
Remember those couples in the restaurant who sat silently or glared at each other over Pad Thai? You want to be the couple who has great conversation in the restaurant, who laughs at silly stuff, and still holds hands. You want to really like this person you're committed to.
When you're dating, it's tempting to pretend you love rock climbing because your new guy does, or to act like shopping all day is your favorite pastime with your new woman. Be real with yourself and your potential partner. Do you have enough in common to make for a happy, fun, companionable connection?
13. Require mutual respect and equality.
Healthy relationships require mutual respect, equal (or equitable) divisions of labor, and shared decision making. One partner shouldn't be in control, and both partners should be equally committed to the health of the relationship.
You see a lot of committed partners where one person is simply along for the ride and the other is directing the ship. Eventually the passive partner loses self-esteem and the controlling partner loses respect. Pay attention to the personality of a prospective mate and how they treat you. Do they hold any pre-conceived notions about traditional relationship roles? Do they need to be right all the time? Will they use passive-aggressive behaviors to manipulate you into getting their way?
This is not soulmate behavior. Soulmates view their partner and the relationship as the highest priority in their lives, offering complete respect and regard for each other.
14. Notice communication style.
Part of emotional intelligence is learning to communicate well and to handle conflict in a mature way. When you first meet someone, he or she is usually on their best behavior. You may not see poor communication or conflict resolution issues until months down the road of dating.
A great way to learn about this behavior early on is by asking questions that invite your partner to share. You might ask questions like:
- How did you and your last partner resolve conflict?
- How do you generally act when you get angry?
- How often do you feel it's important to discuss our relationship?
- Do you ever withdraw or go silent when you're upset?
You may not get the full picture with these questions, but just his or her reaction to the questions will give you valuable information. Are they defensive? Putting on an act? Do they seem genuine and open? Pay attention to verbal and non-verbal clues.
15. Detach emotionally for a day.
When you're infatuated with someone, everything about them is tinted with a rosy hue. It's hard to observe this new love interest without the filter of your chemically-driven feelings. But as unromantic as it sounds, there are practical considerations to address when you're thinking about your life partner.
If it feels like things are getting more and more serious, emotionally step back just long enough to make a clear-headed assessment of some of these practicalities. Could you live in the same space with this person day in and day out? Do they have any personal habits that could really bug you down the road? Will they get along with your family and friends? Can you get along with his or her family and friends? Are they financially responsible? Do you like the same foods?
It's the small things that can turn into prickly issues once the relationship matures. Are there any of these little things you can't or don't want to live with? Look at your on past history with relationships for clues on how you'll react and feel in time.
16. Look at friends and family.
Take a good, hard look at the people your potential partner surrounds himself with. You can't choose your family, so family members may or may not be a reflection of your partner. But family values and upbringing definitely influence all of us. Do you like these people and how your soulmate prospect interacts with them? Do you want to be in this family?
We do choose our friends, and they are good indicators of some of the behaviors, values, and interests your guy or girl might possess. Does your guy's best friend spend all his time drinking beer and watching TV? Does your girlfriend have a group of superficial gossipy friends? Or do you see kind, interesting, like-minded friends who are fun to be around?
Ask yourself, “Why is my partner attracted to these people? How will these friends continue to influence our lives? What does this say about my partner?”
17. Experience a challenge.
I don't think you ever really know someone until you've gone through a challenging time together. Our true colors are exposed most vividly when we're stressed, frightened, or angry. I'm not suggesting you create a challenge for your relationship, but reserve final judgement on your commitment level until you do.
Life will be filled with ups and downs, and it's easy to be kind and happy when everything is going your way. You want a soulmate who has your back when times are bad and who can maintain some level of self-control and resilience. You want to know they are committed to you and the relationship, even when things are stormy.
18. Pay attention to your feelings.
One of the best indicators of whether or not someone is your soulmate is how you feel when you're around them. Do they lift you up rather than drag you down? Are you energized or drained when you spend time together? Do you look forward to time together or can't wait for time alone? Are you a better person with them or without them? Does something feel “off” in your relationship or do you feel completely content?
We often question ourselves and our feelings, especially during times of conflict or stress. But take the temperature of your feelings during a normal day. Try to be honest with yourself, even if it feels disappointing or scary. It's better to find out early in a relationship that things aren't right than after you've made a more serious or binding commitment.
19. Take your time.
Some people believe the soulmate thing happens in an instant. You see your beloved across the room and instantly recognize that this is the person you've been waiting for all of your life. Maybe that happens, but if it does, I think it's sheer luck and extremely rare.
Finding your soulmate is like peeling back the skin of an onion. It takes time to discover exactly who this person is and how they will be in all of the intricacies of an intimate relationship. Allow yourself to enjoy the discovery process, and try not to rush it, even if you feel your biological clock is ticking or you just can't wait to settle down.
Finding your soulmate and making the decision that this person is the one is the biggest life decision you'll ever make. Give it the time and attention it merits.
20. Don't give up!
If you want a soulmate, someone who shares a deep and abiding sense of love and intimacy with you, then you'll be more discerning in your choices for who you date and spend any lengthy amount of time with. You may have short relationships with great people who just don't quite fit the soulmate bill.
You may have times when you wonder if you'll ever find this amazing person. But don't give up! The more you look around and date, the more you learn about what you do and don't want in your future life partner. If you live in an area where there isn't a big pond of potential partners, expand your search and open your mind to a long distance courtship.
Maybe you shared my former belief that a “soulmate” doesn't exist. Perhaps you've had too many unfulfilling or bad relationships to open your heart and share your soul with someone in such a vulnerable way. If so, I hope you give it another chance by being proactive and mindful in your search for your great match.
As author George Eliot says, “What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined to strengthen each other, to be at one with each other in silent unspeakable memories.”
Have you found your soulmate, or are you still looking for that one person to be your lover, best friends, and lifelong companion? Please share your story in the comments below.