You look longingly at the couple in the booth over in the corner, obviously married for ages and ages, but they still only have eyes for each other. The shared smiles, the casual caresses, the knowing looks, the obvious body language showing how comfortable they are when they're together. We've all seen it. And at some point, we've all felt a tinge of envy at people we know in our hearts are soulmates. The word soulmate, meaning someone with whom you're connected for life - or even eternity, if you believe it - doesn't really have a standard or even useful definition.
Oxford Languages, which is the official provider of content for the Google English Dictionary, calls it: "a person ideally suited to another as a close friend or romantic partner."
The Urban Dictionary doesn't even offer a soulmate meaning; it merely talks about 'soul mates', which isn't very helpful.
The Cambridge Dictionary comes in with a slightly more solid: "someone, usually your romantic or sexual partner, who you have a special relationship with, and who you know and love very much."
Merriam-Webster's two-pronged definition: "a person who is perfectly suited to another in temperament," and "a person who strongly resembles another in attitudes or beliefs." The latter has more of a colloquial usage context rather than being a clear definition.
So, what do we have so far in terms of 'soulmate' meaning?
We have key phrases like "ideally suited", "close friend", "romantic partner", "romantic or sexual partner", "special relationship", "who you know and love very much", "perfectly suited in temperament", and "strongly resembles." Do those give us a clear picture of what the definition of a soulmate is? I think not, because these soulmate definitions are leaving out the most important part: two souls connected deeply and inextricably across time and space. Remember this because we'll come back to it later.
Such a definition sets a restrictive framework, yet allows us to answer questions like these:
Does your soulmate have to be of the opposite sex? The answer: No, they don't. Same-sex soulmates, however, are believed to be emotionally and spiritually akin to a man and a woman, each bearing the distinct characteristics of one sex.
Does each of us only have one soulmate in this world? The answer: No, we can have multiple soul-connections. One school of thought lists at least 5 different types of soulmates a person can have: a friend, a teacher, a lover, a past life soulmate, and a spiritual twin or twin flame.
Unfortunately, not many sources are helpful when it comes to answering that all-important question: Have I found my soulmate yet? T
here are plenty of answers out there, of course, but they're not very useful. For example, one of the most common pieces of "sage advice" that even respectable websites give when someone asks that question is to say "you will know when you meet your soulmate."
"That's a load of rubbish!" is my first reaction.
Why would you ask that question if you already knew the answer? Or does the fact that you're asking the question itself prove that you haven't? A more realistic - and helpful - answer to that question might be: You may have already met your soulmate, but maybe you're not seeing the signs. Look for the signs and you'll find your soulmate.
So, what are these signs? Well, as a starting point, let's use clues from those key phrases we picked out of popular definitions.
"ideally suited", "perfectly suited in temperament": On the surface, this indicator appears to be weak and vague. How you do know if someone is 'perfectly suited' to you? But this definition is not completely useless - there's some precision in its ambiguity, if that makes any sense. 'Ideally suited' can be interpreted as someone who tends to get along well with you; perhaps it's someone who has the same likes and dislikes as you and usually goes along with your decisions, or you with theirs. In this context, it would be someone very much like you. In contrast, it could even be someone who, through conflict, brings out the best in you. Have you ever known someone like that? Someone who argues your strongest beliefs and makes you re-evaluate them and feel good about it? That could be your soulmate. Ideally suited can even mean someone you're comfortable being around. Most of us wear masks when we're in public; with an easy-to-be-with person, we can shed those masks and reveal our true selves without fear of being criticized for who we really are. In fact, this could be the best soulmate meaning we've come across here.
Additionally, someone could be perfectly suited to you because you learn so much from them and they fill in the knowledge and experience gaps you have in your own life. This is often the case between a person and their role model or a mentor, in which case they would fit into the 'teacher soulmate' category.
"close friend": In typical usage, a 'soulmate' in this context often refers to a 'soul's mate' - a friend to your soul. This could be a close confidant (female: confidante), a childhood buddy who you're still very close to, or even a relative you have a special connection with, like the grandmother who understands you better than your parents and even better than you understand yourself. A close friend is not necessarily - and not usually - part of your inner circle of Facebook or Instagram pals. It's that special friend with whom you share a deep connection even outside of social media - or specifically outside of social media! It could be someone who constantly and unhesitatingly comes to your aid whenever you're in trouble. It could be the friend who unfailingly gives you the most sound advice in any given situation. What's important here is that you feel the special connection so you can identify the 'soulmate nature' of this relationship and hold on to it for dear life. It is a rare and, therefore, valuable thing.
"romantic partner", "romantic or sexual partner": This is probably the most common interpretation of the 'soulmate' meaning. So many books, movies, plays, and TV series have been throwing this in our face that many of us think this is the only kind of soulmate that's worth having. Could that be why friends and family are so underrated? That's something worth contemplating. Nonetheless, it doesn't preclude romantic relationships from qualifying as soulmate relationships. The lucky few of us who have found a soulmate in our life partner know that nothing can separate us. In a way, it cuts through all the trust issues, doubt, uncertainty, and other aspects that prevent you from having a healthy relationship. The signs here should be clear enough - you can't stand being apart, you're constantly thinking of each other in every context or situation possible, when you're together you somehow feel 'complete', you might be finishing off each other's sentences, you might say the exact same thing together at the exact same time, and so on. This particular version of a soulmate is probably the rarest of all. Very few of us are likely to find our romantic soulmate, sadly, which is probably why there has been so much literature and pop culture around this theme since the dawn of recorded history.
"special relationship": This one falls somewhere between a friend soulmate and a lover soulmate. You can't put your finger on it but you know there's something special that goes beyond friendship but hasn't matured into a full-blown romance. Maybe it will and maybe it won't, but the suspense of this is what keeps this sort of relationship alive, and it can be a very long time before the two of you figure out where each of you stands. Another interpretation of a 'special relationship' is the close bond between members of a family. It could be a sibling, a cousin, or a grandchild. There's a mental, emotional, and spiritual connection that makes your relationship with this person stronger than any of the other relationships you have with family members. It could be your dad or your daughter; your son or your mother. It could be a distant relative who you only see at family gatherings. The signs of this type of soulmate are clear: You tend to share things with them that even other close friends or relatives don't know, you feel very positive around each other, you tend to go to that person when you're feeling low or need someone to just listen and not immediately spout advice or offer to 'fix the problem', and when a good thing happens in your life, they're the ones you want to share the news with first because you know there will only be genuine goodwill.
"who you know and love very much": This one's a little obvious. But is it, though? Sometimes, we miss the forest for the trees. The ones we truly love are most likely to be our soulmates, but we're often too close to them to realize it. So, what are the signs? Similar to the signs in a 'special relationship', the signs here are clear. You talk a lot and often, you never seem to get bored with each other's company, they're the ones you want to share the good news with, and they're very likely the ones that are the most supportive of your goals and ambitions. In fact, this is the type of soulmate that gives the word soulmate its true meaning. They're the friends of your self, and they help you grow spiritually. These are the ones to hang on to.
"strongly resembles you in attitudes and beliefs": This type of soulmate is similar to the "ideally suited" one. This person thinks like you and shares your values. They likely belong to the same circle of friends that you do. It's almost like a cult thing when it's taken to the extreme. But it can also be an enriching relationship, which brings us to what actually qualifies as a soulmate relationship.
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