Dear Justine,

The guy I’ve been seeing for two years just ended our relationship. He is my soul mate. There was instant chemistry when we met. Not too long after we started dating, we were finishing each other’s sentences. We just see things the same way; there’s no other way to describe it. I’m 31, and I’ve dated a lot, and had three serious relationships besides this one… and I’ve never felt this way about someone before. It’s weird because even though I am completely heartbroken, my best friend thinks me and my ex were a better match on paper than in real life. We fought a lot, for example. No one could make me feel as good as my ex, but no one could make me feel as bad as he did either. But now the bad stuff and the fights seem silly, and I feel like I’ll never find as deep of a connection with anyone again. I do want to be in a relationship. Can I ever love anyone else as much as I love my soul mate?




Philosophers and writers love to muse about soul mates. They tend to view soul mates as “mirrors.” Sylvia Day describes her soul mate as “The other half of me… my reflection.” Emily Bronte said of her soul mate, “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”

Soul mates see the world the same way. Meeting someone who can finish your sentences, maybe even right away, is powerfully enticing. Sparks fly. You feel understood.

When physical chemistry gets in the mix, hell breaks loose.

So many of us believe we should spend lots of time with our soul mates. Ideally, marry them.

I challenge this theory.

Instead, I align with two Elizabeths who conceive of a profoundly rewarding relationship that does not involve two people who are exactly the same.

According to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, an ideal relationship is one in which both members do not mirror, but rather inspire each other:

“I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you. I love you not only for what you have made of yourself, but for what you are making of me. I love you for the part of me that you bring out.”

According to Elizabeth Gilbert, a real-life relationship with your soul mate can even be hazardous:

“A true soul mate is a mirror… A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave.”

Spending time with someone who sees the world the same way you do may be thrilling. But the thrill can wear off. And worse, too much time with your soul mate can prevent you from becoming (and remaining) the best version of yourself. For example, if you both tend towards overthinking or self-absorption (as many people who spend a lot of time thinking about finding their soul mates do), neither of you will easily recognize these tendencies in the other. If you are both shy and overly concerned about hurting people’s feelings, you probably won’t communicate directly with each other. On the flip side, if you both have bad tempers and tend to be too direct, you may fight a lot and be too casual with each other’s feelings. These types of dynamics between soul mates can be disastrous for real life relationships and marriages.

Also, since we tend to be hard on ourselves about qualities we don’t like in ourselves, we can be brutally hard on our “mirrors” when we perceive those same qualities in them. Perhaps this is what Gilbert was getting at when she talked about pain and tearing down walls in connection with soul mates. We can learn a lot from pain, but romantic relationships and marriages are supposed to make us happy. A good romantic partner often does not share all of our insecurities, but instead finds them charming. He forgives us for our shortcomings and our sins.

To borrow from Gilbert, and to add my own twist: soul mates are mirrors, and among the most important people you’ll meet, and perhaps not good people to live with or marry. But you don’t need to shut them out of your life.  They can be good friends who you see from time to time, whenever you need a mirror to remind you who you are.

Maybe more important (and rewarding) than spending your life with your mirror is spending your life with someone who pays attention to you, who adores you, who learns from you, and who always brings out the best in you (and for whom you return the favor on all counts).  Jack Nicholson’s character nailed it in the movie As Good As it Gets when he told Helen Hunt’s character “You make me want to be a better man.” A great real-life partner inspires you to try to be the best version of yourself (and equally importantly, sticks by you even if you fail).

For all I know, your ex considers you his soul mate too, but for whatever combination of reasons, it doesn’t sound like he wants to be in a real-life relationship with you anymore. Without discounting the glamour and value of soul mates, it is frustrating and painful to concentrate your love on someone who is not in a real-life relationship with you.

In sum: when (not if, but when) you find someone who inspires you rather than mirrors you – and vice versa – you will have the capacity to love him not just as much, but more than your soul mate.

Justine Borer is a family and matrimonial lawyer practicing in New York City. In her spare time, she loves to write, act, do pilates, and spend time with family and friends.
  1. Still looking for mine; maybe it was luck, or fate; I’ve been married too many times…and lost a young wife to cancer (in the 1970’s). I don’t believe in soulmates, but I’m guessing the odds are good we have someone out there that, as you suggest, “inspires” us rather than “mirrors” us. That’s the reason I post a lot of details and pics on my dating sites – trying to improve the odds of finding that someone special….again.

  2. Soulmates
    Definition #1
    Knew each other in another lifetime and decided they were too meet again this lifetime to finish a goal and purpose they had together and to help each other succeed. Problem is that this lifetime if they have baggage from other lifetimes you were not with them or this lifetime then it can cause some rocky roads and I am not talking about icecream. YOU ARE not necessarily twin souls as the Mishna would state but you usually have a great understanding and intuitive communication without effort.

    2nd definition of a relationship that is not soulmate based. Is that person you want to be with this lifetime because they make you feel good and you make them feel good and are willing to help each other create the things that each wants to create this lifetime.

    Tell you a story. I met someone on jDate and went out to Reno to a soulmate seminar. Found out he had been on Psych drugs for 9 years heavy antidepression even though i said on my site no Pschiatric cases. In the middle of the night I was throwing up blood . IT ACTUALLY came from my gums. I realized at that moment that I knew this man in a past life. He was a Nazi and shot me into a ditch in the Holocost. He also kept on complaining when he was with me how everybody else was to be blamed for his condition in life. He said he lost money because of his x and that his old girlfriend took advantage of him. I paid for his trip to a Ultrasound lady to handle his health and I saved his life with catching that he could have a stroke any day . He stole tapes from me and did not pay me for 1/2 the seminar we went to. He was dramatizing meanness this lifetime. This is not an example of a soulmate. This is an example of someone who harmed you last life time and felt compelled to be with you to make up the damage he did. But he continues to dramatize in many ways the suppression he has put you in in the past.

    I hope this clears up what is the difference between a true soulmate and a past enemy and meeting someone to just enjoy the, this lifetime and create new experiences with,

  3. If you depend on someone else to make your life happy …. you’re in real trouble. I figured that out a long time ago. You know that famous question: How many married couples do you admire ? I have a business, good friends and family … that can make life good too.

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