Skip to main content

Why 'soulmates' might hurt your love life, and what to do with your exes


An Edmonton researcher is working to debunk the "soulmate myth," saying the key to a happy relationship is choosing someone rather than finding "the one."

A new report, co-authored by University of Alberta researcher Adam Galovan, suggests the concept of a soulmate can make finding love harder.

"I think it's romanticized in our culture, on days like Valentine's Day especially, but it does some things to the way we approach relationships that maybe aren't as helpful," Galovan said.

The study looked at 615 couples in the U.S. and Canada, and Galovan and his colleagues found those with "destiny beliefs" were less likely to put in the work and effort needed for a flourishing partnership.

"I like to say that soulmates are made, not found. You have to put in that effort," Galovan said. "If you just take that idea that they're found, when things get rough or rocky, you might say, 'Well, maybe I didn't pick the right person, maybe I didn't find the right one.'

"And so some people have a tendency then to back out or not commit."

Instead, the research suggests healthy partnerships are made through proactive relationship maintenance including forgiveness, commitment, compassion and acts of kindness.

"Love is a verb. It's not just a feeling, it's something to do," Galovan said. "Are you willing to put in the time to spend time with your spouse, to talk to them, to show compassion in those times of difficulty and to nurture the relationship rather than just focus on the feelings that you have that might be up and down day to day?"

According to the research, that destiny belief can also make breakups harder. Taking a more active approach to relationship building can help singles stay optimistic and grow from their experiences.

"If you break up, you might be thinking, 'I thought this person was the one. And now we're not in a relationship anymore. What am I going to do?'" Galovan said. "We say that there are many possibilities."

"It's not just 'the one,' it's a one of several probably … So don't despair that you've lost your one true shot and love, and there's always hope."

For more information on Galovan's research on the "soulmate myth," you can find the full report based on this research.

For Edmontonians navigating a breakup or not feeling so optimistic about love this year, the Edmonton Valley Zoo is offering a way to blow off some steam for Valentine's Day.

This is the second year you can name a mealworm or rodent after a not-so-special someone – and watch a zoo animal eat it.

"People who are going through Valentine's Day and maybe have some not-so-happy feelings, or they have a not-so-special someone they would like to perhaps get rid of, they can adopt a mealworm or a rodent here at the zoo and we will feed it to our meerkats or our snakes," said Kelley Polowy of the Edmonton Valley Zoo. 

Donations raised by the program go toward animal enrichment. Last year the zoo raised around $1,400 for its enrichment program, and the zoo is expecting to raise more than $1,200 this year. Top Stories

Stay Connected