We all as social creatures have a deep and underlying desire to find that one perfect person to spend the rest of our days with. That one person when you meet, you feel an uncontrollable attraction to and an illogical sense of familiarity with. As if you’ve known that person for a lifetime, or perhaps lifetimes. Whatever you want to call it, films and TV series alike have romanticized the phenomenon known as the soulmate. But what do we really know about the perfect mate or the ideal partner? Psychology is finally shedding light on the mystery that encapsulates so many hearts and minds around the world in an effort to understand what truly makes two people compatible for a relationship.

The Issue With Compatibility

Dating sites like OkCupid.com or chemistry.com boast about their in-depth personality tests, and claim that someone with similar answers to the questions on their tests can result in finding the perfect mate.

Now this sounds very appealing for many different reasons. First, naturally you want to be with someone who shares the same values as you and perhaps even someone who enjoys similar activities like rock climbing. Secondly, it only seems logical to search for another person that also wants to raise children and begin a family someday. Lastly, we have such a yearning for love as social creatures, that we will convince ourselves of just about anything in order to fill the empty spots in our hearts.

All of these reasons create quite the compelling case for compatibility sites, but how well and how long do the relationships that have similar interests and quirks truly last?

Dr. Ted Hudson of the University of Texas ran a longitudinal study of couples that had been married for years and in his research he discovered something quite surprising. Dr. Hudson explains, “My research shows that there is no difference in the objective compatibility between those couples who are unhappy and those who are happy.”

Dr. Hudson went on to say that couples that feel content and warmth in their relationships said that compatibility wasn’t an issue for them. In fact, they said that it was them who made the relationship work, not the compatibility of their personalities. But when the unhappy couples were asked what they thought about compatibility, they all answered by saying that compatibility is extremely important to a marriage. Sadly, they didn’t think they were compatible with their significant other. Dr. Hudson explains that when the unhappy couples said, “we’re incompatible” they were truly meaning, “We don’t get along very well.”

That’s where the issue arises with compatibility – everyone who is unhappy naturally blames it on the facade of compatibility. They fail to realize and comprehend that a successful relationship does not hinge its posterity on how alike you are, instead it hangs on by the sheer will power and want to stay in a relationship.

This can be observed in arranged marriages, where they tend to last longer and tend to be happier in their relationships, according to international happiness surveys. Do these arranged marriages last longer because they don’t have the option of divorce like we do in the United States? Of course not, it’s because they choose to stay committed and aren’t looking for “the next best thing” or someone that’s more suitable in their eyes.

Professor of Sociology at Stanford University, Michael J. Rosenfeld explains that arranged marriages aren’t that different from the love relationships we have in the Western world. The greatest difference is in our cultures. Americans value autonomy more than anything – they want the freedom to choose who they want to be with. More often than not, however, we get stuck in the perpetual loop of consciously and unconsciously considering someone else when things aren’t going perfectly in our own relationship. And this is where the illusion of compatibility comes into play.

Finding A Mate To Spend A Lifetime With

So we know that building a relationship with someone is dependent on you and the other person. It has more or less nothing to do with compatibility. But if we can’t depend on compatibility exams or some standard form of testing to find our ideal mate, then how do we do it?

Dr. John Gottman, the founder of The Gottman Institute in Seattle, said that measures of personality are incapable of truly predicting the length or success of a relationship. Gottman discovered that couples who focus their energy on building something meaningful together in their life (e.g., starting a business together) tend to last the longest. How a couple interacts is the single, most fundamental aspect to creating a successful relationship. Meaning, it’s not who you are or what you do that will prolong or help you find the perfect mate. It’s how you speak to each other, how well you get along, and how you move through time together.

John Gottman went on to say that your partner should support your life dreams. They should look up to you, admire you, and respect you. Now this sounds ideal, but when you truly reflect on how you’ve always wanted to be treated, having someone who genuinely believes in your greatness is paramount.

Don’t think it’s all just how we view one another; however, a lot of the connection you feel with another person is emotional. Therefore you must be capable of responding to each other when you need something. Or as John Gottman said, “Does your partner turn toward you with equal enthusiasm? You need to ask questions and constantly update your knowledge of one another.”

Final Thoughts On The Soulmate

If you truly are looking for love and want to find that person that you can spend the rest of your life with, remember that it is YOU who creates compatibility. There is no magic formula or perfect algorithm for making a fruitful relationship with another human being. Yes, you need to find the other person attractive, look up to them, and feel a strong sense of familiarity, but those are but a small slice of the pie that constitutes a healthy and lasting relationship.

So next time you spot someone who catches your attention and makes your pupils dilate with interest and enthusiasm, pay attention to whether or not they can see the dream you envisioned for your life. If they can share in your delight and can accept you for who you are today, not for who you can be tomorrow, then you have found your “soulmate.”

This article originally appeared on Learning-Mind.

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More in Emotionally Intelligent Couples
Psychology Finally Reveals the Answer to Finding Your Soulmate
Luis R. Valadez

An author and research psychologist, Luis studies in the fields of neuroscience, historical arts, and quantum mechanics. The two aspects in life that he values most are humanity and self-improvement.

  • I’m looking for my soulmate

  • Nadia hernandez

    I is Josh my soulmate.

    • BlahBlahBlah86

      My name’s Josh. Lol

  • Dr Mary Katherine Hom

    Thanks for this great article! In wanting to follow-up on more of the research, I looked up ‘Ted Hudson’ … I believe your Dr Hudson is actually Dr Huston (note spelling). 😉

    • mikaelohren

      I also noted this, “Ted L. Huston” seems to be correct.

    • Luis R. Valadez

      Wow, thank you for the correction. I don’t even think my editors caught that one … And that’s why I have so many brilliant readers like yourself to let me know when I made a mistake. Truly, thank you.

  • Thandiwe

    That makes perfect sense. Thank you.

  • James

    Soulmate, I’ve seen her and she knows how I feel about her, just waiting for her to make up her mind, on what to do next.

  • K

    I’m inspired to re-write my online profile, or heck, maybe get rid of it all together!
    This is why I #*&ing Love Science. This brings me hope. These reports substantiate my observation as a divorced woman who separated my life from (my ex). A Marriage isn’t how well you get along. It how well you do getting through not getting along. It’s rooted in Both partners “working” i.e. caring about the other. I really do love Science. I gotta get out there and find this guy already. Can you imagine how happy we will be!

    • Lavie

      Hi Collen,
      I myself need true love maybe we can share your stories so far.

      • colin

        me too …

    • Luis R. Valadez

      Science helped me during one of the most turbulent times of my life—I’ll always stand by what I once said, “there is no pain greater than loving someone as much as you love yourself, and then losing them.” But the beauty in it all is what I discovered and what I gained in myself—I blossomed.

  • colleen

    I need some one in my life who can accopied my heart with love and caring and i want to be the same .I have everything in life material is nothing in life.

    • Luis R. Valadez

      You’re right about that, Colleen. Life is funny in that you can achieve everything from wealth to power, but unless you have meaning, those achievements will never quite satisfy you completely … But fear not, love can be found in many forms. Not only romantic—love of self, love of others, love in purpose can all fill the seemingly un-fillable hole we all experience at one point or another. The trick is finding that special kind of love.

  • oaitse

    I want to know who my soul mate is, if I will ever find him and finally I want to know what the future holds for me

    • BlahBlahBlah86

      So… Are you pretty?

  • Thank you, Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if looking isn’t part of the problem. I found him completely by accident!

  • Ama

    @ James, me too.

  • MRS

    This article has helped me better understand my feelings for the guy I like. It’s not about us having identical interests in life, but about making an effort to work together and celebrate each other’s individuality. Thanks!

    • Luis R. Valadez

      I’m glad you were able to reflect and internalize my findings—they’re based on my own personal experience, so I only hope they eventually led you to your own enlightenment.

  • Joann

    “If you truly are looking for love and want to find that person that you can spend the rest of your life with, remember that it is YOU who creates compatibility.”
    This definitely doesn’t work when you got married to a psychopath or sociopath, mister Valadez!

    • Gloria

      This article applies to healthy functioning adults. There needs to be a caveat for relationships with narcissists and other personality disordered individuals, as well as domestic violence. Otherwise a partner might be trying so hard to make things work and forcing a bad relationship to endure. That is another kind of illusion.

      • Luis R. Valadez

        Thank you for elaborating, Gloria—you’re right, my research was not focused on individuals with mental conditions rather on healthy functioning couples … I am incredibly interested however in relationships where one partner has psychopathic tendencies and how the other partner copes or makes that relationship work … Be on the lookout for that article in the nearby future.

  • Mel

    Compatibility cannot be downplayed. Fuzzy, druken feelings of joy, wax and wane in a relationship and what you’re left with is two people who had their own goals and desires prior to even knowing of each other. Compromise is overrated and often sexist in the context of a relationship. Women are socialized to be accommodating, often giving their entire lives up for their families; which is why when they divorce, they frequently never look back at marriage so delightfully again. Men on the other hand, seem to need women in ways that women do not need them, and are far more enthusiastic about remarriage. This is because men typically reap the benefits of a woman’s accommodation.

    Someone who admires, looks up to you and sees your greatness as an individual seperate from themselves IS likely someone who is otherwise compatible with you: most especially if they agree in practice and word, that neither of you need to grossly compromise your entire selves (likes, loves, freetime, goals, friends, desires) for a lifetime bonded in a relationship model that more often than not leads to discontent, boredom and soul destruction. Long-term relationships can be beautiful or not. The less you need to bend, twist and contort yourselves to fit “the relationship”, the better: especially true for women.

  • Joanna

    Well, Mr. Valadez, I agree with what you say. But there is one point that is at least as important as shattering the romantic myths you mentioned – and you mention it but do not emphasize it.
    It is GIVING BACK. Because your relationship works because you became aware of what you had and also gave back to her. You also look up to her and understand her dreams.
    Your relationship could have ended badly if you had not realized what you had and had taken it for granted (meaning your upset “laziness” could have made you look for someone more comfortable to live with) or you could have let her carry all the burden, support you to the end of her physical and mental powers, while you were just “sucking out” all that energy from her until she would have gotten tired and sick of it all or would have erased her own dreams and needs (and that is what happens in many traditional marriages).
    So thank you for the good example! This is the model I saw in my grandparents, who had the most beautiful marriage ever. ( Not that we, their successors, understood that early enough to take the model and multiply it. )

    • Luis R. Valadez

      The pleasure is all mine, Joanna. It lifts my heart to hear that my experiences can help enlighten a group of people who are as lost as I am in the often-crazy field of love.

      By the way, it was a “he,” haha.

      Take care,

  • limpho Nchephe

    Hmmmm! I’m so happy I read this article I’m in the process of divorce& separated with my X for 2 years for some strange reason he doesn’t want us to divorce “now”. What is that telling you about this person at the same time he has moved on as he forever put up his pictures& her gf on profile pics. All I’m saying is we meet sick people in this world& unknowingly so. But now I’m motivated to find a “real” man who will love, respect & an honest human being& I know wherever he is he will wait for me to clear off the divorce. I’m realy happy& yes it takes 2 to make it or break it. Sometimes women compromise too much to an extend that our man get very comfortable & the time we get tired of it its too late he’s used to the woman compromising. I realy don’t want to compromise “All I need is Real Love” as it conquers all& guys its realy lonely to be alone especially if you are an introvert with very few friends. I’m definate of one thing I’m meeting my soul mate soon & we’ll live happily ever after.

    • BlahBlahBlah86

      Are you hot?

    • Luis R. Valadez

      Thank you for the kind words … I originally wrote this piece after my long-term relationship ended—I wanted to utilize my background and foundation in psychology to answer “why things didn’t work” and in the process I found great clarity. I hope you did too.

      Wishing you the best,

  • Lucy Langley

    I have often thought about soulmates and twinflames. But I also studied psychology in my college days. I do believe in the process of reincarnation and that yes there is someone for us. But I also believe in science and our ability to work things out and make people happy. I have tried blogging and writing to share a few thoughts I have http://www.signalriver.com/ but I also think that love is choice that we have to choose everyday and stay with someone and work on ourselves to be happy.

    • Durdona

      would it be a choice if it is ‘has to’ ?

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  • Tiffany Cole

    I believe in schoolmates because I truly believe I have found mine. I would live to share our story so others know it truly exists. My husband and I ate truly connected on every level including spiritual. I know what he’s thinking when he’s miles away and that’s only a piece of it. It is truly magical when you find it. I love reading more about the studies. There has to be a balance in every aspect of the relationship. 50/50.

    • Luis R. Valadez

      Hello Tiffany, thank you for reaching out to express the special relationship between you and your husband … I’m working on a follow up piece to my original “Soulmate” article and I’d absolutely love to hear about your experience.

      Please feel free to email me: luis.valadez@umbrellafirm.org

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  • AGWag99

    Thank you for this article lending a bit of real-world guidance to those who keep being disappointed while looking for the perfect relationship.

    I used to believe in soulmates and thought I had met mine. He was everything I ever wanted, and we were inseparable from the day we met. Unfortunately, he was a clinically-diagnosed psychopath, and I didn’t escape for almost a decade, having been thoroughly brainwashed into believing I was at fault. I am now a firm believer that sociopaths use the idea of the soulmate to lure in their victims. Please, please remember this article and think logically before you leap. No two people are perfectly, completely compatible unless one of them is lying.

    I am now happily married to someone who was chosen for me by a dating site algorithm. Sometimes the person you need is not the person you think you want. I would never have noticed him in a crowded room and would probably have refused a date with him if we had met the traditional way.

  • Tammy Sprague

    Have trouble finding out what your spouse or children are up to with their phones because devices are secured with a password?or you constantly suspect foul play in your relationship?i have been through this as well until i met Pete,hacked all my patner’s social network and let me know where i belong,you can try as well,tell him its from Tammy,mail him at realcyberclone@gmail.com or text 940-247-0650,thank me later,ciao………………

  • David Pool

    “Dr. John Gottman, the founder of The Gottman Institute in Seattle, said that measures of personality are incapable of truly predicting the length or success of a relationship.” This is an interesting claim – can you point me to where Dr. Gottman said it? It contrasts with what some claim the Big 5 personality test can do (a. grant) Thanks!

    • Luis R. Valadez

      Hello David, thank you for taking the time to read my article. It truly means a lot … Here is the resource I used for a good amount of the research behind the Soulmate piece: https://www.gottman.com/wp-content/uploads/BabcockGottmanRyanGottman2013.pdf

      Hope that helps, and please feel free to ask any questions that arise from my or Dr. Gottman’s work.


      • David Pool

        It’s an interesting article Luis, so thanks for putting it out there. A quick search of the linked article shows no mention of the term “personality” though so the quote doesn’t appear to come from there. If you ever run across the source though, I’d be interested.

        • Luis R. Valadez

          Thank you for informing me, David—I wrote this article quite a few years ago, I’ll try looking a bit further back through my resources and see what I can find for you. Till then, take care and I’ll certainly let you know what I find.

  • What an empowering and informative article! Relationships are complex and dynamic, but crucial to our happiness and wellbeing and thus a worthwhile investment. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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