Your Soul Mate Isn’t Necessarily ‘the One’—Here’s How to Tell the Difference

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Theoretically, finding your soul mate should mark the end of your search for "the one," right? Because what is a soul mate if not someone with whom you have a life-altering connection that gives purpose to those countless nights out and Hinge swipes and bad dates and awful breakups? (Just me?) Not to be mistaken for the fated twin-flame connection, relationship pros say finding your soul mate and living happily ever after aren't necessarily linear events, because finding your soul mate doesn't necessarily mean you've found a healthy relationship.

"When you meet someone who has the same worldviews, you tend to find them more attractive, intelligent, and moral, but this bias can lead you to invest in those relationships based on this alone, ultimately making you feel that this person is your 'soul mate,'" says Greta Tufvesson, co-founder of matchmaking service The Bevy, adding that these qualities alone aren't necessarily enough when it comes to the person with whom you want to share the rest of your life. "The one is the person who complements you and makes you want to be better."

Still, finding someone who gives you a twin-souls vibe can obviously send sparks flying. But over time, you need something more than that to sustain a relationship. "It's possible to meet somebody with whom you feel a soul connection that's deep and profound, yet you’re not a good romantic match for each other," says relationship expert Susan Winter, author of Breakup Triage: The Cure for Heartache. "Regardless of the intensity of your connection, relationships boil down to day-to-day compatibility and sustainability. Without that type of consistency, nothing can survive."

"Regardless of the intensity of your connection, relationships boil down to day-to-day compatibility and sustainability. Without that type of consistency, nothing can survive." —Susan Winter, relationship expert

Case in point: I broke up with the only person I've ever considered my soul mate after only three months. From the moment we met, out at a bar, it was clear to me that I was supposed to know him and that whatever was happening was destined to be something real. And for a while, it was. But for a number of reasons—differing maturity levels, mismatched priorities and circumstances, and, perhaps most importantly, an inability to get it together to make a healthy relationship work—calling it quits was the only viable option.

According to relationship coach Clarissa Silva, the person you choose to spend your life with should facilitate you being a better version of yourself. "If that is not happening, you have to exit while you still recognize yourself," she says. "It could be that you have idealized or romanticized the person and the relationship." So even if you've found someone who feels like the missing puzzle piece of your soul (one you didn't know was missing until that very point, no less), it still doesn't necessarily mean you've found the right relationship for you. An intense connection is not the only prerequisite for a functioning partnership, and when things skew intense from the beginning, you may miss the signs that you're not getting what you need out of it.

Pros agree that certain characteristics add up to the backbone of every healthy relationship, so if you think you've found a soul mate who is also the one, consider whether these features are present: trust, loyalty, patience, understanding, acceptance, and compromise. "It's a give and take," says matchmaker and co-founder of the Bevy Nikki Lewis. "It takes compromise to meet in the middle." Rather than waiting for your perfect-match soul mate with whom you need not compromise period because you both agree on everything, be open to putting in the work that will undoubtedly lead to mutual respect. And if you insist on waiting for perfection? Understand that you may never attain what you're looking for. "This is a romanticized notion that you can search for your whole life for and never find."

If you think you've found your soul mate but aren't quite sure this person is the one, Winter suggests asking yourself the following questions about your partner: "Are they willing to work through partnership issues, or do they only want to luxuriate in the intensity of the ride? Are they open to self-correction when they’re in the wrong, or are they hoping their charm will blind you to their deficiencies?"

If the answer is "no" to either question above, it may be time to re-evaluate. "If you find yourself questioning the fitness of your partner, don't force-fit them into your life," says Silva. "Trust your instincts that if they don't feel like a real soul mate, chances are, they aren't it." But, good news: Many believe you can have more than one soul mate—or, take a note from Lizzo (and me, and Emma Roberts) and be your own soul mate.

Still searching for the one? Here's how to fall in love in the age of ghosting and zombie-ing. And when you do think you've found that special someone, here’s how to tell if it’s love or lust

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