A Twin Flame Is *Not* the Same Thing as a Soul Mate—Here’s How To Spot Both in Your Life

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If you’re familiar with the concept of soul mates, you’ve likely come across the discussion about twin flames and soul mates being one and the same. As it turns out, that’s not quite the case. “A twin flame comes into your life when you are ready for self-mastery,” says Dr. Harmony, an intuitive energy healer and author of Twin Flame Code Breaker. “They are present to bring soul growth and personal transformation.” That might sound something like a soul mate, but the fated twin-flame connection doesn’t necessarily reflect the star-crossed love a soul mate might deliver. What is it, and how is it different from a soul mate?

Experts In This Article

Let’s be real here: a twin flame relationship is not for the faint of heart. It’s not a cutesy relationship you see in movies (cough, Serendipity), but a transformational union that’s meant to teach you valuable life skills. This type of relationship can feel turbulent and melodramatic, as opposed to the more airy best friend dynamic of soul mates. And here’s the kicker: you can only have one twin flame, unlike the many soul mates you may accumulate in a lifetime. But what is a twin flame and how can you recognize them when they arrive?

To find out, Well+Good interviewed Dr. Harmony, life coach Shannon Kaiser, author of Return to You: 11 Spiritual Lessons for Unshakable Inner Peace, and Emily Jennings, the founder of Wellness & Oneness and author of Twin Flames and the Story Within: A Journey of Soul Awakenings, Healing, and Miracles.

What is a twin flame?

In spiritual terms, you can picture your twin flame’s soul as a different incarnation of your own. “Your twin flame is a fragment of you,” says Dr. Harmony. “This relationship is meant to bring your soul and this other soul into oneness or wholeness,” says Kaiser.

Because they are so fundamentally similar to you, a twin flame operates almost like a spiritual mirror, reflecting back to you both your strengths and your weaknesses, struggles, or past traumas. “Specifically, they will help you awaken to the suppressed sides of yourself that you have not been willing to face,” says Dr. Harmony. “The connection opens you up to being raw, honest, and vulnerable.”

What is the purpose of a twin flame?

The experience of meeting your twin flame can actually invoke some inner chaos or turmoil, akin to that of a karmic relationship, which similarly engenders a lot of really challenging growth. According to Danny Santos, an astrologer, shaman, and spiritual coach, the twin flame dynamic is likened to the myth of Psyche and Eros, “which focuses on two divine lovers who face a connection that transcends societal and cultural norms, forces both parties to face separation and trials.” It’s not just about romantic union, he says, but a profound transformation.

The turbulence atypical of the twin-flame journey isn’t for naught, though: “Typically, a twin flame will reopen unhealed wounds, causing emotional pain that could leave you feeling distraught, but all with the higher purpose of helping you fully see, feel, heal, and learn to love yourself,” says Dr. Harmony. Keep in mind that with a twin-flame connection, a breakdown could come before a breakthrough (you’ve been warned).

“Typically, a twin flame will reopen unhealed wounds, causing emotional pain that could leave you feeling distraught, but all with the higher purpose of helping you fully see, feel, heal, and learn to love yourself.”—Dr. Harmony, intuitive energy healer

While you’re on that journey, though, a relationship (platonic or romantic) with a twin flame could have a certain push-pull energy to it. Perhaps you meet someone and have a whirlwind romance for a few months, and then break things off abruptly, only to wind up back together years later because of a twist of fate. Maybe you spend a flight chatting with a stranger, and it inspires a massive change of heart and a new life direction.

In any case, there’s a clear feeling of your life having been turned upside down by meeting this person, says Kaiser. In other words, their entrance into your world creates a clear before and after.

12 signs you’ve found your twin flame

A twin flame typically enters your life for the first time when you have some emotional growing to do, prompting what Kaiser calls “a crash course in spiritual advancement.” As a result, there’s not really much value in searching for this person; either, they’ll find you... or, you may not actually have a twin flame. “If that’s the case, you’re certainly not incomplete without one,” Kaiser says. “A twin-flame relationship is just one path of many to support spiritual awareness and alignment.”

That said, there are signs to look out for if you suspect your twin flame has found you, or you’ve found them:

  1. You “recognize” this person when you meet. When you first meet your twin flame, says Jennings, it may be that you “recognize” them, as though you’ve crossed paths before. The familiarity can feel intense but comfortable at the same time.
  1. You feel an immediate bond. You’ll know when you’ve found your twin flame thanks to an instantaneous energetic bond, says Dr. Harmony.
  1. You’re very alike. You may find that you both have a lot in common, including but not limited to your background, experiences, attitudes, and values.
  1. This person feels like home. Your twin flame might be someone who “feels like home,” someone who instinctively understands you without ever really needing to explain yourself.
  1. They have a magnetic hold on you. When you’re with this person, you feel a magnetic pull toward one another, and this allure is only further emphasized when you are apart.
    1. You notice signs and synchronicities. After meeting, you may notice more signs and synchronicities, like recurring numbers or patterns, that confirm this person is “the one.”
    2. The relationship takes on a student/teacher dynamic. According to Santos, both parties take on the student and teacher roles. There’s something to learn and teach the other, says Santos, and the two twins need to develop the qualities and gifts the other has mastered.
  • They push you out of your comfort zone. The role of a twin flame is to help you grow out of the place you’ve always been, and Santos says they encourage you to ascend above what you’ve always known.
  1. You have twin-flame telepathy. Twin flames can often communicate without speaking, says Jennings, and often you may know what the other is feeling or thinking.
  2. This person triggers a spiritual awakening. Twin flames will likely trigger a “spiritual awakening,” says Jennings, causing you to reevaluate life as you know it.
  3. Your relationship is intense. The twin-flame connection is intense, filled with passionate feelings when the heart is aflame when you’re in love, or turbulence in times of conflict.
  4. You’re on and off again. You may have an on-and-off relationship that embodies the “push-and-pull dynamic” is common between twin flames.
  5. This person challenges you. If you are currently on the outs with someone, this doesn’t mean they’re not your twin flame. A twin flame can bring out the best and the worst in you.
  6. A separation is bound to happen. Per Santos, once both twins achieve self-actualization, quarrels ensue. Both are eventually propelled into a journey of self-discovery.
  7. You keep finding your way back to each other. Whether it takes months or years, you may find their way back to one another either by fate or choice, says Jennings.

Although you may be able to mentally and emotionally commit to the idea that your twin flame is out there despite them not currently being in your life, this also isn’t about putting your life on hold to wait for them. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: Often, when a person remains focused on their inner work and is able to find personal security, they end up uniting (or reuniting) with their other spiritual half serendipitously.

9 common stages of a twin-flame relationship

According to Jennings, there are common stages that occur in the twin-flame relationship, though each is unique unto itself.

Stage 1: the yearning

At this stage of the journey, you may not know you have a twin flame, let alone the concept of twin flames. However, you may have an inkling that something, or rather someone, is missing in your life, though it may be hard to put your finger on what (or who) it is.

Stage 2: the trigger

You may experience a trigger prior to meeting your twin flame. A trigger can be anything from seeing them in a dream to crossing paths with them in real life, says Jennings, serving as confirmation that there is something more out there for you.

Stage 3: the meeting

When you meet your twin flame, it’s like a reunion. “You are meeting for the first time, but it’s as if you’ve known each other in past lives,” says Jennings. There is an instant connection, and you may be drawn to them in a way that you’ve never been drawn to someone else before.

Stage 4: the ‘honeymoon phase’

Upon entering a relationship, twin flames may often experience a “honeymoon phase,” where everything is euphoric. This phase will usually last until conflict arises, but in any case it is “intense,” says Jennings.

Stage 5: the conflict, or the test

When challenges arise between twin flames, so too can hard-to-face truths about oneself, leading to pain and heartache. In this phase, as things become increasingly turbulent, one partner may choose to abandon the relationship.

Stage 6: the chase

Should one partner leave the relationship, there comes the chase, or what Jennings refers to as the “twin-flame separation.” Although it’s likely that the other will want to rekindle the relationship, it’s a time to look inward, cultivating self-love and healing old wounds.

Stage 7: the surrender

The chase can last any amount of time, according to Jennings, though you may come together again once you and your partner have worked through your personal challenges and overcome traumas and old wounds.

Stage 8: the coming together (again)

“Most people you’ll talk to haven’t experienced this yet,” according to Jennings, though she mentions it is possible. After having undergone the previous phases of the twin-flame journey, the relationship is restored thanks to mutual peace, acceptance, and understanding.

Stage 9: service and purpose

Once both parties have achieved what they needed to learn in the relationship, Santos says the application of these lessons is reflected in their new life. “Whether it’s the local community, the worldly community, or excellence in their chosen vocation, the divine union of the twins will share the enlightenment of the journey and both inspire and contribute to the platform and communities that they are involved in,” he says.

How a twin flame differs from a soul mate

All this talk about destined connection might conjure the idea of a soul mate when in actuality, a soul-mate relationship has a few key distinctions from that of a twin flame.

For starters, while it’s possible to have a number of soul mates (both romantic and platonic), spiritual mentors like Dr. Harmony, Kaiser, and Jennings contend that you can only have one twin flame. While that person is like your other half or a part of your soul reincarnated into a different person’s body, a soul mate is a separate soul that has a deep connection to yours, says Kaiser: “Soul mates are two souls that made an agreement before entering this life to meet up in some way.”

While a soul mate is certainly someone who’s on a similar life path to your own and with whom you feel like you can be 100 percent yourself, they likely won’t call you out, challenge you, or push you to grow in the ways that a twin flame typically does, according to Dr. Harmony. “It’s easy to fall in love with a soul mate and tougher to break ties with them,” she says. “You can even find yourself in a codependent relationship with a soul mate.”

Not so with a twin flame. “The initial contact with them can feel similar to a soul-mate connection, but the intensity is much greater because they represent your strongest mirrored reflection,” Dr. Harmony says. “Your twin flame 'shows up’ to help you find your true self and align with your life purpose.”

Because that’s no easy feat, uniting and interacting with your twin flame often has that push-pull dynamic noted above, much like you were two parts of a dual sign. “You come together, then pull apart to release abandonment wounds and karma, and let go of old patterns, subconscious programming, and limiting belief systems that no longer support the best version of yourself,” Dr. Harmony says. “The intense experience creates new awareness that requires you and your twin flame to change your current life circumstances in order to eventually reunite again.”

If you feel a destiny-worthy connection to someone with whom you’ve always had bad timing, they’re more likely your twin flame than your soul mate.

But since finding this person isn’t meant to glorify the on-again, off-again relationship trope, consider this instead: If you feel a destiny-worthy connection to someone with whom you’ve always had bad timing, they’re more likely your twin flame than your soul mate.

What it’s like to be in a romantic relationship with your twin flame

Whereas a romantic relationship with a soul mate tends to have an air of calmness and support, a twin-flame romance often feels more supercharged and profound, says Kaiser. There’s an intensity to the relationship that can “ignite your inner fire and give you a desire to experience more passion and fulfillment in all areas of life,” says Dr. Harmony.

If that sounds wild or turbulent, it’s because it certainly can be. “Twin-flame relationships can lead to wholeness and help you feel more seen and understood, but only if both people have done their soul’s work,” says Kaiser. “If one or both people are not ready or willing to grow, the romance can be dramatic, or even toxic.”

As a result, most twin-flame romances have the greatest success later in life, when both people are secure within themselves and committed to wholeness, says Kaiser. This is especially important to note if you still feel connected to someone in your past with whom you have a similar background; your shared experiences are meaningful and could form the foundation for your growth together at a future point in time.

Because of the powerful ebbs and flows of any romantic twin-flame relationship, Dr. Harmony describes it as two people not only working together but dancing together in rhythm. And just like any duet, it tends to work best if each person has learned to dance solo first.

Can twin flames be platonic?

Because of the profound transformation in twin flame relationships, Santos explains these relationships are often experienced romantically, but it’s not always the case. They can be old childhood friends you’ve met at a pivotal time that show up again by chance as an adult. They could be a best friend that you’ve made later in life that has completely changed you for the better, and vice versa. “The twin flames will mirror relationships, frequencies, and vibrations that are unhealed in each other in order to bring enlightenment and transformation to both parties,” says Santos.

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