Soulmates may have to take a lesson from realists when it comes to love and the success of healthy relationships. Researchers from the University of Toronto published a study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, which revealed the importance of how we think about love.
"Our findings corroborate prior research showing that people who implicitly think of relationships as perfect unity between soul mates have worse relationships than people who implicitly think of relationships as a journey of growing and working things out," said the study’s co-author Spike W. S. Lee, professor of marketing at the University of Toronto, in a press release.
By unrealistically romanticizing relationships and giving our partners unattainable standards sets one another up for failure. Simply changing how we perceive love can have the power to either destroy the relationship, or nurture it so that each person is happy. "Apparently, different ways of talking and thinking about love [in a] relationship lead to different ways of evaluating it," Lee said.
Lee and his colleague Norbert Schwarz, a psychology and marketing professor of the University of Southern California, had participants fill out quizzes that asked them if they associate relationships with unity or a journey. They wanted to see if participants thought love meant they were supposed to be "made for each other," or were each other’s "other half." Then they looked at the groups that believed in the phrases "love is a journey," "look how far we’ve come," and "we’ve been through so much together."
Those who made more associations between their love as a journey also reported less conflicts and more celebrations with their romantic partner. Recalling celebrations reflects a person’s satisfaction with their relationship regardless of how they think about it. Soul mates, or those who believe they were meant for one another or complete each other, just don’t succeed in relationships as much as those who believe love is a journey of mistakes and forgiveness.
According to a poll conducted by Marist College, 73 percent of Americans believe in the concept of soul mates, while 27 percent do not. The younger they are, the more likely they were to believe in soul mates, which reflects the maturity people have on their love perspective.
In a less obvious way, researchers asked participants to identify pairs of geometric shapes to form a full circle signifying the focus they place on unity. On the flip side, participants were able to draw a line that brings them through a maze from point A to point B, representing the importance they place on the journey.
Again, in both experiments, those who chose the journey route did not experience as many conflicts and did not reveal dissatisfaction within their relationship. "Next time you and your partner have a conflict,” as Lee and Schwarz wrote. Think what you said at the altar, 'I, ____, take you, ____, to be my husband/wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward ‘till death do us part.' It’s a journey. You'll feel better now, and you'll do better down the road."
Source: Lee WS, Schwarz N. Framing love: When it hurts to think we were made for each other. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 2014.