The quest for a soul mate

I remember listening to a podcast by a sought-after divorce lawyer in New York.  "Whoever invented the concept of the soul mate is owed dividends." This quote struck a cord in me and prompted me to ponder the state of relationships and the relentless pursuit of an ideal partner.


Around the world, the concept of finding a soulmate has captured the imaginations of people from all cultures. The notion of one person who can fulfil our every need, be it emotional, intellectual, or physical, remains a powerful and pervasive idea. However, are our expectations of such a soulmate pushing us further apart instead of drawing us closer together?

Insights from anthropology

Our ancestors lived in close-knit communities, much like tribes. In these communities, individuals had a variety of roles and relationships that contributed to their well-being. There were companions for storytelling, fellow foragers and hunters, and confidants for emotional support. The burden of fulfilling every need did not rest solely on one person.

However, the world we inhabit today is vastly different from that of our ancestors. We no longer live in tribes or tightly-knit communities. Urbanisation and the expansion of technology have led to a shift away from traditional communal living. Many individuals relocate to cities in search of employment opportunities, breaking away from the close geographical ties of small communities. Additionally, the advent of the internet and social media has enabled us to connect with people from around the world, often at the expense of building local, in-person relationships.

We often seek that one soulmate to be our all-encompassing partner, combining romance, friendship, and emotional support... Yet, the anthropological insight suggests that we weren’t designed to expect such an overwhelming level of fulfilment from just one person.

The dating world

I recall a senior client of mine who celebrated 60 years of marriage. Her criteria for a partner back in the day were simple: he needed to be relatively clean and have a job. How the world has changed!

Technology has granted us access to a seemingly endless array of potential partners. With a simple swipe or click, we can connect with people from all corners of the globe. Paradoxically, the more choices we have, the harder it becomes to make a commitment. This paradox often leads to decision paralysis, where we continually wonder if there's someone better out there, leaving us feeling lonelier despite the plethora of options.

Almost all of the clients I have worked with who use dating apps have reported a challenging experience. They often describe modern dating as an emotional roller coaster ride, that unfortunately incorporates new and trending poor behaviours such as, ‘ghosting’ and ‘catfishing’

But what can we do about all this? In psychology, there's a concept known as the 'locus of control.' It revolves around the idea that individuals can't always control external events or circumstances in the world, but they have the power to control their own responses and reactions to those events.  

Internally, it's important to be clear about your own dating goals and boundaries and to hold yourself accountable for your own actions and communication. Embrace resilience in the face of rejection and view it as a growth opportunity instead of a loss. Externally, acknowledge that you can't control others' behaviours, but maintain awareness of red flags and always make decisions aligned with your values

And finally – for the majority of people – the idea of a perfect, all-encompassing soulmate is also an external belief beyond control. Instead of focusing on the external, focus on the internal by actively shaping your own happiness and well-being.

Tips for better dating

1. Reframe expectations

It's worth reconsidering our expectations. Not only do we place immense pressure on our partners, but we also have increased expectations of ourselves. Instead of placing the weight of our happiness solely on one person's shoulders, we can build a diverse network of relationships. Friends, family, and even colleagues can provide various forms of support and fulfilment. Recognising that no one person can meet all our needs can alleviate the pressure.

2. Prioritise mental health

Acknowledging the impact of technology on our mental well-being is crucial. Limiting screen time, particularly on dating apps, is advisable. Focusing on in-person connections and engaging in activities that bring us joy can help counteract loneliness and disconnection. If loneliness or depression becomes overwhelming, seeking professional help or joining support groups can provide a sense of connection.

3. Practice gratitude

We often overlook the importance of appreciating the people who are already part of our lives. Taking a moment to express gratitude for existing relationships can foster a sense of connection and satisfaction.

4. Understand true happiness  

Happiness is not synonymous with being in a relationship. In fact, some relationships are toxic. True happiness emanates from within, and while romantic relationships can enrich our lives, relying solely on them for contentment is unrealistic.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

Share this article with a friend
Twickenham TW1 & Richmond TW9
Written by Natasha Kelly, BA (Hons) MBACP
Twickenham TW1 & Richmond TW9

Natasha is a counsellor based in London and online. Her passion lies in helping individuals build meaningful connections and foster strong rapport. With a deep understanding of human emotions and interpersonal dynamics, she has worked as a primary school teacher and as a freelance writer on mental health.

Show comments

Find a therapist dealing with Relationship problems

All therapists are verified professionals

All therapists are verified professionals