Many people—though certainly not all—desire and seek out “mating” in some capacity. While the term ostensibly refers to sexual reproduction, in practice it can include anything from a one-night stand to the courtship of a spouse. Regardless of what an individual is looking for, the process of meeting a potential partner and forming a romantic or sexual connection can be a challenge, and while the rise of online dating has increased the quantity of potential mates, many wonder if it has had any measurable impact on the quality.
One enduring question of the mating game is whether or not “soul mates”—one person who is the only possible match for another—exist, or if they’re a romantic fantasy. Surveys have found that the majority of adults believe there is one, or a few, “perfect” matches for them in the world, but most psychological research is unable to find any existence for the phenomenon. To the contrary, there are decades of evidence that searching for a soul mate, or viewing a partner through a “soul mate lens," can lead to unhealthy relationship behaviors. People who believe in soul mates have been shown, for instance, to be more likely to have intense relationships that fizzle out quickly, to experience more anxiety in relationships, and to be more likely to “ghost” someone, or abandon the relationship at the first sign of conflict. The trope will likely remain standard fodder for films and novels, but in the real world, searching for a soul mate may prevent someone from finding any mate at all.