Soul Mates?

Bad Theology, False Expectations, & Deep Disappointment

You want to know one reason why so many Christian marriages end up in divorce?

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Eric Metaxas

Ronald Reagan once quipped that the trouble with his political opponents, “is not that they are ignorant. It’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.”

Well, I’ve had a bee in my bonnet for years over something that far too many of my fellow Christians believe in that just isn’t so. I speak, gentle listener, of the whole “soul mate” nonsense, especially when it comes to finding a husband or wife.

Let me be perfectly clear: No matter how many ads for Christian dating services you hear or trendy books you read, we simply don’t have “soul mates,” at least as our confused culture understands that term. Does this surprise you? It shouldn’t. Look for that concept, by the way, in the Bible, and the only thing you can find remotely close to it is the fierce friendship of David and Jonathan. “Jonathan made a covenant with David,” Scripture says, “because he loved him as his own soul.”

daily_commentary_09_28_15Now those are soul mates, friends. But the Bible knows nothing of romantic “soul mates.” This concept is more New Age than Christian. The Huffington Post gives nine signs that you’ve found your soul mate, the first one being: “You communicate without speaking.” Okay. One New Age website, however, gives three signs you’ve “definitely” found your soul mate: “You just connect without trying,” “Your level of communication is unmatched,” and “You create your own world together.”

That’s cute, it’s nice, maybe it’s even romantic . . . but it’s certainly not biblical.

Now all of this confusion might be kind of funny if it weren’t so harmful to naïve Christians and others who’ve fallen for this idea. Because this idea implies that somewhere out there is that “perfect person” for you, and if your marriage is not exploding with intense communication, romance, and a great sex life, well then maybe it’s because your spouse is not your “soul mate.”

Men who are a little bored with their wives, or vice versa, might be tempted by a co-worker who “understands me so well and is my soul mate, or could be my soul mate.” But frankly, this is a recipe for adultery and divorce, and families end up getting dropped for “soul mates.”

Once I wrote a tribute to C.S. Lewis’s “The Screwtape Letters” called “Screwtape Proposes a Divorce,” in which Wasphead, my invented senior devil, says the following to Gallstone, the junior devil: “That [soul mates] do not exist is to be kept TOP SECRET. … Let’s be blunt: these humans are scouring the globe for someone with whom a relationship will require absolutely no work or compromise. … Many adult humans who have long ago dismissed Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny as myths somehow persist in believing this person to exist.”

The “soul mate” concept is unworkable and completely unfair to the real other person in your life. It puts enormous pressure on him or her to perform, to meet our impossible expectations. As Jerry Root and Stan Guthrie point out in “The Sacrament of Evangelism,” putting others in God’s place—expecting them to give us what only He can—is a naked form of idolatry and will only lead to deep disappointment.

Here’s another thing. The “soul mate” idea suggests that marriage is all about me, that I need to find someone who understands me perfectly, who makes me happy. Marriage should be about finding someone you can make happy. In the great teaching on marriage in Ephesians, for example, husbands are told to lay down their lives for their wives, as Christ did for the church.

As J. R. R. Tolkien once wrote to his son, “No man, however truly he loved his betrothed and bride as a young man has lived faithful to her as a wife in mind and body without deliberate conscious exercise of the will, without self-denial.”

So folks, let’s drop the whole “soul mate” talk, shall we? Marriage can be wonderfully satisfying, but that’s the result of God’s grace, hard work, and self-sacrificial love. And that is the truth.

Further Reading and Information

Soul Mates?: Bad Theology, False Expectations, & Deep Disappointment
As Eric points out, the idea of a soul mate is a cultural trend and not a view found anywhere in scripture. Making a marriage successful, Tolkien proposed, is a choice of the will and an invitation to self-sacrifice—a concept that has much more depth than the "soul mate" craze.  Click on the links below to read more of Tolkien’s and Lewis’s thoughts on marriage.


Screwtape Proposes a Divorce
Eric Metaxas

Letters to Michael Tolkien
J. R. R. Tolkien | 1941

9 Signs You've Found Your Soulmate (If You Believe In That Sort Of Thing)
Kelsey Borresen | The Huffington Post | June 26, 2014

Available at the online bookstore

The Four Loves
C. S. Lewis | Harvest Books | June 1971

The Sacrament of Evangelism
Jerry Root, Stan Guthrie | Moody Publishers | April 2011


Soul Mate Definition
It is all in the lexicon isn't it. Maybe soul mate is an improper term for what I think of when saying soul mate. I firmly believe my wife was designed by God and I was designed by God to fit together as two puzzle pieces.

This does not mean that she would not have been happy with another man or I with another woman. What it means is that I am a square peg and she is a square hole. There are many square pegs and many square holes in this world. Over the years we have grown in such a way together that we are fully entwined with each other. At this point in our lives there could be no other spouse for her or me.
I believe God has a perfect-fit soul-mate for every one of His children, but unfortunately they are too proud to wait on Him to send that person at the right time.God's children live their lives soaked in the lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life and so they cannot wait for Him to send them His perfect will, so they end up with a 'divorceable partner' with the works.I would dare to say that all such couples, i.e., those who have not married God's perfect will for them, are committing adultery.They are adulterers in God's sight!That's because it means they are living with somebody else's partner and that's ADULTERY!And you think God should bless their marriage! According to the above article, if we expect our life-partners to be soul-mates to us then we put enormous pressure on them to perform.That is so untrue because there is no such pressure between God-sent soul-mates because God is the author of that relationship and He supplies the 'grease' for all the 'machinery' in a marriage so that it runs smoooothly, inspite of any differences that might arise.The above article said, "The "soul mate" idea...happy". That is so further from the truth, because if God is the author of that relationship you can be rest-assured forever that He never arranges for any such selfish thing.If we are walking according to His will and know His guidance everyday then we know that He teaches us to be unselfish and also to live a life of self-denial.If two people in a marriage have learnt this in their individual spiritual lives, living unselfishly in their married lives would be according to their new nature in Christ and they would not live a self-centered or selfish life.And lastly, those in a marriage that was never God's perfect will would have to strive all their lives to keep it going, and that not-necessarily be successful or happy or content in it.When all their strivings are exhausted they give up.That's when the inevitable divorce happens.Not so with God's perfect will.We don't have to strive and slog through muck and mire.Inspite of all the difficulties there might arise around them God would bring them through and it feels like the difficulty was a breeze!And the relationship gets stronger and grows deeper with each event and phase and difficulty.There's only one way to find God's perfect will.He will show His perfect will for you only when you are truly born-again.There are no two ways about it.So rush to Him at your earliest! He said, "I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it."Isaiah 46:11.There is so much blessing in what He purposes, and He takes up responsibility to keep it!What more could anyone in the whole world ask for in a marriage?
There's room for a more balanced view...
I like Eric. I like the way he thinks and his intellectual fervour is inspiring, especially for those who don't feel being cerebral is at odds with having faith. I appreciate he is trying to disabuse us of the no effort/self-centredness/co-dependency/idolatry notions of romance as propogated by popular culture. However I am inclined to agree with RJ Smith. To completely dismiss the idea of a soulmate- as I understand it, someone who is divinely compatible with you-is veiled cynicism. Christians shouldn't have dalliance with being cynical under the guise of concern for biblical authenticity. I take issue also with the sort of language used in the piece; 'nonsense' and 'naive' is also overly-emotive. The bible has a few examples of soul-mates to my mind, Adam and Eve being the prototype. Before you marry you should seek God's will. If you don't wish to call this soulmates so be it. But don't throw the baby out with the bathwater because of a semantic quibble. I don't believe someone has to be perfect to be perfect or right for you. It doesn't mean either that we should displace our hope in God and put it in a mere mortal. It doesn't mean one should just be complacent and expect the relationship to automatically work. We have free will yes but some connections, whether platonic or romantic, are divinely ordained and we would be remiss to ignore that. This is what I understand as being a soulmate. It could just be my opinion. However Mr Metaxas article is also his opinion. Scripture can be made to fit what we choose or do not choose to believe. This is an opinion piece and should not be treated as some sort of new or corrective doctrine.

I find the sanctimonious tone of some of the comments quite grating too. There's nothing wrong with the idea of God having an over-arching plan or 'map'. He might not reveal it all at once and we discover it through obedience but He is not just making it up as He goes along.

I'd also like to know how Blair Brown defines 'romance' and how this should be anti-thetical to a biblical marriage. Just because the concept might have materialised extra-biblically it doesn't mean it is completely without merit. We just have to keep priorities in order.

Shalom x
We derived this idea of soul mates from the concept of a romantic marriage. Romance has definite links to the idea of the personally autonomous individual, and has nothing to do with Christianity. In fact, romance arose during the Middle Ages, long after the canons of Scripture were settled. You rightly indicate that in marriage, we live a life of sacrifice for the other, not ourselves. Christianity must learn to escape from the radical individualism that lacerates this culture. Thanks for the interesting post.
"Well, I’ve had a bee in my bonnet for years over something that far too many of my fellow Christians believe in that just isn’t so. I speak, gentle listener, of the whole “soul mate” nonsense, especially when it comes to finding a husband or wife."

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

Finally, someone who hates this silly idea as much as I do! I am used to this idea from the world since they get their dating advice from Hollywood. But I have been stunned through the years to see how many professing Christians have adopted this childish, ridiculous, unbiblical nonsense as well.

Finding that one "perfect" person becomes an obsession. For Christians, it often becomes an idol that overtakes their entire life. It's worse for Christians because it's "God's best" that they'll be missing if they don't find that one particular person that God created only for them!

What about those of us who love God and have tried our best to live faithful lives to Him, and yet haven't found that soul mate that He created for us? Did God forget us? Did we not search hard enough? Were we not faithful enough?

Funny how people who promote this unbiblical idea never seem to have a response to that question.
This idea of "soul mate" is particularly dangerous, to my mind, as it was used by Plato in his "Symposium" to put forward the idea that every man and every woman is searching for his or her "other half". In plato's work, however, the vast majority of men are seeking a male other half, and women are seeking a female other half. Only the malformed minority seek for someone of the opposite gender.
Now, I doubt people would fall for the main premise that part of Plato's discourse - that originally humans were actually circular beings that got split in two during a rebellion against the gods. Yet the philosophy remains, as one put forward by proponents of same-sex marriage.
Gods plan
Actually - the idea that "God's plan" for your (or my) life involves uncovering a map He has devised for each of your decisions ( big, small, medium) is also debate able. After many years of believing just that I have concluded that God's plan for my life is that I grow in virtue, live in love and grace, give Him worship and obedience. The "map" idea - as well as "soulmate" are a trap.
Isn't this perhaps just a little over-wrought? While the phrase 'soul mate' is perhaps over-used and subject to misunderstanding, I think it would be a mistake to 'throw the baby out with the bath water' simply because non-Christian sites may use the phrase as well.

Ever since I can remember there's been the phrase 'God has a plan for your life.' How can this not include (if applicable) the person you would spend that life with?

While the use of the term 'soul mate' is extra-biblical, the argument presented above is equally inartful.