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Is your soul mate out there? Here’s what experts think

Danielle Braff
Chicago Tribune

Lisa Elkins knew the minute she met Ron Elkins during a night coffee break in college that she’d spend the rest of her life with him. She was 18 and he was 20.

Today, the two architects, who have been married for 18 years, share a home and a company together, working just 5 feet away from each other in an Illinois suburb.

“I think you can make things work with different people, but I think there’s a really special connection that makes one significantly more right than anyone else,” she said.

An overwhelming majority of Americans believe in the idea of soul mates. Psychologists and relationship experts, however, dispute the idea of a soul mate, saying that multiple people can match each other romantically.

This can have a positive or negative interpretation.

For instance, if you could love multiple people, it may be easier to back out of a bad relationship, but at the same time, it also can offer an excuse to have an affair.

“The idea of a soul mate often results in a sense of security — if they are my soul mate, then I am theirs, and they could never leave me since they can’t find another soul mate,” said Ramani Durvasula, professor of psychology at California State University in Los Angeles. “It’s likely a false sense of security, but a sense of security nonetheless.”

The soul mate idea is also a fairly romantic notion, says relationship expert Gary Lewandowski Jr.

“In reality, there are likely several people with whom any one individual could be compatible,” said Lewandowski, a professor and chairman in the psychology department at Monmouth University in New Jersey. “We see evidence of this when people have multiple high-quality relationships over time.”

A 2016 survey conducted by online dating site Match.com found that men fall in love just over three times in their lives, while the average woman falls in love a little more than twice in her life — a stat that appears to dispute the idea that “you’re the only one for me.”

“This belief that there’s only one person for you — the soul mate idea — comes out of our farming past, when you had to marry young, and you had to stay married for life: You couldn’t take half the farm with you,” said Helen Fisher, author of “Anatomy of Love.”

Part of the reason why love interests change over a lifetime is because people change — and partners might grow apart.

The person who was perfect for you at that period in your life may not be perfect anymore.

“People mature, they change, they grow up, they acquire new interests, they live in new places,” Fisher said. “During the course of your life, you could fall in love with a lot of people.”

And, you may not fall out of love with a person before feeling in love with another. Loving two people simultaneously doesn’t fit with society’s norms or expectations about love, but it happens.

There’s a growing body of research suggesting that polyamory — loving more than one person at a time — is more common than we once thought, Lewandowski said.