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Is there a soulmate out there for you?

Tags: soulmates, dating advice, dating tips

Is there one perfect person out there in the world for you? And, if so, what are the odds of finding them?

What is a soulmate?

When the idea of soulmates first emerged in the 1930s, it was seen almost as a magical connection between two people destined to be together. These days, we tend to think of a soulmate more as a person we can connect with and are compatible with - someone who shares the qualities that we feel are most important to us [1].

Does your soulmate exist?

The question of whether your soulmate exists is a very personal one. If you’re looking for someone, you may already have an idea in your mind of the important qualities they should or shouldn’t have.

Narrowing down the field like this can help give you an idea of what sort of person your ‘soulmate’ might be – their age, their interests, their hopes and dreams, and maybe even what they look like. Some of these qualities will be ‘deal-breakers’.

But here’s the exciting part: most of us don’t actually know what we’re looking for until we find it. According to relationship research, there isn’t really a specific set of factors that can accurately predict how well you’ll get along with someone. Some of your deal-breakers may even go out of the window if you find someone you really click with [2].

What are the odds of finding the right person?

If you choose to believe mathematician Peter Backus, the odds of running into your perfect partner are about 1 in 285,000 on any given night. That’s a pretty scary thought, so let’s break it down and see how he arrived at this figure.

In 2010, Backus wrote a paper called ‘”Why I don’t have a girlfriend” using maths to explain why it’s so difficult to meet the right partner. His theory went something like this:

  1. How many women are there who live near me? (In London -> 4 million women)
  2. How many are likely to be of the right age range? (20% -> 800,000 women)
  3. How many are likely to be single? (50% -> 400,000 women)
  4. How many are likely to have a university degree? (26% -> 104,000 women)
  5. How many are likely to be attractive? (5% -> 5,200 women)
  6. How many are likely to find me attractive? (5% -> 260 women)
  7. How many am I likely to get along well with? (10% -> 26 women)

As you can see, he left himself with just twenty-six potential partners, figuring his chances of running into one of them would be about 1 in 285,000 [3].

Put like this, it might seem the odds are really stacked against you, but it should all be taken with a pinch of salt - the sums were adapted from an equation devised to estimate the number of alien civilisations in our galaxy. So let’s take a look at what you can do to increase your chances.

How to find your soulmate

Hannah Fry, a slightly more optimistic mathematician, has delved a bit deeper into the figures. She says you can increase your chances of meeting the right partner by being active, getting out into the world, and approaching more people. Granted, this will probably increase your odds of being rejected, but it will ultimately increase your chances of meeting someone who ticks your boxes [2].

Even though our idea of soulmates is broader than it used to be, research tells us that people tend to have much higher ideals these days than in previous generations. But, despite our expectations being higher than ever, we are also happier when we enter into relationships that really work [4].

That doesn’t mean you won’t have to work on your relationship, as the two of you change and develop together, but the belief that your relationship is ‘meant to be’ is a good start. People who see relationships as something that can grow and improve, tend to be happier in the long run [5].

Remember Peter Backus, the guy who did the maths on why he was still single? Despite the odds he set for himself, he did finally meet someone and announced his wedding plans a couple of years ago.

You can increase your own chances of running into the sorts of people who’ll share your interests by going to the places where they’re likely to be. Get out there into the world and engage in life. Take a class, join a club, go to a party… You might just run into someone who resembles your idea of a soulmate.

Bibliography

[1] - Leslie, B., & Morgan, M. (2011). Soulmates, compatibility and intimacy: Allied discursive resources in the struggle for relationship satisfaction in the new millennium. New Ideas in Psychology, 29(1), 10–23.

[2] - Fry, H. (2015). The Mathematics of Love. Simon & Schuster UK.

[3] - Backus, P. (2010). Why I don’t have a girlfriend: An application of the Drake Equation to love in the UK. Warwick University. Retrieved from http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/staff/pbackus/why_i_dont_have_a_girlfriend.pdf

[4] Finkel, E. J., Cheung, E. O., Emery, L. F., Carswell, K. L., & Larson, G. M. (2015). The Suffocation Model Why Marriage in America Is Becoming an All-or-Nothing Institution. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 24(3), 238–244.

[5] - Coleman, L. (2011). Improving Relationship Satisfaction--Qualitative Insights Derived From Individuals Currently Within a Couple Relationship. The Family Journal, 19(4), 369–380.

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