Feather & Flint

Do Soulmates Exist?

April 10, 2017 33 Comments

“People think a soulmate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soulmate is a mirror—the person who shows you everything that is holding you back; the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.

A true soulmate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soulmate forever? Nah. Too painful.

Soulmates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you and then leave. A soulmate’s purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life.”

—Elizabeth Gilbert

Do Soulmates Exist? | Feather & Flint

I could never have anticipated that within days of moving to Boston to begin my first semester of college in 2008, I would be dropped directly into the center of the most cryptic, heart-rending story that I would ever encounter.

I still hesitate to commit his name to the page. Knowing our history, it seems entirely possible that the simple act of writing his name could summon his presence through some mysterious, impossible portal between my mind and his.

We were finishing each other’s sentences within hours of meeting, an uncanny connection unfolding between us from the very first moment—an inexplicable, instantaneous understanding of one other that was unlike anything that either of us had ever experienced. It was as though we had known each other from the time we were children, despite growing up with half a continent between us. As we sat facing one another on the edge of the reflecting pool at the Christian Science Center, the globe lights and skyscrapers mirrored in the dark water, the story of his life already felt familiar, as though it were my own.

That first night, we traversed the streets of Back Bay for hours, winding through Belvidere and St. Germain; looking down on our new city with exhilaration from the top of an abandoned parking garage; and resting on the steps of St. Cecilia. He missed the last train home, and we fell asleep centimeters away from one another, sparks of electricity passing between us.

One month later, he disappeared.

I still don’t know which details about his life were true.

It seems that he had been through a great deal before we ever met. He carried a weight greater than any eighteen-year-old could be expected to bear. I saw glimpses of this in that first month—there was a heaviness underlying his experiences that didn’t seem to reconcile with the history that he shared with me. But his dark vulnerability mirrored the shadow of depression and anxiety that had trailed in my footsteps for most of my life, and I felt for the first time as though someone was capable of empathizing with the struggle of feeling so deeply. We mused over life’s most difficult existential questions and bore witness to each other’s ugliest stories. When he collapsed under the weight of his emotions, I felt honored to share the burden of his misery; I wanted nothing more than to be the sole person worthy of knowing him so authentically, no matter how lurid the truth might be.

The facts are unclear; for every piece of evidence that he presented to ground his claims in reality, conflicting information introduces doubt to each of his stories. Through putting the pieces together in retrospect, however, I’ve devised a working theory.

Several months after we first met, he revealed to me that prior to enrolling at Berklee, he had briefly been deployed to the Middle East as a marine and had witnessed the deaths of several close friends. In retrospect, it’s clear to me that he was suffering from severe, undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder. In a rare moment of complete vulnerability, he once confided to me that he was haunted by spine-chilling nightmares of a malevolent force that was slowly, inevitably creeping toward him at all times–the physical embodiment of all of the evil that exists in the universe. It seems to me that subconsciously, he was profoundly ashamed of the acts that he had committed as a soldier, and he believed that this force was coming to seek retribution.

The ways that he chose to handle the intensely traumatic experiences that he had endured made a stable, lasting relationship impossible. He was unable to do two vital things: to allow himself to be continuously vulnerable, trusting that I would care about him in spite of his jagged edges; and to transform his feelings for me into commitment toward our relationship, despite its difficulties. Over the course of the three years that I knew him, there were times when my mind was so overwhelmed by the impossibly tangled web of deception and secrets that our relationship always found itself choked by that I doubted my own sanity; and just as many times when I would make enormous sacrifices to have another chance at making things work, only for him to disappear again when I came too close to breaking down the walls around his vulnerable, true self. The moment that he would let his guard down, finally allowing me to glimpse the reality of his inner workings, a chain of alarms would be set off, causing him to hit the “panic” button and self-destruct, despite himself, every time.

But we perpetually carried these incredibly tenacious feelings for each other, no matter how much time passed or how much distance there was between us; and the chance to take another shot at a relationship that felt destined to persevere in the end provided reason enough to keep trying.

Our feelings for each other were preserved, unchanged, no matter what had happened in our separate lives in the meantime, like flowers pressed between the pages of a book.

In January 2010, at three o’clock in the morning, the phone rang. I was already awake; I hadn’t slept in days.

It had been months since we’d last spoken. He had reenlisted in the Marine Corps and had been deployed the past October. And then suddenly, two days earlier, I was overwhelmed with an unshakable premonition that something was very wrong.

He had just woken up in the hospital, he whispered. He’d been shot and nearly died. I already knew.

In May of 2011, I emptied my savings account for a one-way plane ticket. As the plane descended into Houston, I was trembling with excitement and apprehension.

For the first time, we had the relationship that we’d always imagined. We devised a blueprint for our future that felt more real than anything I’d ever known. When I flew back to Boston, I didn’t say goodbye the way that I would have had I known that it was the last time I would ever see him.

Two weeks later, I spent my twenty-first birthday with my face angled up toward the sky, my eyes searching for the plane that he’d promised he would be on. I went to sleep that night alone; one year older, but with the same old tears staining my pillowcase.

On July 3, after three agonizing weeks of silence, in closing, he gave me just ten words that offered no explanation: “I’m sorry. Be free. Live a good and happy life.” It was the last time that we ever spoke.

Do Soulmates Exist? | Feather & Flint

It wasn’t easy to fabricate my own sense of closure when the most haunting, evocative relationship that I had ever experienced ended for reasons that I had no control over and will never truly understand. The most difficult thing to let go of was the poignant narrative that had been building for three years—the timeless story of an enigmatic, powerful love that persevered in the most difficult of circumstances, destined to bring us together in the end. It was the Northern Star that kept us coming back to one another again and again, in spite of everything; but in the end, it wasn’t enough.

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I still can’t explain any part of what transpired between us; but ultimately, I have to believe that I did see glimpses of his authentic self in those rare moments of apparent vulnerability. I believe that deep down, he wanted nothing more than to be the person that I needed him to be—the version of himself who could build the future that we dreamed out loud. I believe that he did the best that he could to let me into the darkest corners of his mind; and when he inevitably disappeared, it was fear that drove him away, in spite of himself. He saw the ominous shadow from his nightmares approaching out of the corner of his eye, intent on retribution for the transgressions that he had committed, and felt that he had no other choice than to disappear without a trace. By leaving me behind, perhaps he believed that he was saving me from the same fate.

What prevented me from giving up on him after being crushed by disappointment so many times was the unshakeable belief that I alone had the ability and the privilege to love him for who he truly was. Our preternatural connectedness led me to believe that I held the key to unlocking his troubled mind and transforming him into the person that I knew he could be. But in the end, I deserved more than he would ever have been able to give me.

More than eight years after I first moved to Boston, I have learned that love is not infatuation; it is not magnetic attraction; it is not the dramatic, heart-wrenching passion that results from being ripped apart and reunited. Lasting love is not contingent on these things. It is a daily choice to remain committed to someone whom you are willing to trust with everything that you have. It is vulnerability, and it is sacrifice. It is laughter, and it is reciprocity.

Love is not dichotomous, hot-and-cold passion; it is the feeling of a cup of tea warmed to the perfect temperature, savored early in the morning as the rest of the world sleeps, with a comforting warmth that persists even when you’re apart. It is based on the experiences that you build through mutual dependence upon one another, in good times as well as in bad. It is realizing that you can’t imagine life without one another, because you are the most you with this person as a part of your existence. It is wanting to depart this earth at the exact same time so that you never have to live a single moment in a reality where they no longer exist. I know this now.

He remains an undeniable element of my personal history; but ultimately, his significance didn’t arise from the fact that he was meant to be a part of my life until the end of time. His role was that of a catalyst, transforming me into the person that I needed to be in order to end up exactly as I am today: resilient and wise; unflinching in demanding what I deserve; and with no specters of regret haunting my dreams.

Do Soulmates Exist? | Feather & Flint

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What do you think—do soulmates exist? Tell me your story & thoughts in the comments—I can’t wait to hear what you think!

P.S. Be sure to read Part II of my series on soulmates: 4 Dangerous Misconceptions About Soulmates—and How to Think About Love Instead.

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  1. Reply


    April 10, 2017

    I meant my true soulmate over 35 years ago. Has it always been easy of course not. Has it all been worthwhile of course.

    • Reply


      July 8, 2017

      Exactly, Candy – so glad you found yours!

  2. Reply


    April 10, 2017

    First of all this is the most beautiful piece of writting I’ve had the pleasure of reading for quite some time, I can only dream owriting as creativity as you one day!

    Secondly I’ve been lucky to find my soul mate, we met when we were 14 and I find myself lucky everyday that he is there for me 100%. Despite our relationship, life has been hard on me and I feel lucky that my soulmate has been in my life to keep me together at the worst times.

    • Reply


      July 8, 2017

      Thank you SO much, Nicole. That is so, so sweet of you to say – you made my day! It’s so true that sometimes you meet the person you’re meant to be with before everything else in your life is worked out – but it makes it so much easier to weather the difficulties with that person there. I’m glad you found each other at such a young age – that’s so rare!

  3. Reply


    April 10, 2017

    This was beautifully written! I applaud you on allowing yourself to go through that and come out on the other side stronger for it! More self-aware, more recognizing of your own worth! Beautiful to see 🙂

    • Reply


      July 8, 2017

      Thank you so much, Megan – that truly means a lot to me. It’s so true – I learned so much about myself in a way that was extremely painful, but so critical to my development as a person.

  4. Reply

    Jobie Medina

    April 10, 2017

    I have the most wonderful husband now. I do call him my soul mate. He was hard for me to find though. I had two very difficult relationships before him. He is definitely the one and was worth waiting for. I’m sure this was difficult for you to write. It’s very emotional and well written. Thanks for sharing your story.

  5. Reply

    Kirstie Ganobsik

    April 10, 2017

    Yes, they exist – and as Elizabeth Gilbert so wisely says, they’re here for us to grow into that person who we’re meant to be so we can shine our light on the world. I love your storytelling and was enthralled from beginning to end. It sounds like a magnificent love story that catapulted you into everything you deserved.

  6. Reply


    April 10, 2017

    This was so beautifully written. And I’ve always had some mixed opinions about this because of the excerpt you had at the beginning of your post because I truly felt there was someone from my past who was able to do this although the story was like yours in the sense it was heartbreakingly negative and painful at the same time. But after reading your story, it reminded me of my own experiences and helps me feel appreciative of that experience and where I’m at now.

  7. Reply


    April 10, 2017

    I’ve always wanted to believe that soulmates exist. Just waiting for mine to come along… 🙂 Beautiful post!

  8. Reply


    April 11, 2017

    Beautifully written! I do believe in soulmates but only after I found mine. In past relationships I could never pinpoint while I still felt alone while snuggled up. Then I met him. I have never felt alone even when he is away. I miss him, sure. But I don’t feel alone.

  9. Reply


    April 11, 2017

    First, I would just like to say that you write so beautifully!!! Secondly, what a…. sad? Yet, enlightening post! I wasn’t sure what word to use to describe this. Wonderful post! Thanks for sharing your story!

  10. Reply


    April 11, 2017

    I don’t think they exist. I mean… not in the “I’m waiting for my soulmate to meet me” way. I think both partners should “match” in terms of beliefs, lifestyle, life overview and so on, but a relationship needs other ingredients to be “the one”. For me the most important ingredients are respect and communication. So I think if you want a soul mate you have to work on your relationship rather that wait for that perfect match.

  11. Reply


    April 11, 2017

    This is so beautiful written. Thank you for sharing.

  12. Reply

    Sarah Jean althouse

    April 11, 2017

    “love is a choice to remain committed” – amen! I believe my husband became my soulmate the minute we said “I Do.”

  13. Reply


    April 11, 2017

    Oh my! This is such a beautifully written story! I LOVE your story! I had something similar happened to me when I was younger. We’ve tried to work on our relationship multiple times, with years in between, and every time, he didn’t follow through. It was probably around 10 years before I realized it’s never going to happen between us.

    Belle | One Awesome Momma

  14. Reply

    Lecy | A Simpler Grace

    April 11, 2017

    This is beautifully written! I do believe in soul mates, but I believe you can have more than one and they are not necessarily meant to last a lifetime, but it’s always interesting to hear what other people think too. Thanks for sharing your story!

  15. Reply


    April 11, 2017

    Oh my gosh, girl. I think I felt my heart ache for you. I met who I believed was my soul mate immediately upon starting college, he lived in the dorm next door. (Side note, did you go to Berklee too? Because so did I…) My relationship ended and while I’ve dated, I’ve had a hard time finding a relationship that felt the same. I had another that ended a year ago that was the closest I had ever felt to that feeling again. Do soul mates exist? I’m still not sure, but I do love that quote from Elizabeth Gilbert.

  16. Reply


    April 11, 2017

    You have an amazing gift of writing, I truly enjoyed your story! Soul mates exist, I married mine over a decade ago. 🙂

  17. Reply


    April 11, 2017

    I would love to believe they do. I think my ex made me VERY jaded about love and relationships. I adore my husband and he came into my life right when I needed him. Not sure about soulmates but he’s pretty awesome.

  18. Reply


    April 11, 2017

    This is such a beautifully written post. I have had a similar experience in the past and I agree with you that sometimes we meet people that aren’t meant to be in our lives long term. When I met my husband later on down the track and found I (and life in general) could just be easy-going all the time, that was the person I was meant to be with.

  19. Reply


    April 11, 2017

    I will be in the negative camp that says no, they don’t exist. I have been happily married to my husband for almost 29 years, we lead a marriage ministry, and don’t believe any scripture supports the idea of a soul mate. What we do believe is marriage is a commitment, love is a choice, and the one you marry is the “right” person once you marry them. I read a great blog post years ago about the notion of “soulmates” and it really got me thinking further about it. I know the idea is romantic, but it is not biblical. Here is the post: https://theartinlife.wordpress.com/2013/07/22/my-husband-is-not-my-soul-mate/ (by the way, I don’t personally know the author or have any affiliation with her, but think it’s a valuable read!)

  20. Reply

    Connie @essentiallybroken.com

    April 11, 2017

    This is an amazing piece. I completely agree with you. Sometimes soulmates are there to save you from yourself, not to stay but to transcend you to your new life. Amazing

  21. Reply

    Ivanna | Provocative Joy

    April 12, 2017

    This is beautiful and heart-wrenching at the same time. I do believe that soulmates exist, but I don’t think everyone marries theirs. In fact, I’m not sure we’re supposed to. I have a best friend I would say is my soulmate but we’re both married (not to each other). I think it might be better to not marry your soulmate because the deep connection might actually be too intense to have a stable marriage. I don’t know really 🙂 These are deep questions for sure.

  22. Reply


    April 12, 2017

    What a story! Soul mates are a true gift to us…..I have found several soul mates as sister friends too.

  23. Reply

    Rachel R Ritlop

    April 12, 2017

    Awe so sweet! I do think soul mates exist! A psychic told me husband and i (separately) that we were together in past lives (which is why i think it’s always felt like we’ve been together for ever) – and that I left him in our last life and my souls job in this life is to correct that (I probably sound like a crazy person haha).

  24. Reply


    April 12, 2017

    I think they do exist, but it’s not necessary that we end up with them. We might meet them and then fall apart. And the person we end up with might not be the one that we imagined, but it works better and you learn to love them the same way as that soul mate that ripped your heart out :). This is how it was for me anyway.

  25. Reply


    April 12, 2017

    Wow, this is super powerful! I absolutely love that you shared this story with the world. In my case, I have been with the say boy since high school. Nine years later and he still completely holds my heart. I like to think that we are soul mates and that they do exist, because everyone deserves the kind of love we share.


  26. Reply


    April 12, 2017

    Oh gosh, Robin. Your writing pulls me in each and every single time. You’re such a beautiful writer. Your words brought me to tears.
    “He remains an undeniable element of my personal history; but ultimately, his significance didn’t arise from the fact that he was meant to be a part of my life until the end of time. His role was that of a catalyst, transforming me into the person that I needed to be in order to end up exactly as I am today: resilient and wise; unflinching in demanding what I deserve; and with no specters of regret haunting my dreams.”

    This. This. This. I want to print this out and put it up in my room and remind myself every single day that we go through experiences for this very reason. To shape us. To mold us. To become who we were meant to be.

  27. Reply


    April 12, 2017

    Beautifully written! My story isn’t quite as dramatic as yours but while my now-husband and I were dating, there were multiple times when we almost (or maybe should have) broken up but something (God) held us together. Now, six years later, we’ve been married for four years and have two handsome boys and a home. <3

  28. Reply

    Meg Smidt

    April 12, 2017

    Yes yes yes!!! I love mine <3 🙂 Great post!

  29. Reply


    May 3, 2017

    This was so beautifully written

    I’m not sure that I believe in a single soul mate, a person that you’re destined to meet for better or worse… but I do believe that people come into your life for a reason, I suppose you could call it the “5 people you meet in heaven” approach to relationships (or at least the big ones)

    Laura @ http://www.cookwineandthinker.com

  30. Reply

    Autumn Curry

    May 17, 2017

    I don’t know what I think about soul mates, but I’ve always felt very peaceful and safe with my husband. He isn’t like any other guy I dated, but I’ve learned so much from him. I really feel like we built a friendship and it turned into love.