U of A research finds putting aside a soulmate mentality creates successful relationships

New research reveals high-quality relationships are built, not found.

New research from the University of Alberta found that high-quality relationships come from partners who work together to foster a successful relationship and grow together, prioritizing connection over satisfaction.

Adam Galovan, an associate professor of family science in the department of human ecology at the U of A, said partners can foster a successful relationship by putting aside the “soulmate mentality.”

“To get to what most people think of as soulmate relationships takes work. It’s not always going to be easy. You have to have that mentality that effort is needed to make sure that those relationships can last,” Galovan said. 

Researchers split couples into high-quality and low-quality relationships.

The researchers surveyed people in relationships, asking them to on their relationship. Using the results, the study made a distinction between high-quality and low-quality relationships.

Researchers found that high-quality relationships had more positive responses in certain areas. These areas included kindness, other-centeredness, commitment, forgiveness, and relationship-maintenance behaviours. As well, there was a difference in the number of high-quality days.

“Those that were in these high-quality relationships, only about 60 per cent of the days were flourishing days,” Galovan said. “Whereas those that were low-connection had high-quality days about 11 per cent of the time.”

Researchers develop five ways to set aside soulmate thinking

The researchers developed five ways to set aside soulmate thinking. These include avoiding a consumer mentality in relationships; setting realistic expectations; developing a mature understanding of love; developing healthy dating trajectories; and staying optimistic after a breakup. 

Avoiding a consumer mentality comes from the idea of satisfaction versus connection. Galovan said that a common thought is needing to “upgrade” if you’re not getting something out of a relationship.

“The problem with that is, research suggests that whoever you get with next is going to have some things that you don’t like either. You want to avoid the red flags but barring that, it’s better … to work on building something together,” Galovan explained.

According to Galovan, setting realistic expectations comes with prioritizing growth over belief in destiny. He said that people with a soulmate mentality tend to think of “the one” being out there. 

“When things get hard they might think, ‘did I pick the wrong person?’ Versus the idea that this is about building something together.”

Galovan said that the idea of “the one” may seem romantic to some. But to him, building a relationship and growing together is “just as, if not more, romantic.” He said developing a mature understanding of love comes down to behaviours and thoughts, not just feelings.

Galovan recommends staying optimistic after a relationship ends

When people are seeking to go to the next “level” in a relationship, they should set healthy dating trajectories, Galovan said. This is done by looking at the growth of both people in the relationship, rather than creating a timeline.

According to Galovan, this relates to people who prepare themselves for the “next stage,” rather than focusing on what their partner may be doing.

Lastly, Galovan emphasized being optimistic after a relationship ends and taking it as a learning curve rather than thinking of having lost “the one.” Galovan said achieving a lasting and happy relationship through different people is a possibility. He added that breakups serve as an experience for a person to grow and learn.

Lale Fassone

Lale Fassone is a second-year student studying media studies and linguistics. She served as the Deputy Arts and Culture Editor in spring 2022. When she isn’t procrastinating her mountain-high workload or when not trying to learn yet another language, she can be found potentially working, writing, reading, or eating strawberries while watching the same rom-com over again.

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