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Tropes and genres
Synonym(s)Soulmates, Soulmate AU
Related tropes/genresSoulbond, Red Thread of Fate, Soulmate Marks, Alternate Universe,
See alsoMates (trope), Mating
Related articles on Fanlore.

Soulmates are people who are fated to be together, usually romantically, sometimes through multiple lives[note 1] and/or into the afterlife.

Based on actual folklore and spiritual beliefs common to many world cultures, soulmates have been a common trope in mainstream fiction, romantic and otherwise, as well as fanfic, for decades. The concept is actually canon for some fandoms.

Soulmates can be very similar to soulbonding (a mystic or psychic bond between two or more people), but soulbonding can happen through mystical means later in life, as opposed to soulmates who are always meant to be together.

A related concept is "twin souls" also known as "twin flames" or "twin rays", where the two people were originally one person and the soul was divided into two and will rejoin together as one before going on to Heaven. In this belief system, a person can have several soulmates, but only one twin flame, the other half of oneself. The term "twin flame" for this was probably coined by Marie Corelli in A Romance of Two Worlds (1898), but earlier instances of the term can be found, most speaking about close friends who experience spiritual communication and understanding.


Soulmates have been a trope in folklore and spiritual beliefs common to many world cultures. Some couples are considered soulmates within their canon, giving the ship extra validity among fans. Fans may consider their OTP to be soulmates – such views can be used to oppose multi-shipping.

In the 2010s, fandoms use of the soulmate trope shifted strongly toward Soulmate Marks, leading to the development of specific subtropes. Amateur and professional authors have written of such a "mark" signifying soulmates for centuries without referring to it specifically as a "soulmark".

See Soulmate Marks for more.

TiMER, a 2009 sci-fi romantic comedy movie, is likely a cause of the rise of soulmate-identifying marks in fanfiction. In the film individuals are able to get a TiMER, a wrist implant that counts down to the day when the user will meet their soulmate. From soulmate timers, the trope evolved into Soulmate Names, a tattoo-like mark showing the name of one's soulmate, usually on the hand or wrist and in the soulmate's handwriting. In fan fiction, stories with this concept are documented as appearing in about 2011.

There seems have been a surge of Soulmate and Soulmate mark works in 2012/2013. The Soulmate-Identifying Marks tag on AO3 was created on January 11 2013, after the "Soulmate AU" tag was created on September 18 2012. The next evolution of the trope was First Words. This subtrope may have started with a viral Tumblr post by kenzie-no-mc (kenezbian) in April 2014. As of July 2017, the tumblr post had over 730k notes.

soulmate AU where you wake up on your 18th birthday with the first words your soulmate will say to you tattooed on your body so you’ll know them when you meet them[1]

Canon Soulmate and Twin Flame Couples

  • Victorian author Marie Corelli had twin souls or "divine complements" in several of her novels including A Romance of Two Worlds (Zorah and her unnamed twin awaiting her in the afterlife), Ardath (Theos and Edris), and The Life Everlasting (the unnamed heroine is looking for hers).
  • The TV series Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman included serial reincarnation of the main characters as soulmates through multiple lives, with the time traveling H.G. Wells using a device to trace them and send the characters' souls back to their earlier bodies.
  • Some versions of the canon for Hawkman and Hawkgirl, such as the TV series Legends of Tomorrow, also use the reincarnation version.
  • In Xena: Warrior Princess: Xena and Gabrielle are soulmates who will find each other in every lifetime. Their bodies get shuffled around though, with Joxer as the third member.
  • In the original Sabrina the Teenage Witch TV show, the final episode of the series reveals that "soul stones" exist; everyone has one on the North Star, and those that fit together are soulmates. Sabrina and Harvey are revealed to be soulmates.
  • In The Vampire Diaries novel series, Stefan and Elena are destined soulmates who are bound together heart to heart by a silver cord (i.e. Red String).
  • In the Dark-Hunter series, the Were-Hunter characters are all fated to one person - you are only allowed to procreate with them, and once the find them they can only be with that person (although females are allowed to reject the male). This would lead to a scroll-type marking to appear on the palms after they had sex[2].
  • In Your Eyes (2014) is a film focused on Dylan and Rebecca, who are soulmates that can see, hear and feel the other's experiences (for instance, if one is injured, the other feels it). Because of this, they can telepathically communicate with each other.



A classic soulmate concept is that a couple are destined to be together not just in one life, but for eternity. Regardless of the individuals' experiences in their lives, the core essence of souls do not change and are always drawn to one another. Esoteric and Theosophical folklore such as C.W. Leadbeater's The Lives of Alcyone or the writings of Alice Bailey promote the idea that one must have every possible relationship with one's soulmate -- friends, family, co-workers, lovers, antagonists -- through numerous lives. (This also applies to twin flames or rays, where the two souls are really one.) Some even believe it is possible that a soulmate can be embodied as a close animal companion.

These ideas were popularized in the romantic fantasy novels of Marie Corelli, including the extremely popular A Romance of Two Worlds. Her follow-up novel The Life Everlasting went into even more specific detail about the souls' journeys through various reincarnations, in which they are purified and refined to perfection, finally ascending together into heaven.

Physical Connection

See also Soulbond

The idea that soulmates can be identified through a certain physical "mark" is as old as the soulmate concept itself. Romantic tales have soulmates bearing identical birthmarks or having exactly the same eye colour and shape. Soulmates may look like twins, or look completely opposite to one another, symbolizing a complementary union.

In anime series, soulmates may even communicate by writing on their own skin, knowing the message will appear on their partner in the same place. The sharing of injuries, bruises, pain, or otherwise is a more angsty variation of this subtrope and is also used in sf/fantasy and weird tales about twins.[3]

Soulmates can also be revealed through touch[4][5] or through a literal change in the way they view the world, such as black-and-white vision going full colour upon meeting one's soulmate(s).[6][7][8]

Red String of Fate

The red string of fate has crossed into many Western fandoms and is a popular trope, as shown by I Met You On LJ's #FicTropeFriday.

The red string, usually found in anime and manga, originating from Chinese mythology, in the well-known legend yīnyuán hóngxiàn or the Red String of Fate. Frequently found in Japanese works, where it's referred to as akai ito or unmei no akai ito, the concept is that two people who are destined to be together are attached at the ankles by an invisible red string by the gods.

In Japanese and Korean culture, it is thought to be tied around the little finger.[9][10]

In fan fiction, red strings are almost always wrapped around one's little finger to direct the wearer to a soulmate, only joining together when the soulmate is found.

Sense Changes/Colorblind Soulmates

Colorblind Soulmate AUs are very popular in some fandoms but have yet to cross over into others. Image from I Met You On LJ's #FicTropeFriday.

One minor trend in soulmark AUs is the idea of the world being viewable only in black-and-white until one meets their soulmate, at which time they begin to see color. One canon example of a type of this trope, which may have helped introduce it to fandom, is the film Pleasantville, which is black-and-white until characters either fall in love or discover sexual desire. A popular Stormpilot fic (Prism by StarMaple) in Star Wars fandom follows this trope and includes a multi-panel art post with over 29,000 Tumblr notes as of February 2021.

Soulmate Goose of Enforcement

A February 2017 tumblr post in the Check Please fandom instigated this subtrope: "soulmate au where one person finds a goose who leads them to the other person. the difficulty comes in not being mauled by a goose"[11][12] The earliest fanwork in the AO3 tag is OMG, Goose Please! by Boxstorm (2017-02-22). "OMG, Goose Please!" seems to have originated the popular AO3 tags Alternate Universe - The Soulmate Goose of Enforcement and Goose-typical violence. As of September 2022, approximately 315 works on the AO3 feature a soulmate goose.

The Soulmate Goose AU soon spread to many other fandoms, including Marvel, Star Trek, and Yuri on Ice. At least two fics in The Old Guard fandom featured the Soulmate Goose (the first, Announcing Your Place in the World of Things by marivan, was posted in February 2021).

An anthology of podfics featuring the trope was born out of the Voiceteam 2022 challenge to use a similar sound effect (in this case, a goose honk). It featured 11 podfics spanning 18 fandoms, including Our Flag Means Death, The Lord of the Rings, Nirvana in Fire, Voltron, Schitt's Creek and Star Wars.

Other Signs

Other signs used in fanfic that two characters are soulmates include:

  • Soul Eyes. Soul eyes are eyes that take on the color of your soulmate's eyes.[note 2]
  • Rainverse - the ability to hear their soulmate's sounds (such as voice and heartbeat) when it rains.

Trope Subversion

As with all tropes, there also exist a number of fanworks which explore its unintended consequences or try and go against the usual course of the soulmates narrative, for example focusing on characters who are platonic soulmates, who *don't* have soulmates in a world where everyone is expected to have one, who have several simultaneous or consecutive soulmates, whose soulmates are already deceased, whose marks don't match up in a conventional way, or who chose to be with someone other than their marked soulmate. This is no different from the speculations popular in Theosophy and other New Age lore.

This allows creators to explore themes such as marginalisation, asexuality, aromanticism, polyamory, diversity and choice/free will vs fate/predestination.[13]

The concept of a soulmate pair can also be subverted by individuals having more than one soulmate.[note 3] This can be explored as a soulmate having more than one romantic partner, or as having a single romantic partner and another platonic or otherwise. Recently a little trope spread on Tumblr and AO3 about you having a soulmate tag for every person you've loved throughout your life, never really knowing if that tag is your soulmate's definitive or if it's from his latest summer novel.[citation needed]

Others take the logical implications of this trope and apply them to non-romantic genres, such as horror, on the other hand who thinks that those who see the horror in the soulmate are somehow mistaken:

Thinking about how utterly nightmarish soulmate AUs are. There is a physical mark carved into your person as a constant reminder that on your own, you are not whole. In our world, the human body is a complete and individual thing, but in soulmate AUs, you are forcibly tied to someone and a timer counting down to when you will meet is embedded in your skin and you cannot get it out. You can try desperately to stay alone or love someone who is not your soulmate, but the clock will not stop ticking and fate will not change. The most momentous occasion in your life is meeting someone else, an occasion burned into your skin. This is a horror story.[14]
“People are whole” oh my god no they arent…you wanna know what people are? People are SELF CONTAINED. People are existing inside their individual themselves and cannot get out. People are brains - bound, locked inside a prison made of calcium and carbon.

[...] if you are weirdly assuming that a soulmate is someone who couldnt be your fucking lab partner or someone who will help you travel where you need to go to see that thing you’ve already seen or unlock that piece of yourself you want to get to. This idea that a soul is something romantic and that whole is anything more than complete is bizarre to me. Whole, as a person, literally just means in fullness.


Also why the fuck would you think that meeting someone who is your soulmate would be the moment that is the most important event and and not the moment things BEGIN? Did your life fucking END when you graduated high school? Or did it begin? God knows I feel like my life has really started beginning since I figured out what my career is and I graduated college, which was the last big CEREMONY I had, not ended. The only ceremony that marks the END of a life is a funeral.


But do not think, for one moment, that this is not a reflection of something we can see, a statement of how connection to people feels like an ending and that people are a problem. Because as this statement stands it says that for you? Hell is other people. And like, if that’s the case? maybe the problem is you, and you are other people’s hell. and you should stay the fuck away from people until you can process that horror and come out the other side realizing that not all connections cause endings.[15]

Fanwork Examples

  • Fighting Instinct by Lunavere, "Soul mate is a term coined by our kind to describe the natural attraction between two weres, at least one of them being born into lycanthropy. It’s unknown what decides who is whose soul mate, but it is on a chemical and biological level." (Sherlock/John)


Physical Connection

See also Soulbond, Soulmate Marks

  • Orange-Violet Blooms (Harry Potter) by Graziana, a Harry/Hermione fic, She can't look for long - her own fear starts to win. So, instead - adrenaline pounding - she screws her eyes shut, presses her smile into Harry's jumper and watches the glorious night sky through his eyes instead.
  • Soul Scars by Rtnwriter, a Harry Potter/Multiple Partners fic (WIP) in which every scars and wound appears on your soulmate's body - Harry is seriously abused and has multiple soulmates, all of them experiencing his suffering.

Red String of Fate

See AO3 'Red String of Fate' tag

Sense Changes/Colorblind Soulmates

Trope Subversion

Communities and Websites

See Also

  • Soulmate article on Wikipedia
  • Soul Mates XKCD what-if discussion of some practical issues related to soulmates
  • Soulmate AU Fic at TVTropes, brief overview of the Soulmates AU in fanfiction and fanfiction examples from various fandoms.


  1. ^ An example of soulmates through multiple lives is the Star Trek: Voyager Janeway/Seven fic Le Coeur de Lion.
  2. ^ In esoteric folklore, twin souls may have eyes the same color or other distinguishing features that show their relationship.
  3. ^ An example is the triad between Jim Moriarty, John Watson and Sherlock Holmes presented in the comments of the Sherlock BBC Prompting Meme on LiveJournal. anonymous (2011-12-25). "prompting part XXIII - Sherlock BBC Prompting Meme — LiveJournal". LiveJournal. Archived from the original on 2022-10-20.


  1. ^ soulmate AU by kenzie-no-mc, 22 April 2014.
  2. ^ For more information on the Were-Hunter Soulmates/Mating, see Were-Hunter: Mating section at the Dark-Hunter Wiki
  3. ^ For example, L.P. Davies' Paper Dolls has telepathic quadruplet boys separated at birth, who feel each other's pain and can adopt each other's talents.
  4. ^ The Sherlock (BBC) prompt (and fic fill) that's "Set in a world where people can identify their soulmate through touch."
  5. ^ The Suits fic Imprimatur by Closer is set in a world where people recognize their soulmate(s) through touch; "find your soulmate" handshaking events are mentioned.
  6. ^ apharthurkirklands starts a new Soulmate AU
  7. ^ Colour Soulmate AU tag on Tumblr
  8. ^ The "colour+soulmates" query on AO3 returned more than 180 results as of Jan 16, 2016.
  9. ^ Red thread of fate at Wikipedia.
  10. ^ Red String of Fate on TvTropes.
  11. ^ AU suggestion, Archived version, tumblr post by shitty-check-please-aus, Feb 11th, 2017.
  12. ^ ok but *please* explain the soulmate goose of enforcement..., Archived version, tumblr post by star-anise, 27 October 2019. Accessed 12 November 2021.
  13. ^ it's you i find like a ghost in my mind by magneticwave, locked to AO3 users, a One Direction story where characters defy their marks to chose someone else.
  14. ^ guuj (2021-09-12). "Thinking about how utterly nightmarish soulmate AUs are. There is a physical mark carved into your person…". Tumblr. Archived from the original on 2021-09-23.
  15. ^ dancinbutterfly (2022-08-16). "if you are weirdly assuming that a soulmate is someone who couldnt be your..." Tumblr. Archived from the original on 2022-12-23.