- The Washington Times - Monday, September 6, 2010

It’s a theme that appears in thousands of movies, books and musicals: Boy meets girl. They fall in love, marry and live happily ever after. Soul mates forever.

Fully two-thirds of Americans believe in the concept of soul mates, where “two people are destined to be together,” according to a recent Marist Poll.

But a new study offers an important reality check about unions formed in a whirlwind of passion.

“Soul mate” couples are often happy at first, because they have intense emotional and personal connections, said W. Bradford Wilcox, lead author of the article in the Sept. 1 issue of Social Science Research.

But their unions are at high risk for disenchantment and divorce because it’s hard to sustain such intensity in a long-term relationship, he said.

Instead, couples who have the best chance for lasting happiness are those who are strongly attentive and affectionate with each other (like soul-mate couples) but also believe that marriage is lifelong, and that they should be part of larger social and religious networks.

“In a word, the more spouses embrace the married state, and the institutional norms that go with it, the more they enjoy it,” wrote Mr. Wilcox, a sociology professor at the University of Virginia and director of the National Marriage Project.

Most Americans are in love with the “soul mate” idea, however.

In May, for instance, Alex and Donna Voutsinas of Boynton Beach, Fla., put their marriage story on Facebook, and it quickly spread through major news outlets.

The Voutsinases first realized they had a “kismet” story in 2002, when they were preparing a photo presentation for their wedding. Donna found a picture of herself, age 5, standing at Disney World with family members. In the background was a tall man pushing a stroller with a toddler in it.

When Alex looked at the picture, he recognized the “tall man” as his father — and the child in the stroller as himself, at age 3.

The couple confirmed the identities after Alex went through his old family photos and found some with himself and his father at Disney World in the same clothes as the man and child in Donna’s photo.

The Voutsinases had long amazed their friends with their story, but it took “the magic of the Internet” and major news media to send it around the world, United Press International reported.

Researchers at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., noticed the Voutsinases’ story and decided to poll 1,004 adults on love, marriage and soul mates.

The Voutsinases’ story was intriguing as a pop-culture topic, “and we thought it was kind of a neat idea to ask Americans — and married Americans — if they believe in the concept of soul mates,” said Mary Azzoli, media director of the Marist College Poll. The poll defined soul mates as “two people who are destined to be together,” she added.

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