What Even Is A ‘Twin Flame’ & Why Does It Make Me Feel Bad?

Photographed by Eylul Aslan
Lately you might have noticed ‘twin flame’ – the relationship term du jour – nestled into the captions of gushing social media posts or even slotted into horoscopes under ‘connections to look out for’. In July, Alicia Keys took to Instagram to celebrate her 11-year wedding anniversary with producer Swizz Beatz. The label was neatly centred in the caption: "Soulmates, Deeper than soulmates, Twin flames, An existential earthquake, My souls mirror."
At the end of last year Megan Fox also made headlines in an interview describing the moment she kindled her intense romance with musician Machine Gun Kelly: "Instead of a soulmate, a twin flame is actually where a soul has ascended into a high enough level that it can be split into two different bodies at the same time… So we’re actually two halves of the same soul, I think. And I said that to him almost immediately, because I felt it right away." She reiterated it in another interview last month: "The first time I looked into his eyes, I was like... 'I know you. I have known you so many times, in so many different forms, in so many different lives.'"
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Believed to have originated from Plato’s mythological dialogue The Symposium, Megan is right: a twin flame is the belief that one soul has been split into two bodies. Once reunited, an intense connection (sometimes referred to as a ‘mirror’s soul’) is formed. 
The internet’s growing interest in twin flame relationships acts as a new wave of what we already know: as a society we are obsessed with the pursuit of ‘the one’. As a concept, finding a twin flame pitches idyllic scenes of life with your match: a feeling of completion, eternal laughter, perfectly curated domestic settings. For a lot of us, this utopian montage plays on a loop in our minds and powers the relentless cycle of swipe, like, meet, repeat. But how realistic is this romantic destination? As Alicia Keys' caption smugly posits, twin flames are even "deeper than soulmates" – but does this all just mean we're ushering in a new wave of hyper-romanticism that's hindering those of us who are dating?

I see singles eradicating romantic connections that are authentic with high potential if they don’t feel a spark like never before straightaway.

Sarah Louise Ryan - Dating expert
Matchmaker and dating expert Sarah Louise Ryan outlines the pros and cons of living with such acutely idealistic romantic hope. "Believing in these terms as a way we form connections can be beneficial as it can allow people to compartmentalise certain connections and take stock of how they have evolved or sadly broken down," she explains. But she warns of the possible limitations of the terms, too. "I see singles eradicating romantic connections that are authentic with high potential if they don’t feel a spark like never before straightaway. Sometimes these terms are on such a high pedestal that they take away from the real human element and situational circumstances."
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"That’s because you’re a romanticist" became the concluding catchphrase in many disagreements with my pragmatic ex. I’d protest, to his amusement, by unconvincingly stating that I am – in fact – a stone-cold realist whose opinions are wholly unaffected by the seductions of idealism. The label irritated me, and I didn’t know why. Was it that the opinions of a romanticist felt less valid or was there something deeper in me that kicked back at the idea of predestined love?
On reflection, there are definitely parts of me that hold onto the hope that certain things are inherently good and that some interactions are meant to be. To our benefit or to our detriment, we were all raised on sugar-coated romanticism and exist in a cycle of exposure to rom-com endings, love-centric book plots and "So, how did you two meet?" conversation-starters.
Now that I’m dating again, I’m more aware of my indoctrination than ever before. My tendency to swipe left on nothing but a gut feeling is at an all-time high and while I feel justified in the moment, I can’t help but wonder if the perpetually imposed fairytale has actually given me an idealistic mentality.

Romanticism does hold so many back from forming healthy and fulfilling relationships as that deep connection, aka ‘spark’, can sometimes be put on a pedestal.

Sarah Louise Ryan
The evolving ideal of twin flames definitely seems to be cultivating a new era of hyper-romanticism. Often displayed on social media, a holier-than-thou club of soulmates-on-steroids assemble, celebrating their success in discovering not just someone but the one. Twin flames may just be the next iteration of relationship bragging and after 18 months of involuntary isolation, this romantic movement has the potential to be adopted at a truly exponential rate.
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Ryan expresses concern. "Romanticism does hold so many back from forming healthy and fulfilling relationships as that deep connection, aka ‘spark’, can sometimes be put on a pedestal – social media and reality TV also add to the notion that love is instantaneous."
If you, too, are single and feel like you’re sinking in the unhinged quicksand of dating, you’ll likely agree with the notion that seeking a soulmate can feel unreachable. Yet even with all the logic and reason and empowered independence in the world, you probably still find yourself returning to the addictive daydream of finding your lobster. I know that I do.
Despite my current hesitation towards swipe-rights, I recently decided to take another directionless swing at romance. It was the first date since my last relationship ended so I went in – like all faithful cynics – with absolutely no expectations. The only certainties of my night of meeting a complete stranger were that my outfit was good and the alcohol was readily available. Beyond that, I was in the slippery hands of chance once again. 
What happened next came as a surprise. I experienced four hours of whirlwind ‘twin flame’ potential – instant attraction, overwhelming connection, niche referencing and laughter. I wanted to talk to him all night and as we verbally fell over each other with a desire to share more and more, I thought to myself, Is this 'it'?
The night ended with margarita-tinged kissing and over-the-top statements of how good our first meeting had made us both feel. I left, dazed and contemplative, wondering whether I’d just experienced the mystical connection that the world waxes lyrical about and if this interaction was enough to mark the start of something long-lasting.
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While I’m a big advocate that hope acts as an essential propeller to fulfilling our desires in life, it seems that when it comes to dating, it’s possible that the ever-swelling expectations of Western romanticism are accomplishing the complete opposite of what it was created for.
Ryan echoes this. "Many modern daters expect an instantaneous connection and love to appear, which more often than not means that any chance of a slow-burning connection isn’t considered and the search for that certain someone can become somewhat of a self-sabotage." In her expert view, the secret is remaining open and prioritising growth. "The trait of open-mindedness and having a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset lends itself well to the way people navigate the dating process and feel about themselves along the way."
In the weeks that followed my date, it quickly became apparent that the connection we found over a couple of whirlwind evenings wasn’t enough to ride the wave into something more serious. Whether I put it down to timing, my emotional unreadiness or our joint lack of pragmatism, I’ve since considered that it could be time to unlearn some of the principles that romanticism raised me on. In some respects, it’s inevitable that I’ll continue to hold onto the joys of twin flame idealism but I’ll endeavour to open myself up to the less sexy principles of logic and allow room for connection in unexpected places. 

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