What’s the difference between a twin flame and soul mate?

It’s said to be a relationship that fundamentally changes you. But what’s the difference between a twin flame and a soul mate, and are these relationships actually good for us? We asked psychologist and relationship expert Briony Leo.

Have you ever met someone for the first time and feel you’ve known them your whole life? You, my friend, may have met your twin flame.

While you’ve likely heard of the term soul mate, your twin flame may not be someone you’re romantically involved with, though it commonly is.

This is a person with whom we share an unspeakable bond, said to fundamentally change us and vice versa. Where soul mates just *get* each other, twin flames are designed to challenge you both, to spur emotional and spiritual growth. It will likely be an intense and highly emotional relationship, allowing you to work through similar childhood traumas you both share.

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It’s not a recognised psychological term, however, but it can perhaps be better explained by attachment theory: that we are drawn to those who have the same emotional scars as us or people who remind us of ourselves.

“We often will feel powerful attractions to people who remind us of ‘unfinished business’ from the past,” observes psychologist and relationships expert Briony Leo.

This sort of relationship can turn destructive pretty quickly, Leo notes: “[Twin flames are] often romanticised because it can be an intense experience, but in reality, it seems to go back to trauma feeding on more trauma, and people re-living and re-enacting their childhood dynamics and trying to find stability and love.”

Ultimately, Leo is skeptical of the idea of a twin flame.

“I don’t want to be a naysayer but these terms do make me a bit uncomfortable,” she says.

“I hate to romanticise what are often toxic and horrible relationships – even if they do provoke self-growth and progress… On one level it does result in personal growth, but on the other hand it can also be incredibly distressing.”

She adds: “That said, if having the experience summarised in this way and the idea of a ‘twin flame’ helps someone to understand their relationship more, and learn more about themselves, then this is a positive thing… But from a psychological perspective, there are often safer ways of resolving attachment issues, like therapy or support groups.”

Briony Leo is an Australian psychologist, currently based in New York City, with specialist training in EMDR, Neurofeedback, Schema Therapy and ACT therapy. You can find her here.