OWN
10/11/2014 09:50 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Elizabeth Gilbert Explains What Everyone Gets Wrong About 'Soul Mates'

How many times have you heard people say they're looking for their "soul mate?" When she embarked on her now-famous Eat, Pray, Love journey, author Elizabeth Gilbert did end up falling deeply in love with her now-husband -- but he isn't the "soul mate" that so many people search for. And that's exactly why Gilbert says their relationship has a lasting future.

"People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that's what everyone wants," Gilbert wrote in Eat, Pray, Love. "But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that's holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you will ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake."

Before she journeyed to Italy, India and Bali for her book, Gilbert couldn't make sense of the fact that she had found and subsequently lost a man she had believed to be her soul mate. Then, a friend of Gilbert's carefully explained what a soul mate is -- and why you don't always want to marry him.

"He told me about somebody who I had lost -- who I thought was my soul mate -- he said, 'He probably was. But you don't understand what a soul mate is,'" Gilbert recalls her friend saying. "'You think it's all roses and happiness. A soul mate is somebody who changes you. And then, sometimes, they have to leave because the intensity of the relationship is so much that you can't actually have [stability].'"

Rather than look to a "soul mate" for lasting love or marriage, Gilbert now believes in looking for something different.

"Your partner is something else," Gilbert says. "That's your friend. My husband is my best friend. He's not the mirror that holds up my flaws. He's just the guy who's like, 'I think you're terrific'... It's just simple, showing up for each other."

Gilbert still admits that the fire and intensity of a soul mate isn't without its merits. "Whatever they fired up in you, you might have needed fired up," she says. "And then you might need them to go, so that you can go on your journey."

The second part of Elizabeth Gilbert's conversation with Oprah airs on "Super Soul Sunday" this Sunday, Oct. 12, on OWN at 11 a.m. ET, during which it also streams live on Oprah.com, Facebook.com/owntv and Facebook.com/supersoulsunday.

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