You’re looking through some old photos from a school trip to Paris you took as a teenager when you recognize someone you know sightseeing in the background of your group photo. It seems impossible, but once you take a closer look, the face becomes clear – it’s your current boyfriend (albeit with a decidedly 2010s haircut). It’s just that you started dating him six months ago after going on a blind date in London. It turns out that you were both on holiday there during the same week, but never met.
If you’ve ever experienced something like this, that’s what the creators of TikTok call it Invisible String Theory. The hashtag currently has 32.6 million views on the social network, with multiple content creators describing the phenomenon of meeting “the one” and later realizing that their paths have crossed many times before without realizing it at the time. In other words, the idea that “your person” is hidden in plain sight until the universe decides it’s the optimal time. And this doesn’t just apply to romantic partnerships. one poster describes that they were born a day apart in the same hospital as their current best friend, but didn’t meet again until they were 11. They now live together.
One poster described how they were born a day apart in the same hospital as their current best friend, but didn’t meet again until they were 11. They now live together.
Another example of the phenomenon is Khloe, 30, and her now-husband Marcus, 37. They went on vacation to Las Vegas at the same time, attended the same magic show and were on the same strip when the clocks turned back midnight, even taking pictures from different sides of the same fountain without ever bumping into each other. Marcus used to live on the same road as Chloe’s best friend, her brother studied karate at the place where he was a teacher, and they attended many of the same political protests over the years. But they only met two years ago on Bumble before tying the knot last month.
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“What it highlighted more than anything is how much we have in common,” Chloe says. “It probably made me feel more confident in the relationship, knowing that our interests overlapped so much. And it’s also obviously ghostly!” But the times she and Marcus just missed each other in the past wouldn’t be the right time to get together for various reasons. “When my brothers were training in karate, I was 15 and Marcus was 22, so that obviously wouldn’t be right. And in Vegas we both had relationships with other people. When we met, we were both in the right place in our lives and had done the work needed to be in the right frame of mind to have a successful relationship. So whether it’s fate or serendipity, I’m very interested in that.”
Where does the invisible string theory come from?
The trend itself is related to Taylor Swift’s song “Invisible String”, which was released in 2020 as part of her album folklore and explores the threads of fate that can bind two kindred spirits. The track’s “hiding in plain sight and then it came out” refrain serves as background music to many of these posts. However, the idea of doomed love predates the song and is enduring in its appeal.
In fact, such ideas date back centuries. In East Asia, the legend of the Red Thread of Destiny (a Chinese folk legend, exact origin unknown) claims that two people destined to be true lovers have an invisible red cord that connects them, so that even if they are separated by time, distance, . or obstacles, they will find their way back to each other. While Aristophanes’ speech in Plato’s speech The symposium (dated c. 385–370 BC) says that humans were originally creatures with two heads, four arms and legs, who were then split in two by order of Zeus, leaving them doomed to roam the earth looking for their other half. More recently, many films, books and television programs such as Past livesNormal peopleOne day, Sliding doors and When Harry met Sally, explore the topics of Missed Connections and Predestined Meetings. There are also links to the laws of physics. String theory, known as the “theory of everything”, which arose from the work of many physicists, suggests that the building blocks of the universe are not particles, but incredibly small strings.
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So, is there any truth to this theory in the realm of love and romance? According to Annabelle Knight, A sex and relationship expert at Lovehoney, such matches usually have a pretty logical explanation, as if you have similar interests and values, you’re more likely to feel like a good match when you meet. You’ll also be more prepared to seek out similar experiences, whether you’re going to your favorite band’s concert or going to the supermarket at 7am, because you’re both early birds. “Many people talking about the invisible string theory mention that they have lived in the same city as their partner all their lives, but only became romantically involved after crossing paths a few times – this is probably due to geography, and not by some overwhelming force of fate,” she says.
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Likewise, investing too much in such theories may not have the best results for your relationship. Some evidence points to the fact that “beliefs of destiny,” which are characterized by thoughts that relationships are either “meant to be” or not, lead to less satisfaction, less compromise, more breakups, and less happy, healthy connections.
According to Knight, ideas like this can also have negative consequences if they are in danger of either damaging a potential relationship or keeping you in a harmful one. “If you meet someone who’s perfect for you, but in the back of your mind you think they’re not technically meant for you, then you might turn your back on someone who is otherwise the perfect partner. Similarly, if you find yourself in a relationship with someone who you believe is for you – but they are showing red flags – then you may be staying longer than is advisable.” Always be aware of your current relationship and whether they’re right for you; your emotional well-being should always come first, she warns.
“If you meet someone who is perfect for you, but in the back of your mind you think that they aren’t technically meant for you, then you might turn your back on someone who is otherwise the perfect partner.”
However, other experts believe that ideas like the invisible string theory can help us feel closer to the important people in our lives. Jade Thomas, psychotherapist and founder of Luxury psychological practice explains a recent study found that married couples who reminisced tended to be more satisfied with their relationship and felt warmer and closer to their partner than those who did not. While Eloise Skinner, an author and psychotherapist specializing in existential therapy, believes that for some, finding patterns, trends, and patterns in their own lives actually allows them to exercise a degree of creative autonomy over their experiences. According to Skinner, seeking theories or broader explanations of fate for events or decisions can allow an individual to create a personal narrative around the things that happen to them, which can be useful for discovering meaning or purpose.
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However, she also offers a caveat: “Perhaps the question you should ask yourself is: How much leeway do I give this theory, explanation, or belief? Do I allow it to become part of my own story, acknowledging the power of my own choices and decisions as I do so? Or do I just let it lead me in a direction I didn’t deliberately choose for myself?” For the former, it may be that fate, kismet, and related ideas can help shape our personal sense of meaning and purpose. For the latter it can make us lose sight of what we really want.