If you’ve ever experienced one of those “can’t live with you, can’t live without you”-type of relationships, where your connection feels hot and heavy but is also rife with challenges and intensity, chances are you were in a karmic relationship.
“Despite what many believe, a karmic relationship is actually a type of soulmate relationship, but not one that necessarily has a happy ending,” says Charlotte Kirsten, a trauma psychotherapist. “It’s filled with all-engulfing chemistry, passion, turbulence, and many, many obstacles. By definition, they’re easy to enter into yet very difficult to maintain due to their intensity and challenge-ridden nature.”
But the challenges aren’t all bad. Kirsten says these relationships often hold up a giant mirror for the partners involved, surfacing each other’s deepest fears, desires, and even wishes so they can be healed. Taylor Carr, a clinical hypnotherapist, says a karmic relationship is “a relationship that continues to write the narrative from your upbringing. These relationships are meant to tighten the feedback loop of how often you are walking through the same storyline again and again. They bring many lessons. A non-karmic relationship will not be familiar at all, whereas a karmic relationship will feel familiar simply because you’ve been in that same loop your whole life.”
So are you in a karmic relationship? To give you a better idea, Carr and Kirsten provide some key signs to spot and what they’re ultimately trying to teach you.
You have deep chemistry
The butterflies and chemistry in a karmic relationship will be off the charts because they “have a tendency to start extremely quickly out of lust and obsession with one another,” Kirsten says. “Many will wonder how they previously ‘lived’ without this person in their life.”
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There are red flags galore
Despite the immediate attraction you feel for one another, according to Kirsten, things start to feel off very early on in the relationship, perhaps even within a week or two of starting to date. ‘[Karmic relationships] have a very ‘feels too good to be true’ vibe to them,” she says. “Love starts to become all-consuming and borderline obsessive. Love-bombing, gaslighting, co-dependency, all of it can appear within days or weeks of meeting. It’s not unheard of for a karmic partner to say ‘I love you’ the first time they meet.”
An addictive love with lots of highs and lows
Maybe not surprisingly, Kirsten says a karmic connection is often used as an external validation as a means of a quick dopamine hit for both parties. “If that wasn’t a recipe for disaster, there are usually lots of communication issues, heated arguments, and a general sense of frustration,” she says. “If you feel deeply misunderstood every time you try to get your point across or feel as though you are having to explain why you feel a certain way every time you enter into a conversation, you’re likely facing a karmic relationship.”
Another sign, according to Carr, is “consistent on and off times in the relationship that create chaos and addiction that feel like intense love.”
Repetitive behavior and cycles
“I call this the ‘groundhog loop.’ Even though you call each other out on the behavior you don’t like, it still continues to pervade the relationship,” Kirsten says. “The high and low cycles continue no matter how much you try to ‘fix’ it. But it’s not all doom and gloom. This is actually a good hint at what your karmic lesson is with this partner.”
Examples of this, Carr says, is growing up with an addict father and continuing to attract addicts in your life. Or having a narcissistic mother and consistently finding yourself with a narcissist romantically or in your friend group that has major influence over you and your self esteem.
They bring out the worst in you
If you feel as though you’ve become an entirely different person through this relationship, but not in a good way, Kirsten says it’s likely a karmic contract playing out. “Many report a lost sense of self whilst being in a karmic relationship, and when they stare at themselves in the mirror, they see an empty, hollow version of their being looking back,” she says. “You feel exhausted and as though you’ve aged quickly.”
Adds Carr: “It will feel like being with someone who seems to amplify your flaws and insecurities constantly instead of making you feel at ease.”
What are the lessons of a karmic relationship?
Karmic relationships are no doubt both addictive and potentially destructive. So what can people learn from these intense connections?
“Oftentimes the lessons from a karmic relationship are to help free you from patterns you keep repeating so that you can level up,” Carr says, “whether that’s ending the pattern of addiction, not being treated well in a relationship, lack of self love, or any other loop you find yourself repeating. It’s to help you evolve past your current self and closer to self actualization or high consciousness.”
They can also help you realize what you do and don’t want in a relationship. “[Karmic relationships] push our boundaries and test our definition of love,” Kirsten says. “From the karmic couples I’ve witnessed…they have a tendency to become toxic, overly co-dependent, and fizzle out just as quickly as they started. It’s why many who entered into a karmic relationship who were previously seeking that fast-paced, exhilarating love now seek a stable, slow, and steady connection.”