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What Is the Invisible String Theory?

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What Is the Invisible String Theory?

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When Leah Menzies, a 20-year-old college student in Australia, nervously entered her boyfriend’s family home, she anticipated the typical rituals of meeting parents for the first time. And it sure started that way, especially when his mother dug up some old photos like many moms typically do. But what unfolded completely transcended the ordinary, Menzies tells POPSUGAR.

Flipping through the first couple of pages, they stumbled upon a picture of his kindergarten class. It was a photo full of unfamiliar faces — well, all except one. Standing beside her now boyfriend was his then-teacher, who also happened to be Menzies’s late mother. When Menzies was only 7, her mother passed away. She never imagined her mom would be able to meet her future boyfriend. Now, she can proudly say her mother did. This is what many would call their invisible string.

The concept of the invisible string implies that, while people may enter and leave our lives, those who are meant to stay will always be connected to us, whether or not we are aware of it. You’ve probably stumbled upon the idea of this mystical thread before, whether through Taylor Swift’s “Folklore” (where she sings about the phenomenon under a song of the same name) or while watching the Oscar-nominated film “Past Lives.” You may have seen heartwarming stories of lost loves reuniting or serendipitous encounters on TikTok under the hashtag, which has over 32 million views.

These stories resonate because, well, ideas of fate, destiny, and synchronicities have always captivated culture — but how can you tell if this invisible string theory is working its magic in your own life? Could its popularity prove that you’re already connected to the people and things meant for you? Experts (and romantics with stories of their own invisible strings) agree: absolutely, if you believe.

What Is the Invisible String Theory?

Invisible string theory is normally used to describe the idea that your “person” (your partner, soulmate, best friend, etc.) is always present in your life’s path, even when you haven’t met them yet. It isn’t strictly for romantic partners, but can apply to anyone you share a deep connection with.

“Examples of this would be experiences of crossing paths with that person long before you connected on a more personal level or being in the same space or places as someone years before you properly met them,” registered psychotherapist Eloise Skinner tells POPSUGAR.

Call it fate, divine timing, or a coincidence, if you’re a skeptic. But aside from being a great anecdote to share with people when you chat about your relationship, Skinner says, it can also strengthen shared values, perspectives, ideas, and experiences. “We often feel closest to people that we feel really ‘know,’ ‘see,’ or understand us, and discovering some elements of invisible string theory can certainly help make you feel more connected to your partner,” Skinner adds.

According to Skinner, the enduring popularity of the concept of invisible strings is not a recent phenomenon, even if it’s recently popped off on platforms like TikTok and Instagram. It draws from a range of influences, spanning philosophy, physics, and East Asian folklore. This idea of the “invisible string” nods to the ancient belief in the red thread of fate, which connects two souls destined to be together.

Charlotte Brontë beautifully captures this notion in the novel “Jane Eyre,” describing it as a string tightly knotted under the left ribs, bound to another similar string. If you want it in Swift’s terms, it’s a “clue” you “didn’t see” — a subtle but undeniable force. And for many long-term couples, it’s a bond that has kept them tied together for years. No matter how you put it, though, all of these influences agree: certain souls are destined to intertwine, drawn together by a cosmic force that guides them toward one another.

If you prefer a more tangible explanation, think of the invisible string theory as a metaphorical concept that is open for you to interpret and decide whether it resonates with you. “Possibly in the more straightforward sense that the people you have deep and meaningful connections with are often people you share values, priorities, and preferences with,” Skinner says. “It might not be totally unusual or out of the question that you were visiting similar places or having similar experiences in years before you met each other.”

Still, these strings show up in people’s lives in all kinds of ways, less coincidentally and appearing more inexplicably, proving why the theory has transcended so many generations. Read on to hear some real-life stories directly from POPSUGAR readers that will pull on your heartstrings — pun totally intended.

Real-Life Examples of the Invisible String Theory

“My mom passed away when I was 13. Turns out, my fiancé’s mother had unknowingly been friends with her in high school. My fiancé’s mom didn’t make the connection that she knew my mom until one day I was randomly showing her pictures of me on my mom’s Facebook. When she saw a picture of her, it was like everything clicked. She said, ‘Oh my gosh, I knew her! We were friends!'” — Allie, 23, Tuscaloosa, AL

“My son’s girlfriend had always been like a daughter to me. Over the years, I’ve loved her like she’s one of my own. Years later, I’d come to find out that I helped deliver her on the day she was born through old home video footage of her birth.” — Andrea, 46, Evans, GA

“My husband and I found out through old photos that my parents and husband’s parents lived on the same street at the same time before we were even conceived. We didn’t meet until after college.” — Dani, 30, Seattle

“I broke my husband’s finger on the playground when we were children. No joke. We both were 6, maybe 7, playing kickball — but the weirdest part is we both left Michigan, where it happened, and re-met in LA during college. We were talking about broken bones on one of our first dates, and I was like, ‘Wait, this sounds really familiar.'” — Alyssa, 29, Manhattan Beach, CA

“Two years before my boyfriend and I met in Baltimore, I worked as a server at a restaurant in Chicago. He happened to eat there once and still had a photo of the receipt from that visit because he tends to hoard photos, and he was the one who snapped a picture of the total for his friend group. When I mentioned that I had worked there, we scrolled through his camera roll together, and sure enough, there was the receipt with my name.” — Diamond, 29, Baltimore

“I thrifted some old plates from an estate sale. I found out a couple of years later that they were my girlfriend’s grandmother’s.” — Molly, 22 Pittsburgh

“I have a photo of my boyfriend and me together at 12 or 13. We didn’t officially meet until we were 25, but it wasn’t some background-of-a-photo-at-Disney-World; it was because my friends dared me to take a photo with a cute guy we saw at the movies. And guess what? That cute guy turned out to be my current boyfriend! Four years later, I found that little piece of history buried in my iPhone.” — Kara, 24, Ames, IA

“My boyfriend and I had a Facebook message about an end table on Facebook Marketplace. I told him my selling price, and he left me on read! We met years later and are now engaged, but isn’t that funny? Our first exchange was something like, ‘Hi. Is this still available?'” — Zoe, 31, Burlington, VT

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