I often get asked if soul ties exist, and, if so, how do you break them?

It’s a common enough query that brings people to the blog that I thought it would be worth exploring some of what we mean by “soul tie” for our November series, and talk about how to frame this in a Christian way. So let’s jump in!

What is a soul tie?

When people use the term “soul tie”, what they usually mean is that, in the spiritual realm, our souls are united to someone else, and that “tie” is binding us to a person we don’t want to be bound to, and is hampering our efforts at moving ahead in life.

Most commonly, they are seen to develop in the sexual realm, though that’s not the only way to see them (and I’ll be exploring some other ideas later in this series series soul ties to kids, parents, and more).

“Soul ties” are largely a Christian concept (in the sense that they’re discussed in the Christian world), and the biblical basis for them is supposed to be 1 Corinthians 6:15-20, which I’m going to quote here in the New Living Translation:

Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ? Should a man take his body, which is part of Christ, and join it to a prostitute? Never!  And don’t you realize that if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her? For the Scriptures say, “The two are united into one.”But the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him.

Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.

1 Corinthians 6:15-20, NLT

Here’s just verse 16 in the NIV:

Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”

1 Corinthians 6:16, NIV

Now, at first glance, this doesn’t seem to have much to do with soul ties. After all, the verse says you’re one with her “in body”, not “in soul”. But I do believe that this is where the concept came from, because I remember as a teenager sitting in a youth rally, and the speaker explaining that when you have sex with someone, God makes you into one flesh. You are joined together. Essentially, you are now “tied”. And that has repercussions.

That’s what a lot of the purity talks that we give youth are based on, too–if you have sex, you join with someone. You form a bond. And when you break up with that person, you break that bond, even though it’s still there in your soul. Then, when you have sex with someone else, the bond won’t be as strong, because part of you is still tied to someone else. (My daughter made a really great video showing why this is a very bad message to give to youth, by the way).

So let’s deconstruct this: Can we “bond” with someone through sex? And is that a soul tie?

Absolutely we can feel a bond through sex. In fact, there’s a hormonal reason for that. When we have sex, we release a hormone called oxytocin, or regularly called “the bonding hormone”. It makes us feel close to the person that we’re with, and produces feelings of affection and belonging. Women also produce that hormone when we breastfeed, when we kiss or hug our kids, etc.

And then there are those who say that God Himself binds us, in an invisible way, through sex. In fact, it’s sex that makes you married in God’s eyes, they say, so essentially the reason you’re not supposed to have sex with a prostitute is because you’re marrying them (and that’s why 1 Corinthians 6 repeats much of the language about marriage):

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. 

Genesis 2:24

If you have sex, then, you’ve got this affectionate, close feeling with someone, AND God has created this “spiritual tie” or “soul tie” between you and the other person, and you’re not supposed to break it.

That’s the reasoning behind the soul tie language. Now let’s look at why they are often seen as a big deal.

If God forms an invisible, spiritual bond between you and the person you have sex with, then how do you break it if you want to move on with your life?

What I’ve read in a lot of literature talking about spiritual oppression is that the reason that people can’t move on with their lives after they break up with a sexual partner is because they are “tied” to this person spiritually. And thus we must use spiritual weapons to break the ties (often through something like an exorcism or a prayer of deliverance) to get over your lost love and move forward. Indeed, the reason that you may not be flourishing in your marriage is because you have ties to past lovers, or your spouse has ties to past lovers, and these must be broken.

I have to admit that I have very mixed feelings about this line of thinking. I think this can belief system can actually keep people from being freed from past relationships, and prolong the heartache from past relationships, rather than setting people free from what may have gone before.

Sex can form an emotional bond, and often we are in love with someone (even without sex), and it’s really difficult when that relationship ends.

So can we just go back to the beginning and think this “soul tie” logic through again?

Yes, sex does form an emotional bond between two people.

It’s that oxytocin hormone reaction, plus it’s just an all new level of intimacy.

Yes, there is a spiritual realm, with spiritual forces at work.

I think this is pretty unmistakable in the Bible:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  

Ephesians 6:12

However, this does not mean that there is a spiritual block on your life due to past sex, that you will never get past unless you go through a deliverance ministry.

Paul spent much of his ministry among Gentiles, and most of his epistles are written to Gentile believers. And in Roman times, premarital and extramarital sex were pretty common as well, just as they are today. They even had temple prostitutes! So if people had all of these huge spiritual ties that would need a ton of work to break, where you would have to pray just the right way and get yourself in just the right frame of mind or your life would be hindered–well, I think Paul would have been more explicit about this. If it were honestly that big a problem, I think he would have talked about it.

Instead, he never said that breaking a soul tie or spiritual bond with past sexual partners should be a big priority for Christians. He said fleeing from sexual immorality NOW was our job. He was focused on our life in Christ now, not what came before.  What he talked about was not being tied to sin and being hindered by all of these past sins and demons, but instead being free in the Spirit and living a life unencumbered.  We didn’t have to turn ourselves inside out to flee our past; that was already done for us:

If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation! The old has past away; the new has come.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Paul’s big message was freedom in Christ. He never said, “Once you come to Christ, you realize how tied you are with the past in your spirit, and you have to do a lot of work to find freedom.” No, he said that we already had freedom! Whom the Son has set free is free indeed. 

What if focusing on soul ties with past lovers stops us from being able to move forward?

If you believe that demons have influence over you because of sex that you had with people in the past, and that you can never have a good marriage now because of that, unless you pray in just the right way and break that tie–well, that sounds like a lot of pressure to put on you to do just the right thing. I think that can keep people stuck. It also sounds a lot more like voodoo than it does like Christianity.

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Can I suggest another way of looking at all of this than just “soul ties”?

How about we just talk about having a broken heart? Sex can form an emotional bond, and often we are in love with someone (even without sex), and it’s really difficult when that relationship ends. It feels like we’re tied to that person, because our hopes and dreams WERE tied to that person. When you saw your future, you imagined it with them. And now that the person is out of your life, or the relationship is over, you feel like you’re floundering, and you can’t get your bearing, and you’re adrift, because that person anchored you. So you are tied to them.

But we don’t have to overspiritualize it. We don’t have to say that you need a big exorcism to set you free, or make someone who isn’t feeling particularly bad about something feel badly because there are these invisible soul ties they knew nothing about.

Can there be a spiritual, demonic element to it? Yes, absolutely, there could. I do believe that Satan targets us where we’re weak, and there may be times when a broken heart gives him a foothold.

But more often than not, I think a broken heart is just a broken heart. We don’t need to call it a soul tie and layer it up with all these pictures of invisible bondage.

Man and woman tied together back to back with rope

That being said, I think we can create soul ties, in the sense that, emotionally, we tie our own happiness and well-being up with someone else’s actions.

I’m not talking about God doing something with demons behind the scenes (although, again, I do think that this is possible); I just know that in my own life, there are times when I have been overly emotionally tied up with my kids, with boyfriends, with other people. I’ve had these dreams for the future that involve other people, and I let those dreams become so important to me that my happiness was dependent upon what those people did. Now, obviously, when you love people, they affect you, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But there’s also an unhealthy version of that where it’s not just about having a good relationship with people; it’s really about making those people live out our dreams. That’s where things can cross the line.

So over this month I’d like to look at how we can get over broken hearts–those “soul ties” that we think are formed with past lovers or with past boyfriends/girlfriends. I’d like to look at how to process the past relationships that our spouse may have had.  And I’d also like to look at how to get over those other kinds of emotional enmeshment with people that we love–even our kids–and live a life where we love well, love appropriately, and love freely, without any kind of emotional bondage.

What do you think? Have you ever heard the “soul tie” language? Did it help you or make you feel guilty? Let’s talk in the comments!

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