top of page

What is a Karmic Relationship?

by Kimberly Perez



A karmic relationship is a relationship meant to facilitate the lessons we need to learn in this lifetime surrounding love and partnership. Karmic relationships are related to karma in a sense because they are thought of as relationships that we need in our lives to grow. The thinking goes that “…karmic relationships evolve out of unresolved issues in a past life,” says Shannon Kaiser, author of The Self-Love Experiment. These relationships teach you lessons and point you in the right direction but are often unstable and feature unbalanced power dynamics. If you’ve ever experienced a bond that feels like a magnetic connection, but with a turbulent twist, you’re not alone. Karmic relationships are filled with passion and pain, often at the same time. While the phrase “karmic relationship” isn’t a clinical term, the characteristics do resemble other well-known relationships. “A karmic relationship is filled with all-consuming passion but is extremely difficult to maintain,” explains Sanam Hafeez, PsyD, a neuropsychologist and faculty member at Columbia University. These relationships aren’t meant to last, but they’re learning experiences for those who have them. While “karmic relationships” can have a negative connotation, Hafeez says it can also be viewed from the perspective of personal growth. “They’re opportunities to learn something about yourself that you never knew before, as well as the most significant life lessons in love,” she says. In simple terms, karmic relationships are love lessons.

SIGNS OF A KARMIC RELATIONSHIP Think you may be in a karmic relationship? This experience can differ from person to person. Luckily, here are 14 common signs that you may want to watch out for. 1. Instant Connection The most obvious sign is you feel like you've known the person before. “One effect of a karmic relationship is that you feel a magnetic pull towards that person—a deep, deep connection right from the onset,” says Kaiser. This is because the two of you may have met in a past life and are being drawn together through karma and energy. Whether it’s love at first sight, some immediate chemistry, or a more low-key feeling at the beginning of the relationship, you will likely feel very drawn to your partner from a very early point in the relationship. And whether or not you believe in love—at first sight is one thing—but if you were instantly attracted to someone for reasons you can't put into words, chances are there is a karmic connection at play. 2. Drama These relationships are tumultuous. "If drama is the foundation for your love affair, chances are you're in a karmic relationship," says Kaiser. In addition to an early connection, karmic relationships are characterized by a great deal of drama and emotions. The instant connection that brought you and your partner together will bring a lot of other emotions to the relationship that can create a lot of drama. This drama is often what causes the breakup/make-up cycle that is typical of karmic relationships. While it’s almost impossible to avoid all drama in a relationship, most healthy relationships have a minimal amount of drama. If you and your partner are constantly having drama, this is an undeniable sign of a karmic relationship. Few relationships are entirely smooth sailing. But with karmic relationships, you can expect continuous turmoil. You may never know where you stand with a karmic relationship and find yourself constantly questioning your partner’s motives. 3. Red Flags Did you notice a lot of red flags, even in the early stages of the relationship? Sometimes those triggers are part of the very lesson the relationship is meant to teach you. From controlling behavior to angry outbursts, karmic relationships tend to be filled with red flags. The truth of the matter is that these passionate relationships bring out the worst in people. You may find it hard to control your actions or start doing things that are entirely out of character. Of course, when a relationship is fractious and difficult, it’s not a healthy situation for either one of you.

4. Frustration As we have mentioned before, karmic relationships are not healthy relationships. In a healthy relationship, partners lift each other and make each other better. In karmic relationships, the worst often comes out in people. "If you feel frustrated and misunderstood, you are most likely in a karmic relationship," Kaiser adds. This is because karmic relationships aren't about a perfect union; they're about growth. The extreme nature of the karmic relationship roller coaster can bring the worst out of the most level-headed of people, fearful of losing what they have or fearful of a high in the relationship turning into a low. You may turn into someone you don't recognize, or even like, around this person. This can cause feelings of jealousy and possessiveness in addition to other toxic feelings and qualities. 5. One-Sided Relationship Karmic relationships are often toxic and one-sided. Hafeez says this can lead to one person being self-serving and the other doing everything in their power to keep them happy.

6. Addicting From the moment that you meet this new person, you will have the urge to see them constantly. Karmic relationships quickly become all-consuming, even despite the aforementioned issues like inexplicable tension or frustration. Because of the instant connection, the relationship can feel addicting. You and your partner were drawn to each other for a reason, and this reason keeps you in the relationship, even if you recognize that it is unhealthy. As with any addiction, you will find it hard to quit seeing this person. You could quickly forget who you were without them and find it hard to envision a future without them. You may make excuses for your partner despite all of these things because your connection is so strong and you may feel like you're meant to be. 7. Miscommunication Communication is the foundation of any solid relationship and miscommunication is likely to be a common theme throughout your time together in a karmic relationship. "Usually there is a lot of push and pull and miscommunication," Kaiser notes. You may argue with your partner about small and seemingly trivial matters. To add insult to injury, you may not know where you stand with this person and find it difficult to read signals from them. These miscommunications can help show us what we value and expect in a relationship or where healing needs to take place. 8. Highs and Lows The drama of karmic relationships can create a lot of highs and lows, and its inconsistency will keep you on the edge. You and your partner might be a great fit for one another on the surface, which can lead to high highs and lots of fun and passion. But because you are not truly compatible with one another, these highs will peak and become very low points, which is often characterized by drama, fighting, and breaking things off. These highs and lows are the part of the relationship that can teach you a lot about yourself and your needs in a relationship moving forward. Remember that karmic relationships are often about learning, so even if these highs and lows are exhausting, they are teaching you a lot about your tolerance, wants, and needs in a relationship. No relationship is indeed easy, and they all take work. However, karmic relationships will regularly thrust you into a cycle of blissful highs and devastating lows that normal relationships just don't experience. 9. Never Feel Settled Because karmic relationships are such a whirlwind of highs and lows, people never feel completely settled down. In a healthy relationship, as you get to know your partner better and better you become more comfortable around one another and slowly start to let your guard down. This doesn’t happen in karmic relationships, which can cause partners to feel on edge and as if they are always on the defense, waiting for something to go wrong in the relationship. 10. Repetitive Behavior Karmic relationships are also characterized by repetitive behavior. Those highs and lows tend to repeat themselves, over and over. Similarly, you may run into the same issues that carried over from a past relationship, indicating the lesson that needs learning. Being in a relationship is hard, even when you are super compatible with your partner, so the incompatibility associated with karmic relationships leads to many fights (often over the same thing over and over again), which ultimately become the make-up break-up cycles. 11. Codependency Karmic relationships tend to become codependent relationships quickly. You may feel there's no other option but to give them all of your time and energy. Codependency looks like spending every minute of the day together, looking to your partner to help make decisions, and forgoing your instincts (or wants/needs) to appease your partner. Codependency is unhealthy and can lead to other unhealthy habits in a relationship. Communication, honesty, and respect take time to build - and we can sometimes get lost along the way!

12. Fear This person will bring all your fears to the surface: about love, your future, and your relationship together in general. Any past traumas will be brought to light—there's no running from it. The feeling of never feeling settled in the relationship can also lead partners to constantly feel fearful of how the relationship will end. Karmic relationships are volatile and unpredictable which means that what starts as a little disagreement can get blown into a relationship-ending dispute. If you feel as if you are always “waiting for the shoe to drop” in your relationship, then this is a sign that you are in a karmic relationship. Sometimes it’s easier to deal with an unhealthy relationship than face what may happen once it’s over. Hafeez says someone in a karmic relationship is often fearful of what will happen or who they’ll turn into once it ends. 13. Exhaustion All the ups and downs, miscommunications, and codependence become exhausting, especially when they're around. We often discount how difficult it is to be in a constant state of drama, disagreements, and fear that the relationships are going to end. The uneasiness and volatility associated with karmic relationships can take a toll on people’s emotional, mental and physical health as they try to deal with the stress of the relationship. If your relationship is causing you to feel completely worn out, this is a sign that you are in a karmic relationship. Sure, at times, this dance will keep you going back for more- it’s exciting, new, and dangerous. Despite this, the longer you stay with this person, the more drained you are likely to feel. 14. They Don't Last Eventually, when the time is right and the work and healing have been done, you will both move on. One of the most undeniable signs of a karmic relationship is when it inevitably comes to an end. Karmic relationships are not the real deal and will not stand the test of time. The volatility, the drama, and the general surface level compatibility will eventually end the relationship, even if partners have tried their hardest to keep it alive. After a couple of breakups and make-ups, the relationship will naturally come to a total end. Karmic relationships are supposed to end because they are supposed to serve as a teaching relationship in your life. PURPOSE OF A KARMIC RELATIONSHIP The ideology behind a karmic matchup is twofold: to break the cycles of bad behavior from past lifetimes and to learn how to heal. Carrie Mead, LCPC, a licensed psychotherapist and certified life coach, says, “The purpose of a karmic relationship is to advance the soul forward in this lifetime. I believe the most important thing to know about karmic relationships is that you (your soul) have chosen to learn this lesson for its advancement toward knowing, enlightenment, and understanding,” she explains. Although the lesson you learn in your karmic relationship may be difficult, and it may cause you great pain in the short term, Mead says it develops your soul and moves you toward greater peace. “But you must also remember that your soul provides karmic experiences for others that you may be unaware of, and sometimes you receive the lesson, and sometimes you give the soul lesson,” she says. Karmic relationships are a source of growth for those in them. You will likely find that your karmic partner is extremely similar to you in their ways. This allows you to analyze yourself without actually analyzing yourself. You gain a sense of awareness that allows you to change the worst parts about yourself for the better. In short, karmic relationships are lessons that allow for healing and maturation. WHEN KARMIC RELATIONSHIPS TURN TOXIC Even two well-meaning people in love can wind up having a toxic relationship, especially with a karmic connection. According to Kaiser, it becomes toxic "when you don't trust yourself or learn the lessons presented to you," and that "if your soul is suffocating, it's time to take stock and permit yourself to leave. Unless people know how to learn from unresolved issues in the past, they can create huge problems in the relationship." If you've ever found yourself in a relationship with a narcissist, you may understand this all too well. "If you are ignoring red flags or negotiating with your feelings of angst, this could be an opportunity to practice self-love and believe in yourself," Kaiser says. "The best thing to do if you think you are in a karmic relationship and it has turned toxic is realizing you deserve to be happy and focus on your relationship with self." As such, self-love is very important. HOW TO END A KARMIC RELATIONSHIP If these signs sound all too familiar, and you think that you might be in a karmic relationship, you need to make a plan to leave the relationship. Though karmic relationships are not necessarily abusive, a lot of the things that characterize karmic relationships (codependency, frequent fighting, feeling uneasy in the relationship) can become abusive if they are left unchecked. Karmic relationships are meant to teach you about your relationship with relationships and other people. They are not supposed to last forever unless they can evolve into a more healthy and balanced relationship. Relationships should be fulfilling and bring joy to your life, anything aside from that is just not worth your time. That level of volatility in a karmic relationship is simply unsustainable. Of course, if you are finding it difficult to find a way out, it may be worth speaking to a relationship counselor or getting external help from the people around you. Like any other type of interaction, if you feel as though the dynamic is not quite right and your physical or emotional wellbeing or safety is being compromised, it's best to leave that relationship. If you need help doing so, confide in someone about the situation and ask for help setting boundaries. You can also distance yourself until there is nothing left to the relationship, even if it seems like an impossible feat. “A karmic relationship can be emotionally draining and heartbreaking, however, one positive you can take from it can be that you'll establish some boundaries,” says dating coach Hayley Quinn. The ending should be seen as a positive, even if it doesn't feel like one. “Exiting a karmic relationship you will know that you will never be able to tolerate that level of emotional uncertainty again.”

Follow us on Instagram and Subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates on new blogs and giveaways


bottom of page