F is for Fated Mates

The last blog post this week for the A to Z challenge is about the well-known fiction romance trope (especially in paranormal, supernatural, and even some sci-fi) of fated mates.

In the simplest explanation, it started out as exactly what it sounds like. Mates—two individuals of the opposite sex who enter into a relationship of some kind—who were destined, fated, to be together. A leveled-up version of soulmates, if you will.

However, that basic (and very outdated) definition doesn’t cover what the trope has grown to include, though the concept of a destined relationship remains the basis. And this connection binding the individuals together doesn’t necessarily have to be biological—they may have a spiritual connection instead or in addition.

Well, just about anything, so long as the resulting relationship is one that is pre-destined. This gives authors a lot of room to work with it, while still giving their own spins to the storyline. Basically, any two or more individuals (humans, aliens, demons, ghosts, etc.) of whatever sex or gender (male, female, etc.) and in any combination (humans with aliens, demons with ghosts, etc.) who were fated to be together by some known or unknown force are fated mates.

This term can also apply in other romance categories, like contemporary, historical, and so on, though some people prefer to differentiate them. For example, fated mates could be a young prince and princess from different kingdoms who are promised to each other. Or two people who keep running into each other, even in unlikely locations and circumstances, showing some greater power is drawing them together. For me, I feel the latter falls on the line between fated mates and soulmates, so depending on the individual story, it could go either way.

A true romance always ends with a happily ever after (HEA) or a happy for now (HFN). This requirement of the genre SHOULD extend to genres that are being combined with romance (romantic suspense, paranormal romance, etc.), but some authors misunderstand this, so be forewarned that you may not get the ending you expected. If the romantic story ends tragically, it’s a tragedy; if it isn’t an HEA or HFN, it’s considered a love story.

And this is what most readers (and authors) latch on to romances for—the guaranteed happy ending. This is the perfect arena for fated mates, because the reader goes into the book knowing the characters in question will end up together. It’s simply a matter of the obstacles the author puts in the way before they can finally be in a relationship.

Fated mates is a good representation of something being greater than the sum of its parts. In the best stories, the individuals are whole people in their own right, but when they’re with their mate(s), they become even better versions of themselves. The same is true in reverse—they bring out the best in their mate(s).

For many, the idea of a “perfect partner” is appealing. Relationships in the real world are fraught with challenges, and there is no guarantee the relationship will work out in the end. But with most fated mates, destiny or fate or a spiritual god/goddess or some other force has been able to determine that these individuals are perfect for each other, even if they don’t realize it or believe it right away.

Another positive side to the fated mates trope is the high-level tension it leaves room for in the plot. Because of the obstacles put in the mates’ way, the tension of seeing how long it will take and what the final straw will be is highly anticipated. And these obstacles don’t have to be physical (whether an outside force or bedroom desires)—some of them can be purely mental/emotional. This is especially effective when at least one of the affected individuals is trying to fight fate, even when their desire for their mate(s) is obvious.

Simply put, the pros also work as cons, depending on each individual. Some people don’t like the idea of the HEA in romances because it takes the surprise of “will they, won’t they” out of the storytelling. These people likely don’t read straight-up romances, but many genres involve a romance, either paired with it as a 50/50 plot or as a complementary subplot. So the idea of fated mates provides the exact same problem for them—the status of the relationship by the end of the book/series is a given.

Some dislike the trope because they view having a pre-destined relationship as a removal of free will. In many cases, that can be true, but there have been an increasing number of stories subverting the idea, creating a category of their own revolving around “rejected mates.” However, most of the time, the mates still end up together some time after the initial rejection, but having worked that much harder for the relationship can make it even more satisfying for those who enjoy it.

Another issue is that some authors see fated mates as an excuse to gloss over (or skip entirely) building the relationship. If the mates get together at the beginning of the story, and the rest of the book is about facing obstacles together, that’s different. But if the end goal involves the mates finally accepting the situation and happily being together, then something dramatic better happen first.

Even in these stories, the “fate” part usually doesn’t mean the individuals meet and fall madly in love instantly and are happy forever. They are sometimes strangers when they realize they are mates, and they have to learn and grow together, just like any real relationship. The reader just has the added benefit of knowing the characters are perfect for each other on a deeper level, and they just have to figure out the rest—if they choose to.

I won’t delve into this very far because there isn’t enough time in the day to cover all the ways writers come up with in their own created worlds to seal the relationship. Meaning, the individuals involved have chosen to accept and be with their fated mate and demonstrate this through a ritual of some kind. This doesn’t necessarily mean some elaborate celebration or even an exchange of vows.

For example, some vampire bonds are created by the mates drinking each other’s blood. Werewolf stories (and certain shifter books) might have the mates bite each other near the base of the neck as a symbol of their union. Truly, anything goes.

The same goes for how mates find each other in the first place. Sometimes it’s by scent, touch, or just a “pull” they have towards one another that draws them together. There is no right or wrong, and no limit to the imagination, though some things are more common as they make sense and become almost trope-like themselves.

I know I just dumped a lot on you, but perhaps some of this isn’t new information to you. I like the idea of soulmates more, but I see room for both, depending on the story being told. I might write some fated mates, but I do lean towards soulmates because I feel it gives me more creative wiggle room and avoids the issue of free will versus no free will in my fiction.


Do you enjoy stories of those fated to be together, or do you prefer things to be left in the air? Since the stories are fiction, does the free will topic even matter to you? Let me know in the comments!

4 thoughts on “F is for Fated Mates

  1. Having completed a first draft of a Sci-fi novel I am now being much more conscious of my characters and plot forms in doing the revisions and though my book is the story of a widow and his quest to find out who was responsible for his wife’s death – it is kind of an anti-HEA – your post was interesting…

  2. I never thought about the reason so many people are drawn to romance novels is because they are guaranteed a happily ever after. Interesting! I’m more of a murder mystery person (Sue Grafton’s books are my all time favorite), but I guess you could say the HEA is the solving of the crime!

    • I absolutely love mysteries, from cozy to hardcore, from simple sleuth to hardened detective. You’re right about the crime HEA – if the baddie doesn’t get their comeuppance at the end, I am not pleased (most of the time).

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