The “Invisible String Theory” Is TikTok’s Favorite Meet-Cute

A dating expert breaks down the pros and cons of the phenomenon.

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Imagine a rom-com-worthy meet-cute: two strangers might hide from the rain in the same doorway or their dogs’ leashes might get tangled up in the park. Just like that, they fall in love. But a viral trend on TikTok called the invisible string theory believes the true meet-cute is when a series of missed connections eventually lead you to The One.

The invisible string theory suggests you can be cosmically tied to your future partner. It’s similar to the red thread of fate, which has roots in Japanese and Chinese folklore. The concept is also referenced in the Taylor Swift song aptly named “invisible string” — rumored to be about ex-boyfriend Joe Alwyn — where she speaks of a new romantic connection that instantly felt familiar. “Were there clues I didn't see? And isn't it just so pretty to think, all along there was some invisible string, tying you to me,” she sings.

Maybe you were in the same class in fifth grade, unknowingly played flip-cup at the same parties in college, or visited a random museum in Italy on the same day in 2014. As the theory goes, when the invisible string is at play, you won’t officially come into each other’s lives — or fall in love — until the moment is exactly right.

According to spiritual mentor Erin Panzarella, couples who are connected via the invisible string will often “just miss each other” multiple times before they eventually begin to date. “On an energetic level, the theory represents the fact that everything is divine timing, and all experiences are bringing you to the people you are meant to meet in this lifetime,” she tells Bustle.

While it may sound like the stuff of movie magic, plenty of people have experienced this theory at work IRL.

Birthdays By Chance

“When [my mom] visited me in the maternity ward on the night of my birth, I was the only baby there,” says Ellie, 30, who was born in Connecticut. “But when she returned in the early morning hours the following day, there was another baby in the bassinet next to me,” she tells Bustle. That baby just so happened to be her future husband Henry.

Their moms later met in a baby group. As kids, Ellie and Henry went to the same summer camp and even took ballroom dancing lessons together. The kids stayed casual friends until they went their separate ways in high school and college.

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After graduation, they both moved to New York City and happened to rent apartments one block apart. “We somehow never bumped into each other on the street,” she says. Two years later, the pair were reintroduced at a mutual friend’s dinner.

When they realized they were both single, it dawned on them that they were meant to be all along. They started dating and got married four years after that.

The couple often thinks about how many little details had to go exactly right for them to meet, like how Henry’s parents had been living in Paris and only moved back to the U.S. a month before he was born, and how Ellie’s siblings had all been born at a hospital in New York City, but her parents decided on the Connecticut location at the last minute.

“When we got our marriage license before our wedding, we compared our birth certificates for the first time,” she says. “They have consecutive ID numbers in the top corner which confirmed we had been born one after the other.”

Many Strings Attached

Stories like Ellie’s seem impossible until you realize how many other people have similar tales. On TikTok, creator @lucia.geoff says she went to college with her now-boyfriend. They were often at the same clubs and parties and even studied in the same library, but they weren’t friends. It wasn’t until years later that they ran into each other on the other side of the world while on vacation in Bali. That’s when they started talking — and ultimately fell in love.

In her comments, one person said, “This needs to be made into a movie,” while another wrote, “I’ve got shivers down my spine reading this.” Someone else said, “The universe was like FINALLY,” while another shared their own invisible string moment. “My husband’s childhood best friend was my neighbor and he spent so much time at his house growing up. We didn’t meet until college.”

The couple often thinks about how many little details had to go exactly right for them to meet.

Then there’s creator @joyyful who spotted her current partner in the background of one of her childhood photos. They were little kids getting off the school bus, but they didn’t know each other then and didn’t officially meet until a decade later. Now she calls herself a “firm believer” in the invisible string theory, which she says keeps your person “hidden in plain sight” until the universe decides it’s time for you to meet.

Bustle’s senior fashion editor Kelsey Stiegman has a story, too. “My aunt and uncle met in the early 2000s through a classified ad he had placed in the newspaper,” she says. “They hit it off and my aunt eventually told her sister she was seeing someone and her sister was like, ‘Oh my God, I used to work with him. I've been wanting to set you two up for years.’” It’s been 27 years since their first date and they’re still together.

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Does The Universe Know Best?

The invisible string theory can be a comforting thought, especially when you’re single and looking. But it’s also easy to get swept up in the romance of it all, and that’s something to keep in mind should you find yourself in a seemingly fated relationship.

According to Najamah Davis, a licensed clinical social worker, it’s important to have a balanced perspective so you don’t solely rely on the invisible string when you start dating. Sure, it might make for a cute story, but she says it’s important to ensure you’re actually a good match by paying attention to your compatibility.

“While feeling a sense of destiny is excellent, having realistic expectations about relationships is crucial to building a healthy and successful partnership,” she says. Even if you have a similar past or have adorably crossed paths, you’ll know you’ve truly found The One if you have shared values, good communication, and a solid sense of security and respect.

It’s also OK to let this type of relationship go should you realize it isn’t working well. As Davis says, “It’s possible that some individuals might stay together based on the belief that they were ‘meant to be’ or due to the romanticized way they met,” but beware of this rose-tinted perspective. “While the belief in the invisible string theory can be charming, it's essential for individuals to actively work on understanding their partner and building a robust and healthy relationship based on real-world dynamics.” That’s what will help your relationship stand the test of time.

When your values align and you genuinely enjoy each other’s company, good things will follow — no strings attached.


Erin Panzarella, spiritual mentor

Najamah Davis, MSW, LCSW, licensed clinical social worker