Selkies are said to live as seals in the sea but shed their skin to become human on land.
Male Selkies are described as being very handsome in their human form, and having great seductive powers over human women. They typically seek those who are dissatisfied with their life, such as married women waiting for their fishermen husbands. If a woman wishes to make contact with a Selkie male, she must shed seven tears into the sea.
If a man steals a female Selkie's skin she is in his power and is forced to become his wife. Female Selkies are said to make excellent wives, but because their true home is the sea, they will often be seen gazing longingly at the ocean. If she finds her skin she will immediately return to her true home, and sometimes to her Selkie husband, in the sea.
If a Selkie maiden is taken as a wife by a human man and she has children by him, given the opportunity, she will leave him and her children and return to the sea. The Selkie woman usually avoids seeing her human husband again but is sometimes shown visiting her children and playing with them in the waves.
Sometimes the human will not know that their lover is a Selkie, and wakes to find them gone.
A Selkie can only make contact with one human for a short amount of time before the Selkie must return to the sea, and then the Selkie is unable to make contact with that human again for seven years, unless the human steals their Selkie skin and hides it or burns it.