We are all familiar with love at first sight, or at least the idea of it. Any Chick Flick, any animated Fantasy movie…they all include this idea that a couple of strangers can see each other and be 100% smitten. It has even left the screen — I have friends who swear they are with the person they are dating/married to because of that very phenomenon.
But is it true? Can two people who have never before even said hello to one another lock eyes and have a vision of their entire future together? Can you know you are going to grow old with someone before even learning their name? According to scientists, the answer could be yes.
What is love at first sight, really?
Most people understand love at first sight as instantaneously falling in love with a stranger upon seeing them for the first time. Scientists tend to have a harder time defining it.
Love at first sight is not easy to explain. Some people even deny that it is possible claiming it is merely sexual attraction. Indeed, how can we fall profoundly in love after one quick glance? How can such a glance make us believe that we want to spend the rest of our life in the arms of a stranger we have just seen for the first time?
While there are plenty of arguments against, and for, love at first sight, research indicates that romantic love is often based upon idealization and positive illusions, and this is also true concerning love that lasts many years.
Part of the science behind this school of thought is based in stereotypes. While one of the main arguments is that we cannot simply look at a person and know their characteristics, that assumption is incorrect. In fact, we as humans do this all the time!
This is known as the “attractiveness halo,” and it refers to our brains associating beauty with goodness. This is also why attractive people are more likely to be the object of love at first sight. Of course, this does mean we are using stereotype, imagination and assumption to allow ourselves to “love,” but it can still be sincere and is almost always intense.
If you followed the TV show Sex in the City, you may remember Carrie asking Big if he believed in love at first sight. He answered with a very honest, “I believe in lust at first sight.” Though it may not have been the answer Carrie wanted, it helps to understand the attractiveness halo.
We wouldn’t typically look at someone we deem to be unattractive and envision us sipping sweet tea in the green grass of our lawn surrounded by a white picket fence. We would much rather catch a glimpse of the attractive stranger we see in line at the coffee shop and picture the kind of ring they might buy to propose.
Who cares if it’s real. It’s sweet! Right?
Not necessarily. There are two kinds of people, the ones who swoon and say things like “Awwwww, that’s so sweet!” when someone mentions the idea of love at first sight, and the ones who say things like, “Oh, please” and want to gag.
But assuming you’re the type of person who does believe in it… maybe even the kind of person who wishes for it, it’s important to know what you might be getting into.
In the section above, we talked about the “attractiveness halo.” While this typically refers to anyone you deem “hot,” it can also be someone who makes you feel all lovey-dovey for different reasons. If you’ve ever experienced, or even thought you experienced, love at first sight, consider for a moment what made the stranger stand out to you.
Did he or she resemble someone you had a romantic relationship with before? Did they cause you to feel nostalgic about an old friend you cared deeply for? If so, that “love” may have been nothing more than a subconscious connection. That’s right, your brain may have decided, without even consulting you, that this person reminded you of someone in your life that you care/cared about and remembered the positive impact that person had on your life.
Why does your brain trick you?
Just because your brain is forming these connections without you realizing, doesn’t mean the brain is the enemy. More than likely, that brain of yours just can’t help it!
Impression Formation is the psychological term for the way the subconscious mind interprets facial features like this. We tend to relate facial features with characteristics. People can fall in love at first sight if the new person they see looks like someone they once loved before or someone who had a positive impact on your life.
Knowing this, it seems more understandable as to why some of us are certain we have experienced love at first sight, even if beforehand, we thought it was impossible.
However, this doesn’t make the potential resulting breakup any easier. In fact, when a relationship created by love at first sight fails, it leaves us feeling like we lost something destiny had intended.
When you think you have found your soulmate, especially in such a fairytale-esque way, losing that happily-ever-after can be tragic. That’s why it’s helpful to know how to spot the real thing.
How to know if it’s love at first sight?
If you still have hope love at first sight will happen for you, even after learning about the subconscious ways your brain may be tricking you into thinking you’ve found your person, the following list may be helpful in identifying true love easily.
- You get butterflies in your stomach, just seeing them.
- The only thing you want is their attention.
- Everything you knew about your ‘type’ is gone. It doesn’t matter if this person matches up with what you were previously attracted to.
- You. Cannot. Stop. Thinking. About. Them.
- Romantic notions trump logic. Who cares about risk and reality!
- The idea of being with them seems like a grand adventure.
- You’re certain this is going to be the best relationship ever.
- You can picture your lives together.
- The attraction is real.
- You want to know everything about them.
To love, or not to love?
To recap, let’s break down the things we’ve learned so it’s easier to go forward looking for that soulmate of yours.
Love at first sight is real, but it’s not all butterflies and perfection.
If you think you are experiencing love at first sight, don’t immediately try to talk yourself out of it. You don’t have to be jaded, you just need to be smart; consider if that person reminds you of an ex, or even a friend. If you don’t think you’re subconsciously misplacing some feelings, then go for it!
Don’t be afraid to break up.
Even if you once thought you had discovered your destiny, don’t be afraid to be true to yourself if you feel the relationship is over. It doesn’t mean you didn’t truly love that person, it just means it wasn’t the happily-ever-after you once thought.
Don’t mistake needing someone for loving someone.
Often times, people may think they’ve experienced love at first sight, simply because they needed companionship or nurturing. There is nothing wrong with this, and the person you have fallen for may be your partner for a long time, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s meant to be.
There are tell-tale signs of love at first sight.
If you think you may be experiencing love at first sight, don’t hesitate to consult the list above. Just be sure it’s after you’ve ruled out that they just seem familiar to you somehow.
Don’t be afraid to be heart broken.
Don’t worry about what the future holds. If you really and truly envision yourself with someone, go for it! If it’s meant to be, it will only get better as the years roll on. If it isn’t meant to be, then live and learn. Life is too short to have regrets, especially when true love could be involved.
Last but not least, follow your gut.
Even if your heart is saying “YES!! This is my prince/princess Charming!” it’s okay to hesitate if the rest of your body is telling you to keep your guard up.
Love is out there, and it’s attainable. But don’t try to make something work just because eye contact made you all tingly inside.
Have you ever been in love after seeing someone for the first time? Make sure to tell us your stories and share this article to see how many of your friends have felt the same way!
Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io
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