Heart beating, thoughts racing, an indescribable breathlessness; this can only be true love. It is an all encompassing; enrapturing sensation – a feeling that everything around you disappears and nothing else matters. This feeling is real. But is there such thing as love at first sight? Can you really feel the intensity and force of love just from glancing at someone across the room? EliteSingles Psychologist Salama Marine suggests ‘when you experience it yourself, you know it’s real.’ Is this the case? Is it natural to be skeptical of the concept until one has a personal experience of it? Many claim to have experienced it themselves so it begs the question; does love at first sight really exist?
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Love at first sight: A romantic reality?
According to a recent EliteSingles survey based on anonymous user data from 2700 Americans, 66% believe in love at first sight. Surprisingly, the poll found 72% of men believe in it! Syracuse University professor Dr. Stephanie Ortigue did some research on this topic, discovering that the intense power of love can be felt after just 0.2 seconds following visual contact with someone. This feeling is created when twelve areas of your brain work together to release euphoria inducing chemicals (such as dopamine, oxytocin, adrenaline) and subsequently produce the feeling of love at first sight. Chemically speaking, it is certainly possible.
Those who have experienced love know that it is like nothing else; an enamoring emotion that preoccupies your brain utterly and completely. Love at first sight then, is when this overwhelming force hits you in the split second of establishing eye contact with someone for the first time. And while it’s easy to be cynical, Aaron Ben-Zeév suggests on PsychologyToday that ‘Love at first sight is not merely sexual attraction. It is an intense form of romantic love that has a good chance of developing into profound intense love.’ This seems to be an apt summary of the situation – the initial power of emotion and passion of feeling deemed ‘love at first sight’ is perhaps not love itself but the initiator of the forthcoming love. Either way, any individual who can induce that type of powerful emotion from you is worth getting to know.
The strongest argument for love at first sight being a reality is the sheer amount of people who have experienced it. Salama Marine suggests; ‘when it does happen to you, you know that it can’t happen again. It’s way too strong and crazy.’ Her description makes it sound very real; something unexpected and uncontrollable, incomparable to any emotions you’re used to.
EliteSingles receives countless stories from success couples describing their instant connection. According to new couple Challen and Stefan; ‘We both knew immediately that this was something really beautiful’ while Willmien and Derek suggest on their meeting; ‘we knew it was love at first sight. We immediately had a soul connection.’ It certainly seems to be the case then that the people who believe in it are the ones who have experienced it themselves. And many seem to.
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Love at first sight: Absurdly amorous?
While it sounds fantastically romantic to fall in love at first sight and then stay happily together for the rest of your lives, in reality this fairytale ending is rare. Perhaps a distinction must first be made between love and lust. The idea of having this intense feeling for someone just by looking at them, before any kind of spoken interaction has taken place, would suggest perhaps more of a physical attraction or lust towards someone, as opposed to love.
As Ben-Zeév suggests; ‘‘the agent does not have sufficient knowledge about the person’s characteristics in order to fall in love, the response is merely imaginary wishful thinking and not a real emotion.’ Arguably, perhaps people feel they can fall in love with someone at first sight because they can create a perfect image of their personality in their minds – the person can be however they wish them to be – flawless before meeting.
This then raises the point of aesthetics. Is love at first sight merely an immediate physical attraction towards someone? ‘Is there really such a thing as love at first sight? Many would claim that there is, and that they have had firsthand experience of it. But is this merely to confuse sexual attraction with love?’ Elliot D Cohen Ph.D. writes in his article for PsychologyToday.
So can we therefore suggest that those who have claimed to have experienced love at first sight, have actually just felt a great sexual attraction towards someone? ‘Accordingly, attractive people are more likely to be the object of love at first sight.’ (Aaron Ben-Zeév) If we go along with this theory then logically speaking this would be the case. Which adds further confusion to this concept of ‘love’ at first sight. That it then becomes a real shallowness, a lust after someone sexually attractive. Not love at all, merely desire.
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Of course often, one person claims to experience love at first sight, but unfortunately it’s not reciprocated. This would suggest that love at first sight doesn’t exist. How can it if two people are feeling totally opposing emotions on meeting? How can one person feel love while the other merely looks past them, perhaps on to someone else? Whatever we choose to make of it; one thing is clear – you cannot help the way you feel.
Salama Marine suggests that people experience love at first sight they’re going through other big changes in life. For example if they’re moving city or country; as this is the time when people are least looking for a relationship and their thoughts aren’t even directed in that way. ‘When you’re not looking for a partner at all and you’re 100% focused on your life; when you least expect it, it will happen to you.’
As a result though, Salama suggests that unfortunately that the other person may not reciprocate this feeling if they are in a different stage of their life. The overpowering emotion probably doesn’t happen for them because they are open to meeting someone. Which again begs the question; can love at first sight exist if it’s not mutual?
Love at first sight: Why men fall in love quicker than women
Somewhat surprisingly more men than women seem to believe in love at first sight. 72% of American men believe in it; a pattern we found across all English speaking countries surveyed including Canada, Australia and Great Britain. In fact when we combined the results of all seven countries, we found that overall 67% of men believe in love at first sight compared to 58% of women.
So why is there this huge difference between the genders? Are men actually more romantic than society suggests? Or are they shallower and consider aesthetics an essential part of love? Or perhaps it’s more straight forward; women are more calculated and pragmatic; possibly more sensible when it comes to love. Men arguably, think less and let themselves be immersed in the moment and the person more easily. Perhaps men are the true romantics of this world? Other studies have shown that men report feelings of love earlier on in a relationship too, so it clearly is a biological difference between the genders; men are more open to the idea of love at first sight.
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Is there an age limit on love at first sight?
Salama Marine also considered the idea of love at first sight in relation to older singles. She suggests; ‘We tend to think that past a certain age, love at first sight doesn’t exist. Or worse still, that falling in love at all past 70, is impossible. But this intense feeling of love is not exclusively reserved for the youthful body and mind but can also mesmerize the elderly. Perhaps with age you become less skeptical about love and relationships and if you’re open to it you could experience the all encompassing emotion of love at first sight.
So how do we conclude? We all like the idea of love at first sight in theory; it’s beautifully romantic and epitomizes the intensity and magnitude of love that we all wish to experience. But it is difficult not to be cynical. One of the nicest things to come out of the survey was that 95% of Americans believe you can fall in love at any age and haven’t stopped believing in it despite experiencing heartbreak and divorce. It would seem then, that there’s no reason to suppose that love at first doesn’t exist but perhaps one needs to be open to it to experience it themselves.
*Based on data sourced anonymously
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1 EliteSingles ”Love at any age” study. Sample size: 2700 singles aged 18-70.
2 Ortigue S, with Bianchi-Demicheli F, Patel N, Frum C, Lewis JW., research paper from the International Society for Sexual Medicine, 2010. Abstract found at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20807326
3 Aaron Ben-Zeév, writing for Psychology Today, 2013. Is Love at First Sight Possible? Found at https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-the-name-love/201311/is-love-first-sight-possible
4 Elliot D. Cohen Ph.D.writing for Psychology Today, 2013. Is There Love At First Sight? Found at https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/what-would-aristotle-do/201307/is-there-love-first-sight
5 Aaron Ben-Zeév, writing for Psychology Today, 2013. Is Love at First Sight Possible? Found at https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-the-name-love/201311/is-love-first-sight-possible
7 Brendan Tapley, writing for Women’s Day, 2010. 10 Things Men Wish Women Knew About Them. Found at http://www.womansday.com/relationships/dating-marriage/advice/a1334/10-things-men-wish-women-knew-about-them-103922/
8 EliteSingles Valentine’s Day survey 2016. Sample size 700 Canadians aged 18-75