If you’ve been holding out for that magical moment when you lock eyes with your soulmate across a crowded room (in slow motion while violins play in the background, of course)—stop, because it’s never going to happen. At least that’s what Dr Ann Rosen Spector, a clinical psychologist in Philadelphia says.
“Real love takes work and time, and it’s flawed because people are flawed,” says Spector. Relationships are about working through differences, getting through hardships, and striking a balance with your partner over and over again. So, the idea that anyone can reach the pinnacle of a partnership at the very beginning—the instant your eyes meet without working for it—is “total B.S.”
Sorry to be the one to break it to you, but the idea of love at first sight is simply a part of the love myth perpetuated by society and Titanic’s Jack Dawson. “We grow up in a society where we’re supposed to pair off,” says Spector. And so, as a way of upholding what we’re taught should happen, we convince ourselves (some of us multiple times) that we’ve found ‘The One.’ And, when you take a sec to think about it, telling yourself you’ve found ‘The One’ repeatedly isn’t just ironic, but pretty much proves the opposite is true.
Now, don’t get Spector wrong, she’s a believer in love. She’s just absolutely positive it doesn’t happen in one second. Instead, she says what you’re calling ‘love at first sight’ is more often than not one of these:
1. A strong attraction
Not a bad thing, but not enduring love, either. Attraction is just that—nothing more, says Spector. Sometimes you see someone and they’re totally IT, but that assessment is based on nothing more than physicality.
And even when you start talking, getting butterflies or feeling a spark is totally possible—natural even. But a similar taste in music is—at this point—nothing more than desire, according to Dr Arthur Aron, an associate professor of psychology at State University of New York, Stony Brook.
Circumstances, he says, also play a major role in how you might react to strong attraction. If you’re experiencing family issues, or not on speaking terms with a good friend, this shift in how much nurturing and affection you’re getting can prompt you to feed more into a brand-new romantic connection than if you weren’t dealing with stressors at all.
But, hey, even if it isn’t love at first sight, strong attraction can be a great foundation for love to flourish.
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2. Compensation for loneliness
No one wants to hear this, but you’re probably feeling lonely, Spector says. It’s totally understandable to feel left out if “everyone you know is getting engaged, or all your friends have significant others.” Maybe you feel pressured to find someone—and fast. Or maybe, you’ve been single for a while and, in a push to get back out there, you lay the feelings on a little (okay, a lot) thicker than usual by equating meeting a nice person to being swept off your feet.
It feels really good to have someone who can meet your needs and quickly, but that feeling definitely isn’t love.
3. Fear of ageing
If “you’re getting older, you want to have kids, and you want to settle down,” you might be inclined toward a speedy attachment, Spector says. There’s no harm in having a plan or hoping things happen by a certain stage in life. But when they don’t, you might find yourself diving into a relationship you’ve decided is “destined” when you’re really just trying to beat the clock.
4. Frustration with dating
“Dating gets very exhausting,” says Spector. (Tell me something I don’t know, right?) “There’s also a great need—a human need—for familiarity and consistency,” she adds. “When you have one person, you don’t have to keep telling your story. You can just come home from work and go: ‘Oh, I can’t believe Mark did that again.'” That might explain why when you (finally) meet someone who catches your eye, you want to lock them down immediately.
5. A reciprocation of feelings
“The most common falling-in-love scenario [happens when] you meet someone who’s reasonably attractive, and somehow you find out that they have some interest in you,” says Aron. “Often, at that moment, people feel that they fell in love.” And while these feelings can be completely valid, they are partially motivated by the fact that the person is already feeling you. That alone will subconsciously make the other person more desirable to you. And so, when you reflect on the moment your eyes locked, you’re more inclined to believe it was love at first sight.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com