The Truth About Love at First Sight

woman smiling at man on the street

When you’re looking for a quote on the subject of love, there’s no one more prolific than William Shakespeare. So of course, when it comes to the topic of love at first sight, one could certainly expect him to weigh in with an opinion. Sure enough, in Act III, Scene IV of As You Like It, the Bard describes the momentous meeting of his star-crossed lovers Orlando and Rosalind: “Whoever loved that loved not at first sight?” (Sure, he actually lifted that line from the pen of his contemporary, poet Christopher Marlowe, but it’s all in how history remembers…sorry, Kit.)

So it seems, that if it were put to a vote, Shakespeare would be in the “Yes, love at first sight does exist” contingent. Or would he?

When you consider he also wrote, “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind,” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act I, Scene I), perhaps love at first sight was no more to Shakespeare than a convenient comedic plot device?

But even back in the day when Shakespeare played resident muse to the Globe Theatre, literary references to love at first sight were nothing new. In his classic philosophical treatise on love, “The Symposium,” which dates from somewhere around 385 to 370 B.C., Plato relates the thoughts of his great mentor and tutor, Socrates, on the subject as follows: “According to mythology, humans were originally created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves [. . .] And so, when a person meets the half that is his very own, whatever his orientation, whether it’s to young men or not, then something wonderful happens: the two are struck from their senses by love, by a sense of belonging to one another, and by desire, and they don’t want to be separated from one another, not even for a moment.”

So it seems that not only did Socrates believe in love at first sight, but he also believed in the concept of finding a perfect soulmate—which is all well and good, but is there any modern evidence to back up his ancient conjecture?

The answer isn’t so simple.

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Crazy Little Thing Called…

Love. Lust. Attraction. Affection. Love may indeed be a splendid thing, but it isn’t always easy to define. When you get down to it, the measure of true heart’s desire can be summed up by that oft-infuriating phrase: “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.” Being attracted to someone does not necessarily equate to being in love with them, nor does love predicate attraction. So, for the sake of argument, let’s talk about the power of attraction and the impact it has on potential romantic partners.

Human beings are sentient creatures: the choices we make are based on information we intuit via the sensory input of sight, smell, sound, touch and even taste.

Some scientists posit that deep in our “lizard brain,” the sense of smell is the most primal element of attraction, and when set off by undetectable yet potent hormones called pheromones, we can be instantly magnetized to individuals—even those who fail to meet socially accepted standards of beauty—by the innate power aroused by someone who “just smells right.” But that’s only one element in the love at first sight–or in this case, love at first scent–equation.

We are acculturated by environment, temperament, and experience to find some aesthetic combinations more pleasing than others. So, when we cross paths with someone who hits all, or at least most of the marks on our personal checklist of things we find attractive, we are immediately drawn to that individual.

If the attraction is mutual? Bingo! Love at first sight.

But is it really love?


Great Expectations

If the first blush of passion is really strong between two people, the next step in the cycle is often “projection.” Since it’s impossible to know how someone you’ve only just met truly thinks, feels, or behaves, in order to maintain the forward momentum of romance, those newly in love often project the desired qualities of a perfect partner on the person they’ve paired up with, and hope that as time goes by, the reality will align with their expectations.

In cases where projected reality matches up with the actual person, and when that happens for both parties involved, love at first sight can actually evolve into love for the long haul. However, when the projection and the reality don’t mesh, for one or both lovers, then love at first sight fizzles like a firecracker in the rain, leaving behind only a sad scent of regret, and a sense of “what might have been.”

So, what’s the truth about love at first sight?

It’s elusive, but for some lucky souls, it’s also out there.

Think you’ve found “the one,” but you’d really like to be sure? A KEEN advisor can help decipher the course of your true love to see if it runs smooth.

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