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Kelly Gonsalves is a sex educator, relationship coach, and journalist. She received her journalism degree from Northwestern University, and her writings on sex, relationships, identity, and wellness have appeared at The Cut, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere. It's common to hear stories of people who claim to have experienced "love at first sight. And do those feelings really lead to a happy, healthy relationship? But many marriage therapists and other relationship experts are less convinced that people can really fall in love at first sight.
Henry, Ph. How long it takes to fall in love can vary depending on the individual and what their personal definition of love is. But as psychologist and sex therapist Lauren Fogel Mersy, PsyD, explains, romantic love requires actually knowing someone and their full self—something that's impossible to do just by looking at a person. Not if you define love as deep caring, understanding, support, and affection," Henry says.
That said, sometimes the initial chemistry between two people who've just met can feel so strong that it leaves a lasting impression, according to d marriage therapist Weena Cullins, LCMFT. It's possible to sense that those feelings will remain regardless of what unfolds beyond their first encounter. Research has shown people do tend to decide whether they are romantically interested in a person within seconds of meeting them, and that near-instantaneous decision depends on a mix of physical and psychological cues they pick up about the person at a first glance.
As for actually falling in love, a set of researchers set out in to study love at first sight as soon as it happened. They staged meetings with potential romantic partners for some men and women and then asked about the feelings they experienced during the encounter. A small of people did report falling in love at first sight, but those feelings didn't include high passion, intimacy, or commitment—all the classic hallmarks of romantic love psychologists look for, according to Sternberg's triangular theory of love.
The main factor that predicted falling in love at first sight with a stranger? Physical attraction. In fact, rating a person one point higher in attractiveness was associated with a nine times higher likelihood of reporting love at first sight. That suggests a great majority of people who claim to have fallen in love at first sight are actually experiencing lust at first sight. The intense, all-consuming feelings of passion, exhilaration, and longing associated with falling in love are the product of a series of neurochemical reactions in which the brain's reward system, fueled by the neurotransmitter dopamine, motivates the person to seek closeness and intimacy with the object of their affection—similar to the way the brain behaves when a person is experiencing drug addiction.
Research by behavioral anthropologist Helen Fisher, Ph. That said, other research has found differences in the brains of people who've recently fallen in love compared with those who've been in love for decades.
While the brain's reward systems lit up for both groups of people when thinking of their beloved, the newly-in-love couples had some additional parts of the brain activated: the ones associated with fear and anxiety. Love at first sight isn't necessarily dangerous or unhealthy, and there are plenty of happy couples in healthy relationships who claim to have fallen in love at first sight. That said, because the feelings associated with love at first sight are usually more based on physical attraction and infatuation—as opposed to the enduring, committed care and intimacy that are hallmarks of lasting love—it's possible to get invested too quickly in a relationship that may not actually be healthy or with a partner who might not actually be compatible with them.
Early feelings of love don't necessarily mean two people are a good fit for each other, Cullins emphasizes. Whether or not you want to call it love, Henry says it's OK to lean into those initial feelings of passion, desire, and connection in the early stages of a relationship.
Of course, do note that strong feelings alone won't make a relationship work if the individuals involved aren't actually committed to doing the work. Check in with yourself to make sure you're mentally and emotionally ready for a romantic relationship, says Henry. And make sure the object of your affection is on the same ! If falling in love at first sight or shortly after meeting an individual happens rather frequently, then it may be time to look at other factors that may be contributing to those feelings of immediate closeness you feel. As you explore your connection with this person, Cullins recommends maintaining boundaries.
Remember: You just met them! You have a feeling about who they are, but you don't actually know them. So take things slow, avoid making any big life decisions right away, and get to know each other the same way you would in the early stages of any relationship.
The popularity of the concept of love at first sight can sometimes create unrealistic expectations, Cullins says. Some people may worry that if their connection isn't instantaneous then they haven't met the ideal person. The reality is, every couple has their own unique timeline, and there's no reason to rush to say "I love you. Want your passion for wellness to change the world? Become A Functional Nutrition Coach!
Enroll today to our upcoming live office hours. Our FREE doctor-approved gut health guide. You are now subscribed Be on the lookout for a welcome in your inbox! Main . Log in Profile. Saved Articles. Contact Support. Log Out. Your cart is empty. Our online classes and training programs allow you to learn from experts from anywhere in the world. Explore Classes. July 31, In This Article. Is love at first sight real? The science of love at first sight. Reasons people might feel like they fell in love at first sight:.
Physical attraction: People are much more likely to fall in love at first sight with people they find physically attractive, according to the aforementioned study. Confusing love and infatuation: Infatuation involves intense feelings of attraction and fixation for someone without knowing them well, usually by way of actively ignoring red flags in favor of a fantasy. Openness to love: People who are looking for love might be more likely to lean into an intense initial feeling, according to Henry. Think of it like remembering their first meeting with a positive glow. Is love at first sight dangerous?
s it's happening to you:. You feel an instant physical attraction to this person. You feel an immediate connection to this person, even though you've just met. You feel drawn to this person, wanting to be around them more. You don't actually know anything about this person, or you know very little about them. Everything you're learning about this person in this first meeting has you captivated. You already know you'd be down to be in a relationship with this person. You'd be OK learning that this person does have flaws, shortcomings, or qualities you dislike—it wouldn't change how you feel.
You'd be devastated if you never saw this person again. You can tell the feeling will linger even if you don't see this person ever again. How to stay grounded:. Honor your feelings. Also: Love and dating are supposed to be fun! So lean in and enjoy the rush. Make sure you're actually ready for a relationship. Notice if this is a trend. Set boundaries. What if the feelings aren't there? Kelly Gonsalves is a multi-certified sex educator and relationship coach based in Brooklyn, as well as the sex and relationships editor at mindbodygreen.
She has a degree in journalism More On This Topic Sex. Kesiena Boom, M. Stephanie Barnes. With Esther Perel. Alexandra Engler. Emma Loewe. Integrative Health. Kristine Thomason.I fell in love at first sight
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