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Dr. Wendy Walsh
Hollywood loves to spin stories of love at first sight. The plotline of every romance story — Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy finds girl again. — is usually fueled by a love-at-first-sight moment. So what is this phenomenon and can it be real?
Way back in our hunter/gatherer days, youth and beauty signaled health and fertility in women. And women are more wired to respond to intelligence (often signaled by humor) and resource potential.
A hunter who could feed plenty of hungry babies was a catch. Therefore, if anyone is going to fall in love at first sight, anthropologically speaking, it is more often the man. Women do it too of course, but women tend to fall in love with love rather than a particular face.
Could it really be love? In a word, no. Instant physical attraction is sexual arousal. And that is a far cry from love. I like to think of love as an action word rather than a feeling, anyway. Love is something we do, not something that entrances us.
So, can this so-called love at first sight last? Of course not. It’s a dopamine rush caused by sexual attraction, and anyone who has been in long-term monogamy knows that this kind of sexual energy may be a couple’s magnet but it is far from the glue.
If you’re lucky, sexual attraction can grow into romantic love, and once that bond is formed, then when the sexual energy eases up, it can be replaced by an intellectual decision to love.
After many years, that decision to stay committed can become mature, companionate love — part habit and part comfort zone.
Not only is “love” at first sight not authentic love, it can sometimes be dangerous, making couples move too fast toward the bedroom before they’ve developed the skills needed for long-term monogamy.
“Grow relationship skills. And then add sexual
passion. This is a prescription for a love that lasts.”
For a short-term relationship, you need only be hot, flexible and available. But for a long-term relationship, you need to have empathy, compassion, good communication skills, and conflict resolution skills.
And when you’re busy knocking boots and getting high on sex that you think is love, you can’t possibly be learning the long-term necessities. Then when the sexual passion declines, you think you’ve fallen out of love.
And for some people with poor attachment skills (those who are attracted to people who hurt them), finding love at first sight might be a signal to run, fast!
Bottom line: Be friends first. Grow relationship skills. Make a decision to love. And then add sexual passion. This is a prescription for a love that lasts.