Love at First Sight
Do you believe in love at first sight?
Wikipedia calls “love at first sight” a popular Western literary “trope,” or figurative language, perpetuated in Greek, Roman, and other Western literatures. Songs are written about love at first sight. It became part of the “courtly love” tradition that is so prevalent in Medieval & Renaissance literatures, especially the beloved Arthurian legend.
In fact, one of the most famous and tragic love stories of all time started with “love at first sight.”
Romeo & Juliet.
But remember, right before Romeo saw Juliet, he was pining over Rosaline.
I’ve read articles that speak of love at first sight as genetic, as well as chemical. The feeling of love, which anyone who has been in a new romantic love can confirm, is highly addictive. In fact, “the same chemical process that takes place with addiction takes place when we fall in love” (source).
Speaking of chemicals, ever wonder why women love chocolate so very much? (I know I do.) It’s because it contains phenylethylamine, one of the chemicals our bodies produce when we’re in love.
Then there are estrogen and testosterone, which play a huge role in libido. Dopamine, norepinephrine, and seratonin, powerful brain chemicals that not only increase when we “fall in love” but are also the key chemicals behind many emotional and mental disorders from depression to OCD to personality disorders (source).
Part of this “love at first sight” debate is centered around the etymology of the word “love,” or perhaps I should say the way in which this solitary word is used in the English language.
I love chocolate.
I love my dog.
I love to write.
I love my husband.
I love my mother.
I love my daughter.
I love my friend.
Same word, very different meanings overall.
There are different kinds of love, but in English we only have one word for all of them. Thus so much of the confusion and miscommunication in relationships. In Greek, there are several words for love: agape (ἀγάπη) for “general affection or a deeper sense of true love,” also considered unconditional love; eros (ἔρως) for “passionate love, with sensual desire and longing;” philia (φιλία) for “dispassionate virtuous love…[including] loyalty to friends, family, and community;” and storge (στοργή) for natural affection like one would feel for parents or offspring (source). John Lee added three other “love styles” to this list: mania, which is obsessive, intense, long-lasting love; pragma, “love driving by the head, not the heart;” and ludus, “a love that is played as a game or sport,” like a conquest (source & Lee’s book).
Some say love at first sight is really lust at first sight because how can anyone fall in true love with a stranger? Love is based on intimate knowledge of the other person and vice versa.
Interestingly, a professor in New York studied what made people fall in love. He took a group of complete strangers, coupled them up with the opposite sex, had them tell each other intimate details of their lives for 90 minutes, and then had them stare into each other’s eyes for 4 minutes without speaking. “The results? Many of the subjects felt a deep attraction for their partner after the experiment, and two even ended up getting married six months later.”
Is this all it takes to fall in love?
In my forty years, I’ve experienced many kinds of love. Perhaps every kind of love, except the love one has for one’s child, as I’ve never had children of my own. But erotic love? Absolutely. Platonic love? Yep. Unconditional love, perhaps known also as true love? Fortunately, every day.
I know that the rush and excitement of a new love is intoxicating and addictive, but as I’ve said in other articles, ultimately fades. We cannot burn that brightly indefinitely without burning out. The initial erotic love, if we’re lucky, deepens into a more secure love, perhaps even unconditional love.
Although, come to think of it, I have not experienced love at first sight. When I fall in love, it takes me by surprise. The men I’ve loved never were who I thought I’d fall in love with. They were the ones I wasn’t attracted to at first glance but with whom I developed an undeniable and inexplicable connection. It’s only happened a few times, really. Rather rare and precious.
This isn’t to say I haven’t experienced attraction at first sight. Most definitely! Several times! In fact. But is it love? Usually not.
Now for you, dear readers…do you believe in love at first sight or is it just lust?
Have you ever experienced love at first sight?
Why hasn’t someone figured out how to bottle that feeling of love? Perhaps a way to dose serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Probably would be far less tears, infidelity, and wars. What would the dangers of that be? Thoughts?