• Couple holding hands

Love at first sight: Is it real?

41% of men and 29% of women say they've experienced it, and 59% of men and 49% of women say they believe it can happen - that heart-stopping moment when you first lay eyes on someone and instantly "know" that it was meant to be. But does love at first sight really exist? Why does it happen to some people and not others? And can the phenomenon be scientifically proven?

It's something we might never know for sure, say researchers who've toiled away in labs, analysing couples new and old to try to understand what made them instantly connect. So let's examine the evidence:

MEN ARE MORE LIKELY TO FALL IN LOVE QUICKLY

Though women are stereotypically the more romantic sex, men not only experience love at first sight more often than women; they believe in it more strongly too. And that, say biologists, is down to their genetic makeup. Men are more governed by visual components, so if they see a woman who appeals to them physically, it will trigger a surge of hormones and they'll feel that rush of romantic love that's often the first stepping stone to longer-lasting love. Women tend to tread more cautiously because they want to ensure they're choosing the right person to potentially father their children. 


LOVE HAPPENS IN THREE PHASES

Phase one is romantic love - that intense desire to connect with someone from first or early meetings. It can last anywhere from 18 months to three years, say experts. This phase is defined by a rush of dopamine, which makes you feel out of control, desperately happy and urgently in need of being with the other person. This very primal reaction is experienced even by mammals in the wild. Romantic love is usually accompanied by the second phase - the sex drive going into, well, overdrive - and eventually segues into deeper attachment. 


TIMING MIGHT BE THE CRUCIAL FACTOR

Why do some people fall in love at first sight while others never experience its magic? As well as the right person needing to appear before your eyes, the timing has to be right for both parties. That means both individuals need to be emotionally available and feel safe to let themselves be carried along by the hormone surge. 


IF IT DOESN'T WORK OUT, IT DOESN'T MEAN IT WASN'T TRUE LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT

In summer 1967, Ben Bryant walked onto a New York stage in character as Billy in a theatre production of Carousel. Sat in the first row was Elizabeth Hepburn and Ben was instantly mesmerised: "It was as though there were a spotlight on her". During the interval he tracked down Lizzie and invited her for lunch. One week later he told her he loved her - she demurred (remember what we said about men and women); three months later they married. Their union lasted for 31 years until the pair sadly divorced. But three years later they were drawn together again by the September 11th terrorist attacks - Elizabeth felt an urge to reach out to her former love. Ben, still living in the apartment they'd shared throughout their marriage, was spellbound once more, and the pair began to date. They moved in together a short time later and married for a second time in 2010.  “If you’re blessed enough to experience love at first sight, don’t fight it,” says Mr. Bryant, now 79. “Experience it. Examine it. Follow your heart."


PASSION DOESN'T HAVE TO FADE

Though that rush of hormones associated with romantic love eventually passes (thank goodness, or none of us would ever get any work done), passion, contrary to popular belief, does not have to diminish through time. In a recent study of longtime couples asked to describe their union on a scale of "not at all in love" right through to "very intensely in love", the majority chose the latter. This surprised the researchers, who said that the level of passion demonstrated by couples who'd been together 10 years might be more about them wanting to present the right image. Oh ye scientists of little faith! 


THE IDEA OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT NEVER FAILS TO INSPIRE

A new music video by British band Seafret was inspired by the 1997 experiment conducted by psychologist Arthur Aron, who wanted to establish if complete strangers could fall in love. The volunteers were put into pairs and each asked to answer 36 questions before staring into each other's eyes for four minutes. Within six months, two of the couples were married. You can watch the 'Wildfire' music video below.



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Author: Rebecca

Rebecca lives in London with her husband, daughter and dachshund. She hopes her dating blogs for Flame Introductions will inspire you to seek out the best London and UK locations for brilliant dates, and discover some tips along the way to help you find your perfect partner.