Love at First Sight?


“She knew she didn’t know his name, but he looked familiar . . . Seemed as if she had known him all her life.” –Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

Twelve senior girls + Their Eyes Were Watching God = heavenly discussions

Today I opened class by asking, “Do you believe in the possibility of love at first sight?”

Most spoke eloquently against an instant love perspective. Love doesn’t come from looking but from living. “OK, then,” I countered, “What about recognizing a potential soul-mate at early glance – feeling a sense of fated possibility? Or do we simply approach this as a literary construct – the stuff of Romeo and Juliet.”

“Don’t we create the factors for these ‘fate’ experiences?” one girl responded. “If you meet your soul-mate at onset of a charity trip to sub-Saharan Africa – well, you both signed up for that kind of trip . . . ”

I liked her logic – and I’ve lived her logic — of choices shaping our private destinies. But I’m still struck that three quarters of the class immediately dismissed “love at first sight.” If you had asked this question to twelve of my closest girlfriends from high school, I know this ratio would be reversed – I know because we talked about this topic A LOT.

For all the pragmatics of “find someone and make it work” that we hear from male general authorities, I grew up believing in the magical glance (as personified by Mr. Darcy’s eyes). While my own love story didn’t (really) resemble this – and while I believe there is potential danger in this magical thinking – I still absolutely believe that souls can recognize each other at some extra-sensory level. Is this religion, mysticism, Austen, or Disney speaking? I don’t know . . .

Do you believe in love at first sight?

Deborah

Deborah is K-12 educator who nurtures a healthy interest in reading, writing, running, ethics, mystics, and interfaith dialogue.

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  1. MistaBen says:

    I would have to say yes.

    Though I can’t think of any romantic instances of this happening to me or people I know well, I think the platonic version may be more common.

    Out of all the people I meet, occasionally there are those with whom suddenly there’s an instant and profound relationship. It really is as if we’ve been friends forever. Whenever this happens and I comment on it to the friend, he or she inevitably responds that the unusually intense feeling of intimacy is mutual.

    Therefore, based on my experiences with platonic love at first sight, I must believe that the romantic version can occur as well.

  2. tracy m says:

    Yes. Yesyesyes. But only because I have personally experienced it- from the other side.

    My husband told he loved me the night we met- I laughed. Ten years later, I gave up searching for Mr. Right, and married my best friend- who was Mr. Right all along, I was just too logical and prideful to admit it.

    Best think I’ve ever done, marrying him. Should have done it ten years earlier.

  3. tracy m says:

    Oh, and “Their Eyes Were Watching God” is one of my all time, very favorite books. Love NZH’s prose and way with expression.

  4. sarah says:

    Oh the naivete of dismissing such a concept – I used to be very adamant and outspoken against love at first sight and BYU-style quickie marriages.

    Of course, until it happened to me. Got engaged after three weeks. Now, way down the road, we have an amazing marriage. Was I in love with him then? No, and I knew it. Did I know I’d have an amazing future with him? That we were compatible? That I’d be able over time to love him deeply?
    Amazingly, yes.

  5. RCH says:

    Attraction at first sight? Chemistry, connection at first sight / meeting? Basic compatibility? Absolutely, both platonic and romantic. But love is — ought to be, anyway — something deeper; by very definition, I don’t think it can develop in an instant. It has to grow and be tended and grow some more.

    Call me a scrooge, but I don’t buy it. And honestly I think the idea is dangerous.

  6. ldahospud says:

    Yes, I do. It happened to me (but unfortunately took a while for my dh-to-be to catch on. Then he was a goner).

    And I absolutely adore Their Eyes Were Watching God. So many beautiful, lyrical passages. One of my favorite bits is “something fell off the shelf inside her.” I know exactly how that feels.

  7. Deborah says:

    Sarah/Tracy/Idahospud:

    I am a sucker for such stories — and at some fundamental level I believe them. Like mistaben, I have felt instant connection with individuals (“platonic love at first sight”).

    But, like RCH, I also see danger in such . . . romanticism(?). I had more than one friend fall into a deep depression when the man they “knew at first sight” was the one . . . wasn’t the one. Or anger at God that this soul-mate, after a year of marriage, was not truly compatible. And then the pragmatist in me says, the girls in my class are better off with skepticism, with a scoff of “it’s just hormones talking.” Yet I also believe too deeply in an extra-sensory world to discount those who, somehow, “just knew.”

  8. Stephen says:

    I met my wife on October 1, we were married on January 26 and would have been married in December if we could have worked it out.

    Yet I have an extreme reluctance to endorse love at first sight philosophy.

  9. Heather O. says:

    I’ve never experienced such a jolt that could be explained beyond hormones. But when I met DH, he already knew my sister, and she and I talked about him before he asked me out. She described what he was like, and I thought, He’s not like that at all. I don’t know how I knew that–he and I had only met once. But I was right. And we got married. It took us 6 years to get there, though.

    I think everybody is different, and obviously love at first sight does happen, just because so many people can attest to it. It’s nice to know, though, that even love that can take 6 years to grow can still be just as awesome.

  10. Dora says:

    Hmmm … the intellectual part of me thinks that love at first sight is a disaster waiting to happen. Pheremones, physical chemistry, etc. may be fine in the moment, but the potential for broken hearts and unfulfilled dreams seems just too high to trust on s split-second impulse.

    And yet, the romantic in me thinks that it is possible. Even the pragmatist thinks that anything is possible, even if it’s improbable.

    Ultimately, I think it boils down to what C.S. Lewis wrote about castles in the air. No need to crash them down to the earth. But it is necessary to build up a foundation underneath. A foundation built on trust, communication, shared experience and common values.

  11. Deborah says:

    “Ultimately, I think it boils down to what C.S. Lewis wrote about castles in the air. No need to crash them down to the earth. But it is necessary to build up a foundation underneath.”

    Ooh, I like that. What’s the reference?

    Heather: Hear, hear — I had three years date to alter and this fall, three years into marriage, has been the sweetest season of all.

  12. jana says:

    I believe in infatuation at first sight and that that infatuation can blossom into beautiful love. I fell for my spouse, John, only after a brief glimpse of him. And while I truly hoped that someday I’d get to see him again and be closer to him, I didn’t know if I would or if he would even reciprocate my attraction to him.

    I’ve had many other such crushes over the years and few ever turned into anything real or long-lasting.

    So I guess I believe in love at first sight only in the sense that someone catches your eye and you’re eager for more. I don’t believe you can _know_ your soulmate simply via your first glimpse of their outward appearance.

  13. Tatiana says:

    I totally believe in love at first sight. My mother knew she was going to marry my dad on their first date. I fell in love once on the first night I met someone and it was quite scary because I didn’t know him well enough to know if he was a kind or good person, or whether I could trust him, I just knew that I suddenly cared so much about this guy that what he did and said mattered very much to me.

    It turned out he felt the same way about me from the very start. It didn’t work out in the long run, for reasons that were beyond our control, but we’re still close friends and it totally was a true and lasting love. It still is, even though it’s now platonic.

    So, yes, I definitely believe in love at first sight.

  14. Dora says:

    Sorry, it’s Thoreau, not Lewis. From Walden

    I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

  15. Melanie says:

    Thoreau… Hurston… so much goodness that I read in those formative years! I loved reading Hurston out loud- I feel so at home with dialectic writing.

    That said… I like the idea of platonic love at first sight, but I think that’s about as far as I’m willing to take it. I’m just not sure if I trust myself enough to let it (the instantaneous romantic falling) happen. But if it works for other people, all the better for them. I’m not sure if I believe in love at first sight but I do hate waiting to find out if there’s a castle to build a foundation under.

  16. Kathleen says:

    I believe in it for other people but not for me. I’ve been attracted to plenty of people at first sight but it never went beyond that attraction.

  17. Caroline says:

    Nope. I’m a pragmatist. I can’t even begin to imagine how that could ever happen to me.

    But I can’t rule out the possibility for others.

  18. Deborah says:

    Dora — I *thought* so. I’m teaching selections from Walden to my 11th graders right now and it sounded wicked familiar. Beautiful passage — and one that I will use to start class today. I steal from the blogs for inspiration all the time . . . 🙂

  19. Deborah says:

    Dora: I shared that passage with all three of my classes today and they had a similar response, “Wow — you have smart friends.” 🙂

  20. Maralise says:

    Deborah–I agree that love at first sight can be a potentially dangerous, sometimes misleading concept.

    HOWEVER–Because I married the man I met at 15, who I begged God to let me marry (later on of course) at 16, who I detested (jealously) at 18, and who became my husband at 21, I hate to discount first-sight “attraction” and what it means completely.

    There really are no rational reasons why my husband and I married. We are complete and total opposites, and yet I can’t deny our connection on a level that’s not rational. Some might call it spiritual, some metaphysical, I don’t know what I would call it other than “just there.”

    Our marriage has definitely not been easy because of these differences but I have to say that in some inexplicable way, whatever it was that led me to love this boy at first sight at 15 has stayed with me in trying to love the man for the almost nine years that we’ve been married.

    Great thoughts everyone. Thanks.

  21. Tatiana says:

    I think my mom would say the same thing about my dad. She had the problem before she met dad that she would quickly become bored with her boyfriends. She was married to dad for 49 years before he died. And after his funeral she said “Whatever else it was, it was never boring.” She stayed in love with him all that time, even through some pretty rough times. He never treated her with respect, which bothered me growing up. He took advantage of her and took her for granted. In some ways he stayed a child and let her be the grownup. I didn’t admire that about him at all, but there was never any doubt that there was strong love binding my family together, love that those two had for each other. Because of that we laughed a lot more than other families, and our home was often a fun and happy place. That meant a lot. Maybe more than I realized, despite all the other problems that were there.

    I know there are as many ways to love as there are people, but love at first sight (or first meeting) is far from the worst way. I’m sure that I will easily stay passionately in love with my future husband for always.

  22. Liz says:

    I think there is love at first sight. But, I don’t think it’s for everyone.

    Sadly, that includes me…

  23. Deborah says:

    Maralise/Tatiana:

    I find your remarks intriguing because it seems that this initial spark/impression pushed together two people who might not have otherwise “chosen” each other. My mother had a similar “I’m going to marry this guy” moment when she first met my dad — and they are so different that I have sometimes wondered what she was “tuning in” to! But I know she has relied on that initial impression during rough times . . . I’m not sure what to make of it all, but I appreciate your stories. I think I’m sold on Dora’s point — keep your castles in the sky, but be sure to build foundations under them.

  24. Anonymous says:

    What is it about this topic that often brings up comments that dance around the idea of fated love? …and why is it that it makes me intensely uncomfortable?

    Perhaps it’s that I’m single at 36, and one of my deepest fears is that love is not in my cards.

  25. Maralise says:

    Deborah–I think that’s a good resolution.

    Anon: I don’t believe in fated love. But, I do deeply believe in people and their power to love. I also think there is nothing more powerful than deep, binding connections between people whether platonic or romantic.

  26. Anonymous says:

    I’m going to have to say I don’t believe in it.

    Perhaps those who have experienced have simply forgotten about all the “love at first sight” instances that didn’t turn into marriage.

    How many times did you refer to someone as “the one” or having an “instant connection”, that didn’t pan out.

    For those who have experienced what they believe to be “love at first sight,” is this simply based on reflection? Or were you CERTAIN that it was love at the time?

    “Love” and the potential for love requires much more than moments. Once a candidate has been assessed as a potential for love, that potential must be cultivated. It requires shared experiences and faith to grow.

  27. Anonymous says:

    I am a 48 year old woman who has been married twice to men I definately love and loved just couldn’t make it work for reasons too numerous to go into here. I was not looking for anything else, was busy with work and wonderful children and a career change when “it” happened to me. It was in a professional setting. He was interviewing for a position at my son’s middle school and I was on the committee as I had been asked to be quite often before. He came in the room and I started to feel what I thought at the time was ill. I was light headed and tingly and thought I may have to excuse myself due to my illness. I took some deep breaths and found I could not leave my seat. I was completely gone just like that, and I swear this is true, it was just like in a cartoon. The big round hammer came down and hit me on the head and I saw stars!! Unbelieveable. Still I am doubting what is happening to me. I tell you I could not get out of that chair. I was blushing beet red and still feeling light headed and tingly. I was in this professional situation and knew I could not make this important decision under the circumstances. Anyway, it is two years later and I did not act (too much) on my love and I tell you without a doubt this feeling was instant love, I just cannot stop thinking about it and did I let the only one person I could be happy with get away? Help – If anyone has some kind of story the same I need to hear how you have come through it. Good or bad. I just feel so stupid that I didn’t go with it. Thanks for thinking of me…

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