Love at first sight: Most of us grew up seeing this magical moment happen in movies and on television shows, and you've probably wondered if it actually happens in real life. After all, the prospect of seeing someone and knowing in that very moment that they're interested in you and also compatible with your personality, interests, desires, goals, and lifestyle habits seems a little outlandish to the average level-headed person. Still, you've probably met at least one or two couples in your life that have told you that their relationship began just that way—it was love at first sight.
While most relationship experts acknowledge that a spark can be lit in as little as a minute, they also note that the kind "love at first sight" that's seen in films and written about in novels is definitely an overdramatized version and thus has conditioned us from a very young age to believe that we must have this experience in order to find love and our happily ever after story. "For evidence, all we need to do is watch Disney movies like Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Frozen, and Aladdin to see this 'love at first sight' experience taking place," explains Lori Bizzoco, relationship expert and founder of CupidsPulse.com. "In the real world, we strive for this same feeling, believing subconsciously that movies and novels imitate reality, so the problem is that many singles write off what could be a potential long-term partner if they don't immediately experience a rush of 'butterflies' or fall madly in love the moment they meet."
It's important to know that, while some people do experience a kind of "love at first sight," not everyone will. Plus, it's okay and normal to not feel this way, notes Bizzoco. "It doesn't mean that you are not in love and you most certainly should not pass up a possible partner because you are not experiencing this."
Another important point the pros raise is that even if you do experience a kind of "love at first sight," those early feelings don't always guarantee that love is long-lasting. In fact, it may be fleeting. "Real love is based on a deep connection—a connection that can only be made over time, as each partner becomes comfortable enough to share their innermost thoughts and feelings," says Amy McManus, LMFT, relationship therapist and owner of Thrive Therapy, Inc. "Falling in love at first sight is a lovely feeling, and can last for months and sometimes even years, but it will eventually go away and be replaced either by a sense of disillusionment or a growing sense of connection as you and your partner are able to relate as who you really are, not just who you each wish you could be."
Of course, it's totally possible that you could fall in love seemingly at first sight and grow to have a beautiful and healthy relationship that is long-lasting. Some key ways to know if this is the case is whether or not you feel emotionally charged upon seeing this person. "The moment you set eyes on each other, you feel a rush of emotions, butterflies flutter in your stomach and you immediately desire to get to know them," explains Bizzoco. "It's almost as if you've known each other all along." This is usually the first reaction and a tell-tale sign of what could be love at first sight.
Another way to tell is if you leave your deal breakers behind. In other words, the list of qualities you have always felt necessary for your life partner to have somewhat falls to the wayside. "For example, maybe you would never have considered dating someone with a tattoo or nose ring, but this time that rule went out the window when your eyes met his. Maybe your rule was never to date anyone shorter than 6' foot tall but you are completely attracted to his 5'8 physique and forgot you even had a height rule," says Bizzoco. "The only cautionary advice would be to ensure that you are not overlooking and throwing away really important and healthy characteristic in a partner, as you don't want to end up in an abusive, controlling relationship because you feel overwhelmed with feelings for someone."
Recognizing a sense of comfort with this person is another way to know you're experiencing "love at first sight," according to Caela Cohen, M.S.Ed, Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern. "By feeling comfortable with this person, you might notice that it is easy to be around them, that they put you at ease," she says. "You get the feeling that they are familiar, and you feel connected to them and nothing seems to forced when you are around them."
All in all, it's worth noting that there may be different levels of love at first sight. For example, Bizzoco believes that love at first sight is when the feeling is mutual between two people; however, some will argue that love at first sight can be felt by just one person and the intensity of their feelings eventually convinces the other person to be open to experiencing the relationship. "Although I have personally experienced and do believe in it, I think singles need to be careful not to expect this type of encounter to happen in order to be fulfilled or happy," she says. "It's easy to let the films and novels that occupy our social sphere cloud our judgment and alter our perception of what love and relationships look like, but the sooner you recognize that the sooner you can pursue a relationship with the right expectations."