Is Love at First Sight Real?

Umm, so, apparently Clare Crawley experienced a lil thing we like to call “love at first sight” during The Bachelorette premiere yesterday.

And after months and months of ABC promotion and some questionable Reality Steve rumors, the build-up for her to meet Dale Mosssupposedly her leading contender who she quits the show for — was, well, exponentially high.

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What came as literally no surprise to anyone, immediately after meeting Dale, Clare, seemingly breathless, said “I think I just met my husband.” And hooooly shit, did this get me spiraling.

When she talked it out with therapist Bachelorette host Chris Harrison, she said it felt like her mind went completely blank, she blacked out, and while seemingly charmed by the other men she had met prior to Dale’s entrance, she just “knew” this was a different feeling. I mean, sounds like love at first sight, right?

Sorry Bachelorette stans, but experts say probably not.

The truth about “love at first sight”

Having a super-intense reaction when meeting someone for the first time is not just a figment of your imagination. “That very strong electrical feeling that people say they have—that’s very much possible,” says Niloo Dardashti, PhD, a psychologist and relationship expert in New York City. However, it’s not exactly what you would call love.

“With love, we’re talking about things like intimacy, tolerating somebody’s flaws, seeing them as a whole person and still liking them, and so on. That’s a lot of stuff that generally doesn’t happen in the first moment you look at someone,” explains Dardashti.

What you’re actually feeling is really just a result of having a strong attraction to the person. “But then, you’re attaching all these attributes to that feeling like, ‘This is meant to be. This is love at first sight. This is something inexplicable. It felt electric, and therefore, it must be love,’” Dardashti explains.

Don’t get too bummed though. This strong, instantaneous connection you have with this person may eventually manifest into real love.

So, can the spark actually lead to love love?

Well, it’s tricky, considering there’s a big trap that people who think they’ve just experienced love at first sight tend to fall into known as “the halo effect,” says clinical psychologist Jenny Taitz, PhD, author of How to Be Single and Happy.

Basically, when you’re super attracted to someone, it’s like your mind places a little halo over their head. You place them on a pedestal, and as a result, they can do no wrong in your eyes—which is problematic for multiple reasons.

“Just because someone is really good-looking doesn’t mean that you know that much about them,” says Taitz. “You can run the risk of convincing yourself that they’re right for you based on your emotions rather than logic.”

In order to combat the halo effect, Taitz suggests actually taking it slower with this special someone than you might normally. “Attraction is important, but the things that lead to long-standing relationships are kindness and shared values. You’re not going to know those things until further down the line,” she says.

So, while “love at first sight” may not be a real thing, instant attraction and an immediate connection? Those are real.

Expert input aside, these women claim to have fallen in love at first sight:

  • Wendy F., 60, was 28 when she met her now husband. “I went to a show with a friend, and she told me that she invited a guy she wanted me to meet. Five minutes later, I looked up to see the most perfect man ever looking around in the doorway. Yes, that was the guy, and at some point on the dance floor, I gave him my number and told him to call. On the way home, I told my friend that I had met the man I was going to marry.” After 30 years of marriage, Wendy says he still makes her heart ”go pitter-pat.”
  • Amber S., 36, met her boyfriend of 15 years back in 2004 when she was 21. “I went on a road trip with my best friend to do volunteer work in every state we visited. Along our journey, we stayed with a friend in Chicago. His roommate walked down the stairs, and when we locked eyes, the chemistry was instantaneous. The feeling was mutual, because he quit his job by the second day of our visit, packed all his belongings in his car, and joined us for the rest of our cross-country road trip. We’ve been together ever since.”
  • “We met at a wine festival. I was on a terrible blind date, and he was with his ex-girlfriend. When I saw him, I thought he was the kind of guy with whom I could see spending my life. He later went home and told his sister he found his Mrs.,” says Carol B., 51. “Due to the circumstances, we went different ways at the wine festival only to later find out we shared a mutual connection. After six weeks of trying to reconnect, we had our first date and we were married five years later. It is the craziest and coolest thing how you can know.”

    Oh, and these women still believe what they experienced was love at first sight (even if it didn’t work out):

    • Although they’re no longer together, Haley G., 19, claims to have experienced an instant love with her ex-boyfriend. “I saw him on a dock in Nantucket, and I remember just gasping,” she says. “I had these insane butterflies in my stomach that I’ve never felt before and haven’t since. I’m honestly not the kind of person who gets nervous around guys, but this time was definitely different. We were inseparable. We dated for two and a half years, and it was a perfect fairy tale. It doesn’t necessarily mean you end up together in the end, it just means you fall in love at the first sight of that person. And that’s exactly what happened to me.”
    • Lindsey D., 25, had a similar experience with an ex. The two originally matched on an app and made plans for a date immediately after. “I was so smitten. He was exactly my type physically. We immediately got to talking, and I didn’t feel nervous at all—I felt completely comfortable. It felt so meant to be. Never have I felt like that on a first date. I even told him that later on in the date, and he said he felt the same. “There have been times when I have been in lust at first sight, but this was so weird and more of a true love connection.”
    • Nikki B., 42, also had a love-at-first-sight encounter with an ex. “I was finishing my drink at the bar while my friends were retrieving our coats when a guy walked up and said, ‘I was watching you while you were dancing, and I know it’s the end of the night but I wanted to tell you that I think you have the best energy.’” From there, Nikki says it was on. “It was love at first sight—and first sound. He was from South Africa and had an accent that was gorgeous to my ears.”
    • Krysta M., 29, experienced a rom-com love with her (now) ex at a music festival last year. “He saved me from getting hit by a car,” she says. “I looked up and was struck! We exchanged numbers and immediately started texting each other. He told me that he couldn’t stop thinking about me and needed to see me as soon as possible, so we set up a meeting for that same night. We talked all night on the beach and watched the sun come up. I fell asleep on his lap waking up to the sight of him looking down at me.”

      But these women aren’t exactly sipping the instant love Kool-Aid:

      • “I don’t doubt that we’re capable of feeling something strong when we first meet someone, like physical lust or an immediate attraction to someone’s aura or intelligence,” says Alexia L., 25. “But that isn’t love. You can’t love someone you don’t know yet, because then all you’d ‘love’ is a projection of who you want them to be or your (potentially incorrect) interpretation of who they are.”
      • Abby P., 18, shared a similar sentiment: “I don’t believe in love at first sight. I have seen someone and thought, Wow, you are so hot, I think I’m in love. But no, I don’t think it’s real,” she says. “You need to know a good amount about someone to feel love and not just base it on their looks.”
      • “The moment I laid eyes on the woman across from me, I felt one of those jolts of electricity you read about,” Zara B., 30, says. “I now realize I instinctually knew she was bad for me, but because the feeling was so powerful, I confused it for love. I think that’s how toxic relationships work. Love at first sight is usually delusional. I felt wild about that girl, and I realize I was manic, shook, and sexually attracted—not the same things as love.

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