Love at First Sight: Movie Magic or the Real Deal?

Although most of us have been burned by love before, it’s safe to say it really does make us go the extra mile. It’s what can easily persuade us to drop everything and follow someone wherever they might want to go.

Love can make us change our behavior, consider different life choices, and give into our innermost desires. It can make us suddenly enjoy certain romantic movies, view everything through rose-colored glasses, and even feel as if all those power ballads are about us.

Most importantly, love can make us both extremely happy and extremely sad. Thus, it’s evident that it has a certain level of control over us; it’s something that either makes us grow if it’s there or makes us sad if we don’t have any.

Still — does anyone know what love truly is? Most of us go through life without ever finding out what makes falling in love so unique. Why is it any different from falling on our knees in a crowd or falling in debt? Do we notice when it happens, and can it happen at first sight? Or is that something romantic movies have monopolized?

In the end, love is a crucial part of our lives, but we have to understand it better so that we may appreciate all the ups and downs it can make us go through. Because of that, we’ve decided to ask experts to reveal all the mysteries of love. Here’s what they had to say.

Falling in love: how does it feel?

man offering a heart to a woman

Although poets have long decided they wanted to grasp the very essence of love, is it possible to explain how love truly feels? More importantly, can that explanation be applied to everyone?

According to Julie Melillo, a Manhattan dating and life coach, love is a mix of various feelings. When we fall in love, the infatuation changes us from within. It grabs both our mind and soul, not to mention our whole heart. What’s more, it’s not a feeling that merely makes us excited about another person. Oh, no. Loving someone means we’re excited about a person’s whole existence. We care about their well-being, we grow attached to them, and we’re as attracted to them as it can be humanly possible at that moment.

In essence, it sort of seems like a full-fledged addiction! On the one hand, this person makes us all giddy inside. They become a part of us, and we spend hours, even days imagining our future together. Even things that were once dull aren’t so boring anymore — and it’s all because we love them.

On the other hand, we also feel anxious about losing them. We already know that it would cause us a lot of pain. Thus, when we’re in love, we’re elated and deeply attached — but also quite scared.

A chemical rush: what happens in our brains when we fall in love

A chemical rush

Scientists have already shown time and time again that, when it comes to sex, a lot of chemicals are at play. Dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin — all three of these may lead to bedroom extravaganza. To an extent, we can associate this chemical aspect with love too.

According to David Bennett, The Popular Man co-owner, as well as a skilled relationship expert, author, and counselor, our personality changes when we fall in love. We, of course, feel rather blissful — but our focus also narrows down. We forget about our hobbies, family, and friends, and place the focus on our love interest. However, if we aren’t getting enough love from them, we might experience “withdrawal.” Missed calls, no text replies, or not enough attention could easily lead to a downward spiral. We get anxious and nervous because everything we feel isn’t truly mutual, especially if we have some competition.

Who we are, how we seem, and who they think we might be

According to a licensed psychologist with the Angeles Psychology Group, Neil Schierholz, Psy.D, love becomes even more complicated when we realize the person we love isn’t really who we thought they were.

In essence, each person has three “personas” they bring with them to a date, for example. The first persona is who we are — faults and all. The second is who we “pretend” to be, i.e., the persona we nurture so that the other person likes us and maybe even falls in love with us. Finally, the third persona is the one that could destroy a relationship later on. It’s the projection that the other person creates. It’s what we want our potential partner to be, despite their true character.

Are we in love?

man and woman holding a heart

So, how can we know if we are truly, madly, deeply in love? Although most of us tend to see true love as one that lasts a lot longer than mere intense infatuation, another factor is also worth considering. According to the author of Dr. Romance’s Guide to Finding Love Today and psychotherapist Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., if we want to know whether we are really in love, all we have to do is imagine spending the rest of our lives with them!

Then, there’s the chemistry aspect. It’s what sets romantic love apart from other forms, like familial and platonic. It’s the high we feel when we’re near our love interest; the rush that turns us on and makes us think about them all the time in both a romantic and sexual way.

And that’s when most people THINK they’re in love. If we’re “high on love,” there’s no need to ask ourselves if it’s real. When you know, you know!

However, just because there’s chemistry, it doesn’t mean the relationship will last forever or be healthy at all. Of course, good chemistry helps the relationship flourish. It allows us to overcome uncertainties after the initial dating phase. If there’s some chemistry, we’ll be able to connect with the person and truly make them a part of our life. Still, focusing too much on it might stop us from meeting a person and letting the love blossom slowly.

No chemistry doesn’t mean we will never love someone or that they might never become our life partners. We should give them a chance even if the spark isn’t there. After all, some people are genuinely “aromantic.” They don’t feel the need to be in a relationship, nor do they have any romantic feelings.

So, is love at first sight possible?

man helping a woman pickup apple

Many poems, songs, and fairytales nurture the idea of love at first sight. However, is it something that can happen if we’re not living in a Disney animated feature?

According to Edward White, addiction counselor and psychologist, in 99% of cases, “love at first sight” is usually just a chemical reaction. When we meet someone who we are instantly attracted to and LUST for, our dopamine receptors are really at play — not love. In fact, even if we think we’ve met our soulmate and are flooded with endorphins, we might realize after some time how wrong we are. In most cases, we just feel lust, but differentiating it from love is tough. Both are the main reasons behind the same chemical reaction.

Is it a myth?

fact or myth

According to Schierholz, a brief encounter may change our brain chemistry so much that we do fall in love. However, it’s not common at all, and we definitely shouldn’t rely on it. On the other hand, Tessina makes another valid point — we’ve been made to believe in the myth.

Most movies, novels, and plays all say that chemistry is all we need to live happily ever after. As soon as we meet our soulmate, we’re sure they’re the one, and the love happens instantly. Nevertheless, that’s not how real life works, especially when we consider love and lust.

Lust entails physical attraction that can easily fizzle out and lead nowhere. As we get to know the person, the attraction slowly goes away. In contrast, love is built over time and is not based on pure, physical excitement. In fact, the lust we feel, or rather, the “love at first sight” that happened to us might just influence us badly. It can easily cloud our thinking and make us think someone downright bad is just who we need.

According to Tessina, many people, who have previously been in destructive, addictive, or violent relationships, say that the chemistry was evident at the beginning. They were excited, and the chemistry motivated them to move forward with the relationship. But, that’s exactly the problem — chemistry cannot help us see whether our attraction to someone is good for us. It’s just based on certain signals, most of which cannot guarantee a happy relationship.

Changes are inevitable

In the end, that feeling we get when we first meet someone, as well as the chemistry, aren’t what we should base love on. Of course, mutual attraction is the foundation that we can use to help love blossom. However, over time, love has to transform. It must grow and adapt the same way we do. In essence, it should change according to our innermost desires and needs and match them — not destroy them one day at a time.