Is love at first sight actually real?

Emily Gulla
·4-min read
Photo credit: Hello World - Getty Images
Photo credit: Hello World - Getty Images

From Cosmopolitan

Love at first sight: it's the plot of basically every romantic comedy ever, and also a whole bunch of new TV shows (hello, Married At First Sight), but is it really possible to fall in love with someone the moment you see them? We've probably all spotted someone we fancy really badly the first time we clap eyes on them, but how can you tell if it's love at first sight or just plain old lust? We spoke to the experts to find out whether that elusive 'love at first sight' feeling actually exists.

Does 'love at first sight' exist?

It is possible to feel some kind of 'love at first sight', though that depends on the type of love you're experiencing, says COSRT-accredited psychosexual and relationships therapist Cate Mackenzie.

There are various reasons why we might be instantly attracted to someone, and this can feel like immediately falling in love, says Cate. For example, this can be to do with pheromones (chemical messengers released by the body that can make us attracted to the other person), or it might be that the person reminds you of something or someone from your childhood that feels familiar, Cate adds.

Photo credit: PHOTO MIO JAPAN - Getty Images
Photo credit: PHOTO MIO JAPAN - Getty Images

"We can be attracted to someone and feel like we have fallen immediately in love, but this is often down to the chemicals that our brain is releasing, like phenethylamine," Cate explains. Phenethylamine essentially functions like a natural amphetamine, making us feel 'high' on love, and it also triggers the release of two neurotransmitters, dopamine and norepinephrine, which can increase our heart rate and make us feel good.

"This can make our boundaries fall away, and can mean that we idealise the person in front of us and see them as amazing," Cate adds, which might also make us feel like we're in love.

Still, this initial stage of intense attraction can be thought of as a type of love itself. Ancient Greek philosophy recognises six different varieties of love: "eros (sexual passion), philia (deep friendship), ludus (playful love), agape (love for everyone), pragga (long-standing love) and philautia (love for the self)," Cate explains.

Falling in love at first sight would come under 'eros' love, i.e. sexual passion or intense attraction. But this can also mean that people who experience 'eros' love end up breaking up after a short period of time, once the initial attraction and sexual passion shifts.

Photo credit: JAG IMAGES - Getty Images
Photo credit: JAG IMAGES - Getty Images

However, while this type of love isn't necessarily long-lasting, it doesn't mean it's not valid.

"Even a short connection can be powerful and transformational depending on the people involved and how they handle it," says Cate. "Many people I speak to have had significant connections which were short but felt like love and felt important too."

Can love grow over time, even if you don't experience 'love at first sight'?

If you've met someone and you don't feel head-over-heels in love straight away, don't panic. This doesn't mean that you won't end up falling for each other eventually.

"Love in my world is a verb and grows over time and we can activate it with kindness to each other," Cate explains. Plus, "love may be defined in different ways by other people," she adds.

"I have come across many people who grew an attraction to someone that they were friends with and it grew into a wonderful romance."

However, she adds that those who don't have that initial chemistry often report feeling that something is missing in their relationship. Still, there are things you can do to help build chemistry and connection.

Photo credit: Tim Robberts - Getty Images
Photo credit: Tim Robberts - Getty Images

"Creating pleasurable experiences together can help to release chemicals like dopamine (the pleasure hormone), while touch, cuddles and laughter can release oxytocin (the happiness hormone)," Cate explains.

This might mean going on day trips together, trying new things, experimenting sexually, giving to each other in significant ways and making each other feel respected, says Cate, which can all contribute to building a connection.

You might also want to try out the '36 questions to fall in love', which is part of a psychological experiment designed to accelerate intimacy between two people.

However, essentially, there's no hard and fast recipe for love, unfortunately. But remember that whatever you're feeling is valid, and if you're unsure how you feel about someone, check out some of the signs that you might actually be falling in love.

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