Last week’s Wall Street Journal featured a story, Love at First Sight: It can Happen, but You Have to Believe.
Do you believe? According to a 2014 survey of singles conducted by Match.com, 59% of men and 49% of women DO believe in love at first sight.
Two things jumped out at me here:
1. If all of these surveyed singles are dating site registrants, is the study a tad skewed toward hopeful romantics?
2. And gosh, we know that men are visual creatures. With that high a percentage of men believing in love at first sight, how are we defining “love”?
According to biological anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher, studies do show men fall in love faster than women. She says there are three “systems” humans developed for mating: the sex drive, romantic love, and feelings of deep attachment. The sex drive is physical; romantic love is emotional obsession. Both can take us to that third system, deep attachment.
She’s a believer in love at first sight. Writing for Oprah.com she says:
We are built to instantly size up a potential partner, an intuitive skill that likely developed millions of years ago as our forebears struggled to rapidly sort friends from enemies…So when you do feel an immediate click, go ahead and trust your instincts.
On the other hand, Dr. Elliot D. Cohen Ph.D. thinks the more correct way to describe this experience is “love at first acquaintance”. And since deep attachment has not had time to develop, an even better description is “falling in love at first acquaintance.”
In a PsychologyToday.com article he says:
In the act of falling, one is still in the process. It is not a fait accompli. The process of falling in love has begun and in time it can be “fully” actualized to the extent that anything in this imperfect world is ever completely actualized. In cases of love at first acquaintance, there appears to be an earnest desire to be loyal, consistent, candid, trustworthy, considerate, empathetic, tolerant, beneficent, and to be there for the other.
I believe in attraction at first sight, like at first sight, and of course the old standby, lust at first sight. But love at first sight? Not so much. Maybe because I’m a woman–Dr. Fisher says, “Women are custodians of the egg, so they are more careful romantically.” I like Dr. Cohen’s more nuanced approach.
We romance authors have a lot of fun playing with these “three systems of romantic love” in plotting our stories. No matter how the hero and heroine start out, the fun of the conflict is getting both partners to Dr. Cohen’s end point: to be loyal, consistent, candid, trustworthy, considerate, empathetic, tolerant, beneficent, and there for each other, the happily-ever-after or happy-for-now of the romance genre.
So just for fun, let’s take a quick look at a few bestselling novels and see if Cupid’s arrow strikes our hero and heroine at first meeting:
Dangerous in Diamonds, by Madeline Hunter
Hero: The Duke of Castleford is instantly in lust when he meets Daphne.
Heroine: Daphne notices the Duke’s good looks, but since she knows that being “in lust” is a common state for him, she finds him very undesirable.
NOT love at first sight. The fun in this book is watching the Duke win Daphne over and watching Daphne force him to be a better man.
Lord Perfect, by Loretta Chase
Hero: Benedict Carsington is so stricken by the beauty of the unknown heroine he can’t breathe. Moments later he is taken with her wit, and then can’t stop thinking about her.
Heroine: Bathsheba Wingate is so stricken by the beauty of the unknown aristocrat she can’t breathe. Moments later when she must speak with him she is giddy and blushing.
The attraction between this hero and heroine is deep and convincing, as is the conflict keeping them apart. This is as close to a love at first sight story as any I can think of.
One Dance with a Duke, by Tessa Dare
Hero: The Duke of Morland is forced into a dance by the heroine and when he looks her over, he finds little to admire.
Heroine: Lady Amelia’s only interest in the Duke is getting him to forgive her brother’s gambling debt.
NOT love at first sight, but they are married two days later and the fun in this book is watching the marriage become a love match.
Between the Devil and Ian Eversea, by Julie Anne Long
Hero: Ian Eversea distrusts and dislikes the American heiress who’s arrived to find a husband.
Heroine: Titania Danforth is instantly attracted to the handsome bad boy hero–a lady-like lust at first sight.
NOT love at first sight. The fun in this story is watching the heroine mirror the hero’s flirtatious behavior, forcing him to see his own flaws and become a better man, and of course, winning him over.
While these are all Regency romances, I don’t think the biology of mating has changed much in two hundred years. If you have a contemporary you love, please share!
So what about you–do you believe in love at first sight? Does your favorite romance novel start with two people crazy for each other or two people who can’t stand each other?
Images: first image courtesy Depositphotos, second and third images courtesy Wikimedia, book covers are from Amazon.com