What's the science behind the hormones, chemicals, and feelings that make you fall head over heels for a complete stranger?
Even the most cold-hearted, jaded, and cynical hater out there has dreamed about falling in love at first sight at least once. Who hasn’t fantasized about walking down the street one day and locking eyes with a complete stranger and feeling like the world stops for a second? It’s just you and that person, falling in love without having spoken a word to each other. We fantasize about love at first sight because many of us believe in the idea of soulmates and want to think it’s possible to meet them one day and know immediately that we found “the one.”
But is there any scientific evidence that love at first sight exists? Apparently, it does, but not in the way you’d want it to. Here we're going to explore some of the mechanisms involved in falling in love at first sight: all the hormones, attraction, and feelings.
In Psychology Today, Dr. Aaron Ben-Zeév explains that love at first sight is intense. When you see the person for the first time, the first thing you feel is sexual attraction. You are struck by how beautiful and sexy that person is, and you’d do anything in the world to be with them. But it’s also possible to have all the romantic feelings you would feel for a partner you’ve been with for some time: the affection, the tenderness, the longing, the attachment, and the need to be with that person.
The brain quickly releases hormones and chemicals like dopamine, oxytocin, and adrenaline into your bloodstream, which make you feel extremely happy and excited. You feel like this is the one, and that everything will work out and you’ll be happy together forever. This reaction, actually, is very similar to how drug addiction feels. It’s like you've become addicted to that person in a very short span of time, and now all you want to do is think about them and be with them.
On top of that, that person is so beautiful, and you’re so attracted to them that you forget that you don’t actually know them, and assign personality traits to them based on what you’d like your partner to be like. You imagine them to be funny, smart, kind, adventurous, and great in bed, which leads you to become even more attached to them and care more about them.
Of course, all this can happen in a few minutes, or even seconds. It’s like our brain is wired to make us fall in love all the time, even if an actual relationship with that person might not turn out that great in reality. And in a way, we are wired that way. Our brain and our body is designed to make us want to have sex and reproduce. The human species literally depends on it. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we’re attracted to people who are young, strong, and beautiful: our body knows that they are the best candidates to make a baby with. In order words, when your brain is attracted to someone, it’s because your body already knows that your genes and their genes would make some super cute and healthy babies.
So, to recap, love at first sight exists, and it can happen to you when you least expect it. That’s the good news. The bad news is that there’s no guarantee that this intense form of love will transform into the more stable, profound love that long-term relationships are about. In other words, you might fall in love just from looking at them for a few seconds, but what happens when you talk to them? What if you don’t have anything in common? Or what if they have the worst sense of humor in the world? A real interaction with them could easily burst your bubble.
Will reading all this make you see Romeo + Juliet differently? Probably not, but it might make you rethink how you see love at first sight.
Images from Romeo + Juliet (1996)
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