I read an article years ago concerning how this couple had met. It was during the 1940’s and this man was out looking for a job. He saw an ad in the paper for a dockperson needed so he arrived at the dock for the job only to get in line with about a hundred other people. Not to be dismayed he took his place at the end of the line. After a few moments someone else got in line behind him. A woman. For well over an hour the line moved along and meanwhile this man began conversation with the woman behind him, curious as to why a woman might be interested in working the docks.
Finally they each arrived at the front of the line, got their short aptitude test and afterwards turned them in. They were told it would be hours, perhaps the end of the day before applicants would be called back for further interview. The man invited this woman to dinner since they’d struck up such good conversation and by day’s end they had become quite enamored with one another. They met again the next day for their first date. Two days after that he proposed marriage and within a week of meeting for the very first time they were married. The story made it to the article I’d been reading because it was now their 40th anniversary.
Okay, so not everyone who met and married so quickly has stayed together for 40 years as this couple did, but the issue of ‘love at first sight’ cannot be set-aside so quickly either. Especially in light of people who spend up to six years or more in ‘dating’ mode, get married and divorce within three years. Surely it wasn’t because they didn’t know enough about each other by that time that there were great surprises upon saying, “I do.” Or could it be that something other than the amount of information we gather about a person is involved in a cohesive, successful match-up?
I’ve been asked several times, “Henry, do you believe in love at first sight?” My answer is always the same… “I believe we quickly know who we are ‘willing’ to love, and sometimes change our minds.” For myself, almost 95% of the time I can spend one afternoon with a person and, if they feel relaxed to be themselves, I’ll know within as little as twenty minutes whether I could ever even consider being committed to this person. In my past experience the way I felt one way or the other has rarely, if ever changed with getting to know the person better. Now mind you, I’m talking about my willingness and desire to investigate loving this person for a long term relationship… not to be confused with accurately judging someone’s character. When it comes to figuring out a person’s character I can be way off the mark, and have been on several occasions.
But determining the ‘willingness’ to fall in love on our own part is what I am able to believe happens almost at first sight. This is what I’ve seen bear true almost without fail. I’ve met kind, generous, affectionate, attractive, loving women and somehow knew right away that I myself would not be happy with this person as a lifelong mate. Not because they weren’t good people, I just knew they weren’t right for me in particular. She may be a bright,, Southern California dream-girl (I know one in particular) yet as sweet as she is I don’t find that ‘connection’ that inclines me to pursue a deep relationship. Similarly, with women I’ve met for the first time even as their hair was messed up, frantic from their schedule and passing in meeting yet I knew that if their was a mutual attraction between her and I, I would be willing to give it a real chance. This is where I think people everywhere feel that same ‘tug of willingness’ and presume they are “in love” at first sight.
Deeper than this is the initial reaction, or lack of reaction, we have to people. There are women I’ve met and reacted with the ‘willingness’ to fall in love and to this day I still care for them and their future. I felt that way when I met them and to this day can’t shake the care though the situation itself is resolved as impractical. We also meet people sometimes and find they are not as we first thought them to be. But still, after setting aside the possibility of a lifelong commitment with such a person, we still have a certain reaction that seems unalterable. Though they are nothing like we first imagined them to be, we care for them even if we aren’t still in love with them. And to this I mean a care that is elevated above that we have for just people in general.
I mentioned that sometimes people “.. change the minds”. These are the instances where we quickly find out information that corrects the incorrect impression we got of the person. There was only a nominal reaction to begin with, but upon seeing them slap a child, yell at a waitress or behave arrogantly in front of a mirror we quickly reassess them into the “wouldn’t be caught dead with ’em” category. But changing our minds happens the other way around too. Sometimes we meet someone and have the most repugnant or dull first impression of them. Perhaps we misunderstand the situation at hand or catch them in moment completely foreign to their natural character. Later we see them, or rather we see their qualities, as they are and reassess them into the “I could really go for a person like this” category.
I think the ‘I love you as a friend’ situation bears some evidence to what I say. People we have every reason to admire, trust, even love in a ‘Phileo’ (friendship) context we do not for some unknown reason ever fall into an Eros (male/female) relationship with. Somehow we know from the very outset that as close as we might allow ourselves to get with this person, inclinations of Eros love are highly unlikely to ever occur in our heart for them. We know this almost at ‘first sight’… the willingness to pursue a relationship or not. However, as I mentioned, in a minority of cases we change our mind and realize that there is no one else we could ever see ourselves with upon seeing the rare qualities of integrity they show as a friend. In this case our hearts take a turn and friendship makes that jump into actual love. A risk that only true desire can give us the courage to do.
As a side note… I think what’s given a cloud of confusion to the whole matter is the presumption that if someone sees someone of the opposite sex from a distance and says, “I think I’m in love” when what they really mean to say is, “I’d really like to have sex with that person for a few months” they are not only deluding themselves but using words they do not yet understand. The difference between love and lust is usually not hard to figure out. If my thoughts concerning someone are for their good and their future, to give love that seeks to be a helpmate to their life, then it will contrast sharply with the thoughts of lust which only seek to “get” for the satisfaction of the self. When we love we naturally do desire the person physically along with our care for them. But lust has no regard for the person, only for what lust can get to satisfy self.
So do I believe in love at first sight? Yes and no. Yes, I believe it happens.. we know who we are ‘willing’ to love and occasionally two people meet who both have this reaction to each other. And no, I don’t think you can easily make a commitment on a four-day tour of the soul without really, REALLY having some serious destiny at work. Some people call it a ‘gut feeling’ or ‘intuition’. I can’t help but wonder what the couple at the dock would’ve called it.
Henry Velez is a writer, traveler and vlogger currently living in the Philippines. He has written extensively on social issues, relationships and travel.