happiness

Love At First Sight: A Misnomer.

{Photo credit: Jim Wern}

{Photo credit: Jim Wern}

In a culture that worships romance, it’s not the sparks that fly, but the Sparks who writes that is king.

We all want to be Allie Nelson and Noah Calhoun, standing in the rain, passionately expressing their love with a big, wet kiss. Our notions of love and affection have been shaped by these visions of romance and beauty in books and on screen, but love, true love, is something far different from most fairy tale stories.

We forget about the difficult expressions of love and the challenges that the older version of Noah Calhoun faced loving the older version of Allie Nelson in her dementia. That is real love. We would much rather focus on the part about falling in love than being the love.

Falling in love at first sight is such a misnomer. It’s similar to the phrase losing weight. Generally, people don’t just wake up one day and think: Did I misplace 10 pounds? I sure feel lighter. Falling happens suddenly. You can fall asleep, fall off a cliff, and fall from grace in a split second, but falling in love doesn’t happen that way.

Couples don’t trip into love, or roll off the bed into love. People who fall in love quickly misunderstand the meaning of love.  Lust, like, and even attraction can come on without warning. They can feel amazing and wonderful, but they can be confused with love or even substituted for love.

They are not bad things, in and of themselves, but they are only the early stages of a potential relationship. We need those things to begin the process of love. Sociologists say that attraction is necessary for the protection and continuation of the species. I’d like to think of love as more than just a means for procuring life.

Love, real love, is different. It shouldn’t be a means for surviving. It should be someone’s reason for surviving. Without that other person, half of them is absent.

At the beginning of a relationship, the couple is usually flirting, giving flowers, and discussing developing feelings, but all of that is fleeting. We don’t always feel like flirting using flowers, but for a relationship to sustain, there must be something deeper — deeper than instantaneous attraction.

There needs to be a foundation of love, not just an overlay of affection.

I remember the moment I realized that I loved my girlfriend, now wife, like it was yesterday. I didn’t date much in high school and college. Talk to my therapist if you want to know about all of my issues, but I was insecure. I grew up in a home that didn’t express a lot of emotion. The moment a girl got emotional, I was out.

After a couple of attempts at dating, I decided to call it quits. Then I met this amazing girl who was different. In order to keep from mucking things up, I decided I would not kiss her till I could tell her that I loved her — incomparably loved her, like the older versions of Calhoun and Nelson.

Don’t get me wrong. I wanted to kiss her after the first date. For months, we held hands and cuddled — guilty on those counts. We had long talks, fun dates, and enjoyed each other’s company.

One day, she received a call from her mom. Her favorite cousin had died in a car crash. She was at home, and I was at my house. She called me, sobbing, overcome with grief. In the past, I would have ended the relationship right there, but something inside of me broke. It was the wall to my heart. I felt the excruciating pain in her.

All I wanted to do was hold her and wipe her tears. Then it hit me. I loved this woman. Oh my God! I didn’t need to kiss her to know that I loved her. Nothing else mattered. She was never more beautiful than in that moment of deep pain when she had nothing to offer. Love was what I could give back. No, it was all I could give back.

Love is holding someone’s hair while they hurl their guts out after their third round of chemo. Love is letting your spouse sleep while you get up for the fifth time in the middle of the night to calm a crying baby. Love is selling your collector’s edition baseball cards to pay for your partner to finish their education.

If falling in love at first sight means falling into these situations with a person you just met, then maybe you can fall in love. However, this kind of relationship usually takes time, takes effort, and takes sacrifice. Few budding romances are able to achieve this level of intimacy and depth in a short period of time.

Love is not a sprint, but a marathon that involves as much mind and heart as it does muscle.

Love is the product of intentional acts of service toward another, resulting in feelings of care, admiration, and commitment. Don’t get me wrong. I think attraction and affection are important first steps towards building love. When you fuse love with lust, holy shit, you get a powerful chemical reaction that causes the earth to move.

I am all for feeling the love, but being the love is a difficult task. Love, true love, goes the distance.

I didn’t finish my story about the first time I realized that I loved my wife. As we finished our conversation, I ended our call with I love you. There was silence… and then… I love you too. Without going into detail, let’s just say that the next day when we saw each other, sparks flew and the kisses flowed like rain. Pun intended.

So, next time you fall in love at first sight, ask yourself these questions:

  • How many times have I fallen for someone at first sight, and how long has it lasted?
  • Could I hold this person’s hair while they vomit?
  • Could I love them without hair?
  • If I couldn’t have sex with this person, would I still love them?

Love shouldn’t be easily given, but, when it is given, it should be given deeply. When it is reciprocal, then the feelings, the intimacy, and the sex will be the best you have ever had. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe the slower you move into love, the longer it lasts.

No relationship is perfect, and any relationship can fall apart, but love at first sight often ends as quickly as it began.

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JimWernJim Wern is a renaissance man in a modern world; a spiritual traveler, searching for vestiges of the divine in humanity and imparting seeds of hope in a desolate world. He is a husband, father, friend, mentor, creative, tech geek, amateur writer, photographer and chef. His ramblings can be found at his website. He lives in sunny Southern California with his beautiful wife of 31 years.

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