Beautiful Girls

Is Love at First Sight Real? 3 Women Weigh In

When we are tiny things, we are led to believe that love at first sight is real. Upon meeting the One, you will find yourself completely and utterly breathless. After exchanging smiles (words won’t be necessary), euphoria takes over. Your soul will exit your body and you will let it. It belongs to the One now.

As we grow older, we begin to wonder whether we’ve been duped, that perhaps our fairy-tale moment isn’t going to happen, but we’re reminded that these ideals still exist! “When you know, you know,” we’re told by smug, slightly swaying aunts, who at family gatherings target the uncoupled as if they’re a Venusian operative sent to ensure there’s enough offspring for the sister planet.

All this romance business sounds gorgeous, truly. But do we really still believe in love at first sight?

If you spent your youth viewing depictions of love, electric moments paired with a thumping, puberty-inducing soundtrack, there’s a chance your brain has been compromised. Messages about perfect, instant love are everywhere: Cinderella and The Little Mermaid, even The Godfather with the “thunderbolt” moment between Michael Corleone and Apollonia. Or maybe the Twilight saga was more your thing in which a dog-boy falls in love with his ex’s infant daughter in a morally haunting CGI-challenged montage.

The trope of love at first sight has been perpetuated since ancient Greece and little has been done to subvert it. Instead, reality television has cashed in with The Bachelor, Love Is Blind, and Married at First Sight. At the same time, real-life examples of instant attraction so strong we call it love feel exceedingly rare. Chances are you know a grandparent or older neighbor who instantly identified their partner of 50-plus years as the One, but these stories feel almost exclusive to another century. In the era of endless dating options, do real people ever experience love at first sight? 

Turns out they do. Breanna Espina, 26, had somewhat of a fairy-tale moment in her early 20s. She was at a party in California when she met Farzad. “It was love at first sight, without a doubt,” she says. He was in his late 30s and, until that day, hadn’t been ready to settle down. “He asked me to marry him on day three after being a playboy until he was 37.” After several months working abroad, Breanna returned to the U.S. and they tied the knot. They now live in Dallas with their two little boys.

That’s a textbook happy ending, but there’s evidence to suggest other love-at-first-sight narratives may be tinged with a bit of revisionist history. According to a study published by researchers at Anglia Ruskin University, instant love can be a couple’s curated memory, a story used to bring more romance into the partnership, rather than an accurate account of events.

Isabel Booth, 26, had just signed up to Tinder when she was struck with love at first swipe—or at least a strong attraction. “I wasn’t looking for love,” she says. “I was just browsing. I was stagnant in my love life, so my friends suggested I download it. I matched with a few guys, but I wasn’t excited about any of them.” She pressed on, trudging through the muck that is modern dating. Eventually she matched with Mert, who would be her first Tinder date. “When I first saw him on Tinder, I really liked his profile. He’s an actor, so he had great photos. He’s quite handsome,” she says. Despite not speaking the same language, the two quickly fell in love. “When I told my sister I was going on the date, she said: ‘Don’t come back and tell me you’re in love!’” Two weeks later Isabel and Mert were living together. Two years later they’re engaged and living in Turkey, his home country.

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