I am back for my fourth and final round of research on the topic of love. Or at least, it is supposed to be. I am considering extending my research on this topic to look even deeper into love to research the psychology behind love between friends, more about the sense of smell and love, how mutual hobbies and interests impact love, and more! Maybe
This week, I am going to be concluding with a little research on old tales of love, soulmates, and love at first sight. I'm also going to touch a little on some clichés in romance stories and the science behind them. This is just going to be a little conclusion where I wrap everything together with a little bit of fun.
If you are interested in reading my previous research on this topic, you can use the links below to do so.
Alright, now let's get into this
The first story I want to start with is an obvious one: Romeo and Juliet. If you know what happens in the story, feel free to skip ahead. Romeo and Juliet, written in 1597 by William Shakespeare, depicts a forbidden love. The story describes a romance between Romeo and Juliet, star-crossed lovers who fell infatuated at first sight. When Romeo first drops eyes on Juliet, he immediately becomes infatuated with her without any prior conversation or interactions. They're very passionate for one another, but they are torn apart from one another due to a clash between their families. Romeo's family and Juliet's family are set to hate one another, so them being wed is not only unheard of but forbidden. Juliet decides to fake her death to run away with Romeo. However, there is a bit of miscommunication; Romeo doesn't hear that Juliet is faking her death, and he simply finds her dead. He's distraught, deciding to kill himself to be reunited with her. Just as he dies, she wakes up again. Believing there is no point in living if she does not have Romeo, she kills herself. If you would like, here's a little video summary of the story that explains it a little more entertainingly (and goes into much more detail): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRrvQ1vZxcg
Shakespeare shows strong examples of lust and love in the romance between the two. Namely, Romeo starts out the story being madly in love with a woman named Rosaline, not even Juliet. A day after raving about his love for Rosaline, however, he falls in love with Juliet upon first sight. (2) This is a perfect example of infatuation and lust. Romeo goes from one person to the next with little thought or care. Had Romeo been in as love with Rosaline as he had claimed to be, could he have moved on so easily? Moreover, is his quick "love at first sight" real, and could it be?
This is one of the common themes of romance novellas that Shakespeare covers in Romeo in Juliet: love at first sight. He touches on many other clichéd romance topics, such as the idea that love brings great tragedy, and forbidden love. (5)
Love at first sight is something commonly found in fairy tales, old stories, and children's tales that I wanted to touch a little further on. On a survey from Elite Singles, 61% of women and 72% of men said they believe love at first sight is real. Psychology Today found evidence to suggest that love at first sight is real, but it is not quite what you think (3,9). Whether or not they believe you can fall in love instantly, you can know someone is right for you from the "very first time" you meet. Some examples of celebrities who have experienced such love include Prince Harry with Meghan Markle and Portia de Rossi with Ellen DeGeneres. An argument made against this kind of love is "memory bias" (memory bias: you enhance or impair how you recall memories to, in this context, make yourself fall for a person (4)) However, there is proof that has shown this is not applicable to all cases of this kind of love. Nevertheless, you are about 9 times more likely to fall in love with people considered physically attractive--ouch. (3) However, love at first sight is not entirely based on attractiveness in this case.
People develop their own algorithm for what is attractive and unattractive based on their past, their upbringing, and who they interacted with. Individuals find people who carry an appearance similar to ones who have already positively impacted them--so people who look like a good friend, a past lover, or a family member--extremely attractive. The inverse is true, too; if someone resembles a past bully, bad friend, or enemy, you're more likely to immediately dislike that person based on relative looks. This explains why sometimes you'll think someone is madly gorgeous when your friends will think they're not attractive at all. This phenomenon contributes greatly to the idea of love at first sight. You see, if someone resembles another individual who treated you well in the past, your mind will automatically think this new person will, therefore, treat you well in the future. (7)
Men report love at first sight more than women, but it isn't always mutual; it's usually one-sided, actually. However, researchers suspect that when retelling this one-sided story, the other person shifts towards the belief that they, too, were in love. (3,9) To put this happening into a more understandable example, let's say person A falls in love with person B at first sight. The two of them get together and down the line are talking about how they first met. Person A says they were in love with person B instantly and describes how there was immediate chemistry between the two of them. Person B is influenced by this belief, and they begin to see it how Person A saw there first interaction, believing they were in love at first sight, too, regardless of what they felt in the moment. As someone who has personally experienced that sort of a phenomenon (where you explain how you were enamoured by someone at first sight, and then inspect your initial interaction more and realize you were viewing it through a tinted lens and just making yourself like someone), I can say I agree with this theory. I don't really believe in love at first sight.
Psychology Today goes on to say that this sort of love is not true love. (3,6,7) The qualities that demonstrate love--such as passion, commitment, and intimacy--are not shown in the first moments when people "fall in love at first sight." However, this feeling is not just jargon; those who undergo this experience are often more open to experience emotions of love with their partner than those who do not. That is, it opens them to the possibility of a relationship. Keep in mind, though, that means (unlike fairy tales would have you believe) that this experience can happen many times in life. (3,9) Long story short, don't beat yourself up too much over the one that got away.
Ann Rosen Spector, a clinical psychologist with a PhD, claims that love at first sight is nothing more than strong attraction (3,6,9), compensation for loneliness (maybe you've been single too long so you're trying to put yourself back out there, maybe you just want a significant other really badly)(7,6), fear of aging (fear of dying alone maybe), reciprocation of feelings (you hear they love you, so you make yourself love them back), or even just frustration with dating (you're frustrated with who you're currently with, so you immediately want to snag whoever catches your eye). She says love is something very complex that takes time to be developed, it cannot just be crafted on the first glimpse of one another. (6) Don't let this discourage you from all love, though, just look a little closer when you think you're experiencing it.
If you want to read recalling of an interaction where a woman fell in love at first sight, you can check it out here. To give you the footnotes, she sees a man in a restaurant and is floored; his smile radiates "light and kindness." She says love at first sight is real but complex. After 6 years, they are still together and madly in love. This is one case where love at first sight not only turned out for the two of them, but it was also (we can assume) mutual. (10) However, there are some loopholes in this story. For example, when describing how she was attracted to him, it was largely because of appearance (his smile, his wave), and surface level things (his kindness). Her story sounds more like she was attracted to him and he ended up attracted to her more than as though there was some divine love at first sight and soulmate business going on. Moreover, she was in a situation where she would be in need of a close friend (lacking something, in this case perhaps companionship or comfort) as she was in a new country and just a few months over a breakup. Nonetheless, one cannot dispute her feelings, perhaps she was enamoured at first sight (and her story is very sweet.)
On this topic of lovers who are "meant to be", I'm going to look briefly into soul mates now. A soul mate is defined as "a person with whom one has a strong affinity, shared values and tastes, and often a romantic bond." (11) When you look up the term "soul mate," there is a lot to take in. Countless articles describing the different kinds of soul mates, how to tell when you've found your ideal soul mate, and what it's like being with them. Soul mates are often described as people you fall in love at first sight, automatically click with, and hear wedding bells when you lock eyes with them. (16)
Finding your soul mate cannot be scientifically proven, so it is hard to disprove it. Psych2go.net describes the signs you've found your soulmate as 1. comfort above all else (you feel at ease around them, regardless of where you are), 2. you guys complete each other (you balance one another out, regardless of how different you are), 3. you help each other to grow and become stronger (you aren't afraid of conflict, for it teaches you how to accept one another), and 4. you are your completely true self around them (they're your best friend, you feel like your life wouldn't be the same without them). (17) Soul mates don't even have to be romantic partners, they are just described as people you fit and feel comfortable with who help you to grow and be your best self. (17, 11)
Be careful, though, the desire to find your perfect soulmate can actually damage your relationships with others. Vanessa Van Edwards, behavioural investigator, says people can be categorized into two groups: destiny mindsets--those who believe there is only one ideal person for them (a soul mate), and growth mindsets-- those who believe you can be meant for many different people whom you grow with and interact with. A large difference between those who believe in soul mates and those who don't is their attitude towards relationships. Destiny mindset individuals believe that the slightest bump in a relationship can imply that the person they're with is not their ideal soul mate, causing for them to push away or drift apart. Those with destiny mindsets are less willing to work for a relationship and grow with their partner. They generally have an idea of their perfect partner in their mind and are not willing to compromise for someone who is less than that. If there is something off about their current partner, they flee for someone better. Individuals with a growth mindset, however, are more willing to work for their relationships and invest time into them because they genuinely believe that any relationship could be the one that's 'meant to be.' They understand that there are things you can grow to love about a person or tolerate to keep your relationship alive. Additionally, they understand that conflict between them and their partner is natural and something they have to work through, not a sign they should give up. (12,15,16) The desire to find a soulmate often decreases motivation to build a healthy relationship. (15)
Fun Fact: 73% of Americans, mostly men, believe in soul mates (12,15)
That's about all for this week! So, is love at first sight real? Do soulmates exist?
Thank you all for following along with my research this cycle (or dropping in for a round here and there), and I hope you guys had as much fun reading it as I had finding it. This cycle was really enjoyable to look into, so I would definitely like to continue working on this topic. What do you all think?
See you around
(1) - https://www.bbc.com/bitesize/g...s/z8dxg82/revision/2
(2) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9J4hoAatGRQ
(3) - https://www.psychologytoday.co...ove-first-sight-real
(4) - https://www.sciencedaily.com/t...of_memory_biases.htm
(5) - https://rivetedlit.com/2018/03...-cant-get-enough-of/
(6) - https://www.womenshealthmag.co...at-first-sight-real/
(7) - https://www.heysigmund.com/love-at-first-sight/
(8) -img - https://commons.wikimedia.org/...ord_Maddox_Brown.jpg
(9) - https://www.thisisinsider.com/...st-sight-real-2018-6
(10) - https://au.lifestyle.yahoo.com...-know-181003692.html
(11) - https://www.dictionary.com/browse/soulmate
(12) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtVHdOPLDTE
(13) - img - https://fityourself.club/is-th...l-mates-c904e3789f43
(14) - img - http://blogs.discovermagazine....-sight/#.XL_PdTBKjX4
(15) - https://www.scienceofpeople.com/soulmate/
(16) - https://www.realsimple.com/wor...uth-about-soul-mates
(17) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6M0cgcoxAPY
(18) - img - https://www.amazon.com/Removab...ildren/dp/B06W56GMVP