"Love at first sight" is a well-known expression, but how real is it? Over my career, I've heard countless couples refer to how quickly they fell in love—some say it was instantaneous, others say it took time. Now, the latest research tells us that it is possible to fall in love in as little as a fraction of a second. But the reality is that doesn't always lead to lasting love. Advice: Is Finding A Soul Mate Unrealistic?
One study, conducted by Syracuse University Professor Stephanie Ortigue, revealed that up to twelve areas of the brain are involved in falling in love, the net result of which is a feeling of euphoria not unlike the feeling derived from the use of cocaine. Researchers found that this could happen in as little as a fifth of a second. They also found that the experience of love is based on processes that take place not just in the brain, but also in the heart and stomach. "Butterflies" in the stomach when you see that special person are real! Falling in Love Takes A Fifth Of A Second
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Sociologist Helen Fisher says that it only takes seconds to size up a potential partner. In a flash, we scan the other person visually, then listen to his voice, and just like that—a decision is made. Either we mentally "pass," or we continue. These snap-of-the-finger processes are part of the brain's design, built in millions of years ago when we needed them to instantly discern who or what might be a source of danger. We have no control over those first few seconds, but after that, anything goes.
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Not everyone falls in love instantaneously. Surveys of long term couples typically find that only a small percentage of them report instant love. Most of them say that it took time—weeks or even months—to fall in love. Studies also show that the development of non-romantic love, or deep-rooted caring love, takes far longer, and many couples never get there. But the ones who last, do.
The problem with instant love is that it isn't accurate. Couples who fall in love quickly also tend to have sex, or marry, quickly. A 13-year longitudinal study by Tom Huston at the University of Texas Austin (Huston et al., 2001) found that couples with steady, longer courtship periods and awareness of each others' strengths and weaknesses were more likely to remain happily married over the long term. By contrast, couples with "Hollywood Romances"—bursting, passionate courtships that quickly result in marriage — quickly grew dissatisfied as spouses, and predictably, were more likely to divorce within seven years. Are You Running Away From Love?