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Dr. Ayshe Talay-Ongan Headshot

Falling in Love at First Sight: Falling Is the Easy Part

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Falling in love is the Holy Grail and part and parcel of marriage in Western cultures. How many times over the years have we seen images of young women, mostly on TV and in the movies, telling their friends and family that they are in love with stars and pixie dust in their eyes? Plus, we are inundated with the expectation that when one is in love, marriage is justified; in fact, we fall in love and we get married, right? Well, obviously something is amiss in this scenario -- just look at the divorce rates!

First, this notion of falling in love and uniting lives based on romantic love is a relatively new one. Throughout history, if we look at how marriages took place, we see that they were mostly arranged unions, propelled by status, monetary benefit or similar advantage to the families of the future partners. Marriage then was a logical, sensible, strategic partnership. A maiden's heart may still have fluttered at the sight of a certain dashing young man, to be sure -- after all, falling in love is the essence of our humanity -- but marriage because of falling in love? Very rare and quite unlikely.

So first we, as contemporary Western women, should count our blessings for not being forced into unions that we may have loathed. Let us stop and consider that in many cultures around the globe, women are still seen as a commodity to be used and abused. That for many women, pursuit of happiness is not a right, but a fantasy.

Secondly, let us take a closer look at falling in love. Think about the very first boy who took your breath away; that kid that you just could not stop thinking about... was that falling in love? And how many times has that happened to us since? Here's my point: We probably fall in love quite a few times and it starts from our childhood. As we mature, our criteria for "marriage material" men also evolve and change. We may think that a guy is hot, even take him to bed, but few women would stake their lives on looks or sex alone.

So then, to the point: Is it possible to fall in love on first sight? The answer is, yes, but even such a 'thunderbolt' could not be sustained unless a woman's intuition, topped with her increasing knowledge of the character of that person, were at play. When women sense a certain depth of character, feelings of compassion and empathy and genuineness in the person they were swept away by, they start paying attention to that relationship, and begin nurturing it. So love at first sight may slowly evolve into a relationship.

Falling in love with the worthy other is like being entrusted with the rarest, most beautiful orchid. It needs deepening knowledge of one another to sustain it. It needs growing, compassionate and empathic friendship to walk in each other's shoes to support it. It needs mutual freedom and respect to breathe in so it can flourish. It needs not just one day, one week, one month, but years to mellow and gain depth of flavor that makes the happiness it generates essential to the couple's existence -- indeed, like good wine or ripened cheese that is a feast for the palate. It cannot be taken for granted, because it will wilt away. And a sad dry twig is no orchid.

Remaining in love is hard work that comes easy if it's the real thing. If anything that's worth doing is worth doing well, then loving well is worth the world.