Love at first sight: can long-lasting romance ever be sparked in an instant?
After rugby star Ben Foden announced he’d tied the knot just two weeks after meeting his new partner, Regina Lavelle asks the experts how you know when you’ve found ‘The One’
As wedding announcements go, Ben Foden’s was definitely a standout.
This week, the rugby star — who split from Saturdays singer Una Healy last year — confirmed he’d tied the knot on a yacht in Nantucket with an American businesswoman he had been dating for just two weeks, Jackie Belanoff Smith.
Even in the universe of celebrity relationships where things can happen pretty quickly, a two-week-marriage turnaround can still raise a few eyebrows.
“I met a girl who seriously swept me off my feet and, in a time of hardship, showed me love, a deep devoted love. People will say we are mad or crazy or even fools, as @snackyjax and I had only been dating seriously for a little over two weeks before deciding to get married. But when someone like her comes in to your life, why would I wait,” he asked in an Instagram post.
“The people who needed to know, such as close family and friends, were told before anyone else and they are happy for me, including my beautiful X wife @unahealy who I love even more for her blessing.”
Ben and Jackie’s relationship reminds us that for some couples, love at first sight doesn’t just happen in the movies. Remember Prince Harry’s admission that he knew Meghan Markle, now Duchess of Sussex, was the one from the “very first time” he met her?
Similarly, Portia De Rossi, admitted that she knew from the instant she met wife Ellen DeGeneres that she was the one for her.
Matt Damon said the same of wife Luciana and Emily Blunt of husband John Krasinski.
“We were discussing how much I was enjoying being single. And then my friend goes, ‘Oh my God, there’s my friend John’. And that was it. We were engaged within 10 months, but I think we probably knew before that,” Blunt told People Magazine.
And it’s not just in Hollywood that romance can bloom so suddenly. Raymond Rieke (62), a former photographer, happened upon his partner Jennifer Haskins (57) when he walked into the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire two years ago.
“It’s difficult to explain a feeling,” says Rieke, who is German. “I think it took just a second because I liked how she looks. I liked the relaxed face. It was also the open minded way she talked to me. It was relaxed from the beginning. My first thought was I see a very attractive woman. I am divorced, I was on the market again and I thought, ‘Why not?’.”
Haskins describes sitting on an armchair in the hotel foyer and Rieke coming in and asking if the chair beside her was free and opining that it was a beautiful day.
He announced that he was new in town and going to walk the pier.
“I said, ‘Oh, I’d love to be walking the pier’. It was a lovely evening and around 5.30pm. And he said, ‘Why don’t you join me?’,” recounts Haskins, who runs Dublin’s Two’s Company dating agency.
“I left my briefcase behind the reception desk and we headed off. I said to myself, ‘Well, it’s a walk. What can happen on a walk?’. Walking and talking in Dun Laoghaire is very safe. It was total instinct.
“We spent a couple of hours together. We got on so well that I showed him the park, and where I lived. When we were leaving, he asked if I’d like to meet for dinner.”
Haskins says that because there was no expectation, she may have been more open than she would normally have been.
“There was a level of comfort there,” she adds. “I probably didn’t ask myself the questions I would ask on a first date. I probably played it by ear. I was very welcoming and open and chatty and it sort
of spontaneously happened.”
While there is some research to suggest that the brain’s chemistry does change when we fall in love, with a release of dopamine, oxytocin, adrenaline and vasopressin, there is a difference between love and love at first sight.
And sometimes, there can be a difference between partners in terms of how the relationship is understood and interpreted.
Relationship coach and psychology lecturer, Annie Lavin, says that, often, men are more inclined to ascribe love at first sight to a relationship than women, but that one partner can try to persuade the other of a narrative.
“I would say love at first sight, or lust, is a strong initial attraction that would make someone open to the idea of a relationship,” says Lavin.
“That’s the initial feeling that one person can have. It’s very unusual for two people to have it at the same time. One person feels strongly this was their story. They can influence the other person. Then, of course,
it becomes this wonderful story. It’s a discourse a couple can have.
“Evidence suggests that men can feel this more so than women. For women, the evolutionary piece may be that they are looking for somebody with more than the potential to procreate.”
“The fact that I’ve had a lot of relationships has given me a broader perspective,” says Haskins. “What I’ve learned is that very few people have a type. They think they have a type, but they don’t know because they’ve never explored.
“I’ve dated all different nationalities and cultures and religions. As an individual, I am very open. Some people look through very detailed filters. But that filtering is eliminating the partners that may be best
It is Rieke, incidentally, who says, yes it was love at first sight, but perhaps for Haskins, it’s a case of belief in the power of keeping one’s eyes open.