Delayed Sparks Can Still Start a Fire

I read Date Lab in the Washington Post every week. I even had the Date Lab person come to the library to do a program around Valentine’s Day one year. If you read it, you know that a second date is rare. People meet, they have dinner and drinks and then, for the most part, never see each other again. In some cases it makes sense. They just aren’t a good match and don’t really enjoy the date. Many times, though, both people say they enjoyed the date. They had a good time and had a lot in common. They rate the date a 4 or 5 out of 5, but then never go on another date. Why? Generally, they say there was no “spark”. I guess they are looking for something magical, something more than just enjoying their company. I guess they think that will always come on the first date or it’s not worth pursuing. I think I understand why they are single and using a dating service. The “spark” is not always immediate.

I knew my wife for a while before I ever considered dating her. When we first met, she was still dating her high school boyfriend. She probably barely noticed me. We eventually ended up in the same friend group and spent more time in the vicinity of each other. She broke up with the high school boyfriend, but was then dating another friend of mine.  We were around each other a lot, but still did not have the “spark” that everyone is looking for today. Again, I doubt she really knew who I was. Eventually, she was single again and I was interested. I’m still not sure she though much about me outside of my being friends with her friends. Our friends figured out I was interested and started manufacturing ways to get us together. Once they all backed out of a movie night so we would go alone. Eventually, I guess she experienced the “spark” and we were officially a couple. We are still married 25 years later. I guess it’s a good thing we didn’t dismiss the idea of dating because we didn’t “feel a spark” the first time we met.

My advice to the date lab people and dating people in general: if you enjoy spending time with someone, don’t give up after a first date just because you didn’t fall in love immediately.  Sometimes sparks take time.

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2 Comments

  1. When people do form relationships based on that spark, they sometimes think something’s gone wrong when that initial excitement inevitably diminishes even as a deeper love grows. They think they’ve fallen out of love because their hearts don’t necessarily race when their significant others walk into the room, and they cut promising relationships short because ‘the magic went away.’
    That’s actually an inevitable development, and the deeper love that can only exist when people really know each other in the way only time makes possible is much more nourishing and sustaining than the infatuation between near-strangers that may have started things off. It’s that deeper love that enables us to be there for each other through raising children, through job losses and cancer and growing old as well as the shared joys.
    Dorothy Tennov wrote a great book titled “Love and Limerence” on this subject. Limerence is a synonym for infatuation, a.k.a. lust at first sight.
    To return to your starting metaphor, it helps to remember that people don’t cook over the roaring flames during the first minutes of a fire – they cook the food that nourishes them over the coals that are still burning even though the showy flames have subsided.

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