In defense of “instalove”

CakeOne of the (many might say “overused”)  tropes of romance novels is two characters meeting and, in the course of a weekend or even just one night, falling madly in love with one another.  Often, so much happens during the course of the story that it’s easy to forget how little “real” time has actually gone by.  It feels unrealistic to many of us, when we realize this couple just met a day or two earlier.

Recently, however, an acquaintance mentioned on a forum that he’d met his partner of about twenty (or longer—I don’t recall) years and gone home with him that night.  They’d been together ever since.  Then an interesting thing happened—quite a lot of people started telling their stories of “love at first sight” developing into long-term relationships.  I also realized that I was one of those people.

My husband and I met at a get-together in Portsmouth, while I was living with someone I’d been with for several years.  No, we didn’t fall into each others arms or do anything else that would have been inappropriate for me to do while I was seeing someone else.   But we talked for a long time and he made quite an impression on me.  Years later, when my current relationship had finally and utterly fallen apart, I dated for a short time, but my thoughts kept coming back to this guy I’d really connected with years ago at a coffee talk.  I didn’t even remember his name.

So I called the friends who’d hosted the gathering.  When I said, “Do you remember this guy I was talking to the whole time who knew a lot about Norse mythology?” I expected them to say, “It was years ago?  How the hell would we remember who you were talking to?”  Instead, they shocked me by saying, “That was probably Erich.”

So they contacted Erich and told him they knew a psycho-stalker who’d been interested in him years ago, and would he like to risk his life by emailing me?  Fortunately for me, he was foolish enough to do it.

So, yes, there was that gap, created by circumstances.  But I’d be lying if I said our courtship was slow.  We met and hung out for an afternoon, after which I said, “Do you want to have sex?” or some equivalent of that, and we did.  We had to wait nine years for same-sex marriage to become legal in our state, but the first night Erich and I got together after that, he proposed.  We were married the same year the law went into effect, moved into a house together, and got a dog to torment my three cats.

We still seem to be doing all right.

Can relationships begin more slowly?  Certainly.  In the past, I’ve met men who didn’t interest me until I got to know them.  Then suddenly something clicked and I was head-over-heels.  Oddly enough, those were the relationships that didn’t work out, ultimately.  But of course, for others, that’s the story of their long-term romance.

This past weekend, I attended the wedding of a couple who met at one of the parties hosted by Erich and his housemates twenty-one years ago.  Was it “love at first sight” for them?  I think it was.  At any rate, I think it’s silly to deny that “instalove” happens.  It happens all the time.  I would argue that it’s embedded in the human psyche—it’s a behavior we’re often prone to.

And it frequently works out well.



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14 responses to “In defense of “instalove”

  1. I’m being accused of insta-love all the time in my stories. And it’s true. I use it a lot. I use it because I know it exists. I fell for my ex (we were together 24 years until his death) in one or two nights. My current relationship is the same. We met, were nuts about each other immediately, and never looked back. Now, like you, we’re married. I know some readers and reviewers don’t like insta-love in their books. But I’m not really writing for them, I’m writing for myself. I think it makes for a great romance.

  2. Monique

    I hope to find the same kind of love you both have and have written about someday.

  3. Grace

    I got this on Chocies. Though they had seen each other and been attracted to each other for quite a while before they actually met. but then the first night they were togther, they basically stayed up pretty much all night talking. Seems to me, you can get the measure of a person quite a bit in that amount of time. *shrug* But yeah, I got a lot of flak over that. But I agree with John, I think that it DOES happen and I think there’s as much of a story figuring out how to make “instalove” (I hate that word) work than a slow falling in love. (And for the record, my hub and I, though we were quite a distance apart, pretty much fell in love immediately, too. We hit 11 years married in August. :P)

  4. That’s the trouble with tropes — sometimes they are realisty. Me too, Jamie. I met Jim through a club we were both in. We had talked on the phone and written to each other, but ddid not actually meet for a couple months. Then he drove up to where I lived and we spent a couple days together. I know the very moment I fell in love with him… we were visiting a cave and when they turned off the lights to show you how dark it was, he sensed my claustrophobia and took my arm. We did not move in together that day, but when we went to a conference together a few weeks later it was a done deal.

    Our anniversary is Dec 20. We’ll have been together 32 years.. quite a bit longer than either of out parents.

    Kit Moss

  5. cpatti

    No question about the fact that it happens IMO. The trick is, it has to have happened to YOU in order to be as sure about it as we are.

    I will spare you my own story, but I have never experienced elation anything close to what I felt walking home after that first date. I now know what people mean when they say “my feet never touched the ground” 🙂

  6. What a lovely story! I do believe in instalove although I’ve never felt that myself. I’ve had too many people tell me about their instant connection to dismiss it. I love stories that have it in it as well as those stories without it. Variety is good. 😀

  7. suebrownstories

    Okay, to play devil’s advocate, is that love or lust?

    • With me and Erich? It was a sense of connection, combined with a little lust. 😉 But not just lust–I’d slept with plenty of men I knew weren’t right for me.

      • cpatti

        Yes, that’s precisely it and you’ve phrased it very well “a sense of connection”. Talking about it later, both of us walked away from our first date feeling something akin to that feeling that you get when you haven’t seen a very old friend for years and enjoy that almost cathartic sense of *connection* when you finally get to hang out.

    • cpatti

      How can one truly separate the two? Romantic love pretty much always contains SOME element of lust, otherwise it wouldn’t be romantic, right?

  8. I believe in Insta-love… when I was 7 months pregnant with my Daughter I moved back to my home town and when my brother-in law picked me up from the station and drove me home there was a stranger standing on the house steps (turns out he was my brother’s best friend and co-worker) as soon as I saw his face I blurted out “I’m going to marry you one day.” Everyone laughed at me because at the time he was engaged to someone else… But year later we met by chance again and I’m now married to him. been together 10 years now… So there is such a thing as insta-love.

  9. B. Snow

    I think I would buy “love at first connection” rather than “love at first sight”. LAFS reminds me too much of an old romance novel I read in which the hero “fell in love” with the heroine the first time he really saw her face. I was like, “SRSLY???” What if she’d been a horrible person inside? What if she tripped and fell five minutes after their meeting, winding up with a scar on her forehead — would he fall out of love because her face wasn’t perfect anymore? Yeah, romance novels of the 1970s….I’m not sad those days are gone. 😛

    That said, a good enough author can set things up so I’ll believe them, even with a seemingly ridiculous premise. But no matter how much the initial attraction, if you haven’t at least *talked* to the person or had some kind of interaction (and made that connection mentioned in comments above), I’d have a hard time believing that it’s insta-love.
    (My connection story — 2nd sr. year of college, talking to a guy for hours near the bathroom at a party. I’d met him before but hadn’t really talked to him. I remember thinking, “He’s really funny! Why haven’t I been going out with *him* for the past four years (vs. my loser boyfriends who dumped me)?” Took awhile, but I snagged him permanently in 1996. 🙂 )

    • I agree, it takes more than just seeing them across the room and thinking, “Wow! He’s HOT!” But I think the groundwork for a permanent relationship can occur in an evening or even a single conversation, during which each person is subconsciously evaluating the personality and interests of the other.

  10. I’ve always lived an instalove relationship on a more profound level than one were the feelings grew over time. And when it’s over, it leaves behind much stronger memories, be them on the sweet or bitter side.

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