Love at First Sight: How Perceptions Impact Love


The old adage, love at first sight, may be more scientific than we originally thought.

Author Erik Van Alstine, Automatic Influence, has researched the idea of perceptions impacting love.  He argues that love is not a feeling first, it is first a perception. The feeling of love follows. What we see or perceive about a person is a thought, which is the building block for the feeling of love.

Dissatisfied feelings may bring a couple into the therapy room, but understanding and readdressing perceptions can be an effective component of couples counseling. Developing a more realistic perception of one another could help energize your love relationship this Valentine season.

If love is first a perception, what happens when we begin to “fall out of love?”

The reasons are endless, but a review of how we perceive one another may be what is needed to jumpstart love in a struggling relationship.  This notion can be applied to all types of relationships.  Van Alstine suggests that our interpersonal images must be challenged periodically.  We owe it to ourselves and to those around us.

When we become comfortable in our outdated and incomplete perceptions, we feel and behave unrealistically.

Our perceptions about others and even ourselves are only slivers of truth.  The goal is to grow reality to love more honestly.  Therapy offers opportunity to review one’s self and one’s relationships with a third eye on a couple’s perceptions.

Van Alstine’s challenge for everyone is to “love to see people right in every moment of sight.”  This may be difficult to accomplish, but the application of seeing people right in every moment can be a relationship game changer.  His work shows that people who enlarge their perceptions find that they have a greater capacity to love, empathize, and value the other person.

When we are not truly “seen,” we feel hurt, frustrated, and devalued.

A lovely byproduct of people with a more realistic view of their partner’s story, heart, and character begin to serve one another in more loving ways.

The paradigm shift invites the partner to return the favor.  Doing unto others as we would wish done to ourselves benefits both parties in the relationship. Everybody wins!

Here are some helpful pointers:

  • Assume that your relationship perceptions need to be updated. Choosing to “see people right” is an act of courage and humility.  Everyone becomes complacent in the familiar, but the greater good is loving and relating better.
  • Change leads to seeing your partner more as who they truly are. Discovering your partner’s heart and character can lead to revitalized love and respect and a return in your relationship investment.
  • Practice applying your new perceptions “in every moment of sight.” Without repetition, one can easily slip into past assumptions and derail your progress.
  • Lastly, encourage yourselves by journaling the progress. Seeing is believing!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Sheri Schulze, LAPC

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