Looking for the “Spark” Could Be Keeping You from Real Love
It isn’t a popular opinion, but when we head out into the dating realm, we need to forget about the idea of a spark.
When I say “spark” I mean that thought that an instantaneous, out-of-this-world connection is the only indicator of love. It’s a romantic and intoxicating notion, but the truth is when we get lost looking for that magic spark, we lose out on the possibility for real connection and lasting relationship.
A spark is different from chemistry
This isn’t to say that you should try to force a relationship with someone who you’re clearly not connecting with. Sparks can fly, but if they don’t, it’s not the deal breaker we’ve been led to believe it should be.
Sparks, by their nature, are fleeting. They’re beautiful and electric, but they don’t last. Sure, sometimes they can be used to start a fire. But more often than not, most sparks burn up into the atmosphere. When you think about a fire, the elements that keep it burning for the long term aren’t the sparks. That can help it start, but it’s certainly not the only way to start a fire. What keeps a fire burning needs to be much more powerful: oxygen, fodder, and attention.
Scripture actually warns us to avoid that really basic attraction in love. “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised,” Proverbs 31:30 (otherwise known as the anthem for an ideal relationship) say.
That’s our focus—to find a partner who fears the Lord.
It may not be a red flag if you don’t feel immediately smitten on your first date.
The two-date rule
There are a lot of great love stories that begin with people saying they knew instantly. Or it was love at first sight. But there are just as many beautiful love stories that don’t start that way.
I remember when I was in high school, I asked my mom and dad independently if they fell in love at first sight. Dad said, “Yes, of course. Your mother is my soulmate.”
Mom said, “Hah! No.”
Now they’re celebrating thirty happy years of marriage.
I have a friend whose rule is to go on a minimum of two days with a man before she makes a decision if she wants to continue. She doesn’t think one date is sufficient to get enough of a picture to know how you feel. After two dates, though, if there’s not chemistry, you’ll know.
There have been first dates she came back from very unsure. But after a second date, she felt peace knowing that she didn’t write someone off for lack of a spark. Sometimes it even opened the door beyond a second date, even if it wasn’t a love connection in the long run.
Beware of the test drive mentality
A lot of secular culture leans heavily on only the emotional pieces of love. That’s why divorce is so prevalent and people aren’t as wary of having sex outside of marriage. My friends outside of the Church call it “the test drive.” They believe if you don’t experience every part of a relationship (including sex) before you commit, then you’re just setting yourself up for failure.
The problem is that theory is entirely based on the emotional part of love. But marriage and holy love are way more intricate and intimate than just simple emotion.
“The freedom of giving oneself to another is a decision that requires a conscious harmony. It’s not about a simple mutual attraction, an emotion, a moment or a phase. It’s a journey,” Pope Francis said.
When you approach dating and relationships with the mentality of the Christian vows—better or worse, rich or poor, sickness or health—the spark becomes something that seems inconsequential compared to the depth of connection that weathering the challenges of life together offers.
Keep your eye on the prize
Dating, especially online dating, can sometimes feel a bit like a claw machine. There are many great prizes in front of us, some seem more accessible than others, and actually getting one can be a challenge. But the difference is huge (and not just that one is obviously a game). Because in a claw machine, when you finally grab something and drop it into the bin to collect it, that’s the end.
But in love (for all relationships, really), that’s just the very beginning. Finding a person isn’t actually the end goal of dating. Beginning a partnered journey to heaven is. That journey will require a lot more than a spark in order to last a lifetime!
Erin is a Catholic writer living on the windy plains of Kansas. She loves reading, dark chocolate, sunflowers, and learning to cook.