Stop Looking for That Elusive Spark

Photo of a man and woman's hands with a spark going between them, indicating that they feel sexual chemistry which does not necessarily lead to love.I recently came across a story of a woman who was in a long term relationship (several years) with a man that she described as emotionally available, kind, funny who kept her very satisfied in the bedroom.

They also have an amazing friendship.

He asked her to marry him.

She said no.

She went on to say that while she loved him very much, she knew it was never going to work out in the long term because she never felt that elusive spark.

She felt like she would be settling.

Honestly, I was stunned. I had to read it again, just to make sure I wasn't missing something.

This woman was talking about a man who she feels is her best friend. He's kind, funny, fully available and sexy, they have great sex and she loves him. He wants a commitment.

But something is missing? She feels like she'd be settling?

It was such a reminder of what settling really is and isn't.

I know this is an extreme example, and most, if not all of us would be smart enough to say “yes” to this guy and start growing old together, but the reality is that a version of this happens to so many of us all the time.

It just happens a lot sooner, typically on the first date or two.

We meet a guy who, for all intents and purposes, should be our dream guy, but we're just not feeling it.

We don't feel that chemistry, that spark. So we politely decline when he tries for date number three (sometimes even date number two).

The problem here is this belief in the all empowering spark – it's the fairy tale that we all believe we need to have in order for a relationship to turn into love.

It’s time to clarify something here that is completely misunderstood.

For this post I'll use the word spark to mean chemistry, butterflies, fireworks, that "oh wow, I can't believe he picked me" feeling that we feel with certain guys.  You know exactly what I’m talking about.

The truth is, the spark does not equal love.

In fact, the spark and love are completely unrelated.

They are two totally different things. They are like two complete strangers who happen to be at the same party.

A spark does not guarantee love any more than a sunny day means the lake water will be warm and the swimming will be great. It might happen, but it might not. If it does happen, it will be mostly a coincidence.

In fact, in my experience, the greater the spark and the faster the flame of love grows, the quicker it dies out (or even worse, gets out of control and burns everything in sight in true disaster fashion).

But, you say, my friend met her husband and they hit it off with the spark right away, and they've been in love for 15 years and she still feels the spark.

Like I said, it can happen, it's just a coincidence. It's not guaranteed to happen.

In fact, I might go as far to say that it didn't really happen. What your friend thought was a spark was actually just her ability to feel real love faster.

Some people just take longer to get to the real love. But if you get to real love in one date or one week or one year, it doesn't matter. The end result is the same – you're totally in love.

Even when people had that fiery spark in the beginning, it fades. If someone tells you that they still have that same feeling after years and years, then what they actually felt in the beginning is deep love, not a spark. They were just lucky enough to recognize it right away.

Some of us take a little while to recognize it, but that doesn't make it any less wonderful. It's still amazing love whether you recognize it when your eyes first meet or if you recognize it after dating for a while.

It's like a fire – if you have a huge pile of wood, and you douse it with gasoline, it will erupt into a huge burning bonfire almost immediately after tossing a match onto it.

But if it's not already doused with gasoline, then it might take a little while to get the kindling going, then get the larger pieces burning, until finally it's that same large bonfire. Either way, the end result is the same.

It takes time to come to this on our own.

It takes time to see that spark for what it is – and,  more importantly, for what it isn't.

But when you've had enough of everything you've been settling for in the name of that almighty spark, there’s a beautiful life and a beautiful love that’s waiting for you. You just have to see for what it really is.

Don’t be like our friend from the story and walk away from a lovely bonfire just because it started a little differently than you thought it would.

Do you have any "spark" stories to share? Tell us about it in the comments!

About Jane

Comments

  1. Kind of men or women who search for the spark and excitement
    All the time , I think there is an emotional hunger (what I had) then .
    By that I mean you can become addicted to the
    Spark feeling, if you don't look out.

    I believe that you can love or cherish someone and feel like "that's my boo"... Without all that spark stuff.
    But why in the world must there be "spark and big music" all the time.
    Sound to me like a fairy tale!

    I felt the spark for my ex, spark all the way! And while I was all energetic and feelin good (because of the spark and attention)
    , I missed all the red flags. Because I thought , love=should feel the spark .
    Hey I didn't even look at his manners or character , as long as I was feeling that fire ...
    What I thought was endless love.

    Which now I see as a kind of stupid way of thinking and looking towards love.
    Love does not hurt, it is kind and warm. It's an energy which gives you security but at
    The same time also questions you " are you happy" . Love is something that just grows and can grow if
    You give it room.

    Spark to me sounds like a short term feeling of excitement and happiness.
    It's like going to a concert, it makes you feel woohoo and happy for a couple of hours.
    But then your back to reality....
    Sparks It can make the love grow but it can also make you blind for the truth.

    This lady that wrote you the letter does not appreciate what she has. She should!
    This man sounds worthy to love.

    I think the lady should question her own emotions and ask herself
    If she is the right women which he can love and cherish? Is she ready for that kind of love
    From this man?

    I pray that I go through what I must to learn and see , so when my man comes
    I will be able to love him the right way.
    And your kind of man sound good haha :)

    • You summarized this all so beautifully, Maris. The realities, the feelings, the questions, the things we miss when we get so caught up in what we think matters more than anything. Only to find that there's so much more that matters so much more!

      And know that you will, Maris; when it all falls into place, when it all comes together, it's because the timing is right, the people are right, and you get all this and what it means to settle - and what it doesn't. You'll know - and so will he! :)

  2. Courtney says:

    In 2009 my x asked me out n I said yes by accidentally but I knew I had to say no. There was a bit of spark then n on 11/5/10 I broke the r-ship off bcoz I didn't feel a spark n stopped loving him bcoz he was dirty and did bad things but were on the same page.

    The last guy I liked that ended the friendship a few months ago. When I talked to him he was nice n when I was thinking about him I could see sparks happening even in my dreams. He didn't see sparks happening. All I dream about is fantasy on me n the guy. I sometimes call myself a dreamer.

    • It's the reality that matters more than anything else, Courtney. It's a beautiful thing to be a dreamer; don't change that part of you! But make sure you can tell the difference between fantasy and reality. We can live far too much of our lives living in the fantasy of what we so want a relationship - and a person - to be, while the reality of our lives goes on without us. Take the time to do those reality checks for yourself; you don't deserve to be hurt by what a true reality check always sees.

  3. Robin Nieman says:

    I met my best friend in June o 2012. We became friends right away. We spent almost every day together with his 2 great daughters. In Oct. We started fwb. The sex was great. I moved in with him in Dec. and for the next year and a half; we went through several crisis's with his cancer and other health issues. I fell in love with him. When he felt better he felt smothered. Wanted to play the field. We still spent almost every day together.. he asked me to be his gf. I said yes and after a week wanted to break up; so I left. He wanted me to still be friends. I said too hard but agreed to the breakup. We text now on and off; but we cancelled our trio to disneyworld and Tennessee. Broke my heart but did not think I could pull off the friend thing. He is going to need back surgery. We have been there for each other. He helped me realize over the 2 1/2 years that I am special. We feel good around each other. The sex was amazing until I said no. A week ago. The spark was faint and grew over time to we just fit. Don't know if he will come around to want to be with me as gf. But dont think i can settle for less. We still call each other our pet names and he still calls and does his chimpamzee love soothing sounds for me. I will just have to wait to see if he still feels like i do.

    • Your inner strength comes through here so beautifully, Robin. You can see the reality of your relationship - of where he is and where you are - and as much as it broke your heart, you realized what you were willing and were not willing to settle for to be with him. Whether he comes around or not, you know who you are and what you deserve. It's always about that choice; that personal decision of what matters most to us, and what we need.

      It's a wonderful thing to be friends first, to build your relationship over time. But as you've found out, it's always about being on the same page and wanting the same level of commitment in a relationship. This isn't about you; he's going to do what he wants to do. And you have to be true to yourself about what you can and can't live with. Whatever he does, keep living your own life, Robin. You're not here to convince anyone of why he should want to be with you; if he's truly right for you, he'll know. And so will you.

  4. I dont know about this article. I mean, I agree that the woman was kinda nuts for turning him down, but the real thing on my mind was why was she spending years with somebody she didn't feel something for? It sounds like she knew she wasn't in love with him, and just trying to force it because it seemed like a good fit on paper.

    I can't imagine love without that spark. What is love without that little shot of magic to make you come alive and bring your gray world back into color? I mean, without that, I do feel like you are just settling. What is the point of spending all that time with somebody when there is no true attraction? This article makes it sound like you are reducing love to a simple friendship. Well then, of course "love" is easy to find if all you are looking for is a friend to raise a child with. But for many of us, there is more to it than that.

    You talk about that huge bonfire, and mention it can be built slowly or quickly. Yes, of course. But what starts that very fire in the first place? A SPARK. Sure, the spark alone may not be enough on its own to get that fire roaring. . But without that spark you got nothing. True love may be a big roaring fire. True love may be a long slow deep burn. But it needs to start with that spark, otherwise you just have two friends and a big pile of unburned wood.

    • I hear what you're saying here, Sky, and it's so true that we all have to decide for ourselves what settling is and isn't. You're the only one who knows what that looks like to you, but if it's a committed relationship with someone who's on the same page as you, who wants the same type of relationship as you, when you make that spark the only thing that matters, it's hard not to find yourself settling in so many other ways.

      There's always a reason we find that spark all too often with someone who isn't good for us, as much as we don't want to believe it at the time. When we blind ourselves to all the other things that aren't there, all the other things that we excuse or gloss over or pretend will get better simply because we're living for that spark, we miss the whole point of what true love really is. It's so many things; and it's so much more than just that spark.

      Don't limit yourself; there's a whole real love out there ready to find you if you're open to something more.

  5. Jane,
    This article hits home right now. I agree with the statement "the quicker the flame lights up, the quicker it goes out.." I recently met someone and we had undeniable chemistry right off the bat.. We've been in contact over the past month and have seen each other about 3 times.. so although there was a definite spark, it's going pretty slow. The only problem is he lives in the city, and I in the suburbs. I have so much fun with him, but I agree it's important to keep in check that love is a separate entity... It just feels so confusing because we have the best time together, but we don't keep in steady contact.. Is it wise to see this through? I've been initiating the contact mostly, but he seems to respond right away.. I know he's just as much a romantic as myself and is definitely into me.. wish he would show it first though!

    • It's all about what you can live with, Theresa. What you're getting from him in terms of steady contact is obviously what he's comfortable with - for his own reasons that have nothing to do with you - so if it seems slow or he isn't doing much of the initiating, it's because this is what feels most comfortable to him. If you can remember that it takes time to really get to know someone and fill the time in between him with the rest of your life, then you'll probably be more on the same page here.

      But if you want more than this and aren't able to keep this slow pace comfortably for yourself without feeling like you're missing something, then see what happens if you stop doing the initiating. Does he pick up the slack you create and start doing the initiating himself? Does he fill in that space by coming closer to you? Or does he let that space stay the same and the slack remain the way it is without you making all the moves? That's how you'll know more than anything; by his actions more than his words. It's always easy for someone to respond; it requires much more of a commitment and a personal investment to reach out and initiate for himself.

      It's as wise as it feels to you, Theresa. If a relationship is meant to be, it will be. But only if you have two people on the same page, who want the same thing and are willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen. Trust your gut instinct, trust yourself. Those little red flags that come up are clues for you to figure out what you need to do for you. No matter what it seems like, deep down, you always know.

  6. So this seems contradictory to me: we keep hearing that if he doesn't "feel it" then he's not the right one and we need to recognize that but this seems to be saying just because I don't "feel it" doesn't mean there's nothing there. My last guy said he was hoping that desire would grow but it just hadn't - although we enjoyed a lot of the same things and had a good time together - and everything I hear says that that fire just has to be there and if it's not then it's because he's not in the right place (or something) - I had plenty of spark in that case but he didn't. Now in this example the guy feels the spark but she doesn't and we're hearing that she should recognize a good thing and not throw it away - is this as much of a double standard or contradiction as it seems like to me (or am I just being thick?)? Maybe I'm the only undesirable reject.

    • I hear what you're saying Alex, and no, you're not just being "thick" – this is a difficult concept for many of us to grasp - myself included! And let me also say that you are absolutely not an "undesirable reject"! In fact, you're the complete opposite – you are amazingly desirable – for the guy that's right for you! This last guy just wasn't the right one for you.

      I want to make an important distinction here – because I think this is where so many of us get hung up on this – there's a big difference between being attracted to someone, which is very important, and feeling that "spark", or "butterflies" or "fireworks", which, at best, is a very short term excitement, and at worst is a sign that you should actually be avoiding the relationship because there's some anxiety or other emotional problem that's causing these feelings of what many people believe are just a mixture of nervousness and anxiety.

      Typically, if we look honestly at ourselves, the reason we feel butterflies or fireworks comes down to something like "OMG, he's so out of my league, I can't believe he's dating me" or "I like him so much, I can't blow it with him" or some other fear or insecurity.

      To put this in perspective, imagine you were 100% confident that you could pick out any guy that you wanted and he would be madly in love with you. You absolutely knew, without a doubt, that every single guy out there would simply jump at the chance to be with you – that it was completely your decision as to who you wanted to pick. Would you still feel butterflies or fireworks? I'm sure you wouldn't.

      You would simply meet guys and, knowing that they were all hoping for the chance to love you and make you happy, you would then spend time with each one evaluating whether or not they met YOUR standards. You would decide who you were going to spend the rest of your life with based purely on who met YOUR criteria. Being attracted to him would, of course, be part of those criteria, but it would only be one piece of it. You would also look at things like kindness, intelligence, integrity, etc. But you would never have that sense of nervousness – because him loving you wholeheartedly would be a given. He was standing in line with all of the other guys just to have a chance at being with you. When you think of it like this, it's hard to argue that what we refer to as "spark" is anything more than insecurity and anxiety in disguise.

      Now, back to the woman in our story (which, by the way, was something I read on another blog a while back – this was not from one of our readers). She admits to having great sex, which tells me that there must be at least some level of attraction. So if she's sexually attracted to him, best friends with him, he's emotionally available, kind and wants a commitment, then what's left to define as "spark"? There are many reasons she might think their relationship is lacking spark – but they all have to do with her own emotional issues. Most likely, deep down inside, she believes she's unworthy of love for one reason or another, and so anyone that loves her must not be any good themselves - this is one of the most common issues that causes us to self-sabotage our love lives.

      All too many of us do this very same thing to varying degrees. We don't want the "nice guy" who's open about his love for us and wants to make us happy - instead we go for the "bad boy" who treats us like something disposable, which makes us want him even more – and makes us feel this so-called spark even more! It's truly mind-boggling when you think about it, and I know because I've been there too.

      To your point about this being a double standard, I would say that it's not a double standard at all – I would give men the exact same advice.
      The difference is that you can't change what he does – you can only change what YOU do. So if he's making the choice to walk away because he doesn't think he's feeling the spark, there's not a whole lot you can do, with the exception of walking away and staying away and hoping that he then feels that sense of loss and wants to win you back. That may be what he feels is spark. But if you can't do this authentically, as I talked about in my post about being hard to get, not playing hard to get, then it's just a game and won't be sustainable.

      I hope this helps clarify this article for you,Alex. Know that you are absolutely perfect just the way you are and when you do meet the right guy, you'll be attracted to him, he'll be attracted to you, and you'll know it's right. Maybe not by those butterflies but by everything else that matters.

  7. HI, thank you for this awesome post and all great comments...I´ve been writing you before and I´m STILL suffering from the hangover of that "relationship" ( I wrote a post in october under He just wants to be friend) . I never felt that kind of spark as for this man before and in combination with my fair of letting that go and his selfish way of using my attention let me to just recently decide me do walk away. That is the hardest thing I have ever done before , because that spark, that crazy feeling that you would do anything, I did anything and everything, to hold on to that feeling is overwhelming and addictive and obsessive and the hormones going around in your body makes you believe it is love. I have now started to think that maybe those feelings are just the contrary, signs of badness and maybe they should be taken as warning signs and nothing else? But it also makes me sad, I really want to believe it would be posible to combine real love AND those feelings. Then when I feel bad I hear what you are saying and believe in it, it IS posible, but until you find it you don't know right...a friendship that grows to love and you realise it is the biggest bon fire you ever lived before, a spark on a first date that does not continue with tears and suffer but just smooth and clear..I want to believe in that ...cause of cause, love must contain fire..after all, thats what distinguish friendship and love right? Back to my situation..I am still suffering cause I decided to walk away and let all my time of waiting for this guy now come out of my body as tears, as pain..its liberating but also extremely painful but would just hurt more for every week I postponed the mouring for a spark that wasn't let to be love. What hurts me so much more is that he HAS that love already, in his girlfriend..and I hear his words when he describes his love for her, like you say, a burning breathtaking feeling that is so deep..and what he felt for me was puppy love and he could not let that grow cause than his girlfriends would disagree ( sure babe, how couldn't see...). It just really hurts to feel that huge spark for someone and wanting to let that grow and the fact that the man also feels it but chose to walk away from it cause he has got REAL love...it still makes me wanna vomit. I have started to see a psychologist for this issue..this guy walked into my life, f***** me over, over and over and walks away without a scratch and I end up and the scrynch having hard times every day...I try to see this as something I will walk out of stronger than ever before and also to be able to know when the spark is just a little devil...

    • I so hear your struggle here, Alva. On the one hand, you're seeing this so much more clearly; that all those huge sparks were red flags and warning signs like I talk about in response to another comment on this subject here. That you need to have the real things, not just those sparks, in order to make a real relationship work. It wasn't you; this wasn't at all about you and what you weren't or couldn't be that someone else was. This is simply a reality check that you weren't able to see for yourself when you were in it, that that guy wasn't right for you, and you could never have been happy with him in the long run if it had continued.

      I know firsthand how good we are at telling ourselves a different story, on getting ourselves to believe that if only we had done something different, if only we had been more than what we were, that we could have had a different outcome, that fairytale, that false happily ever after that can never come from being with someone who isn't on your page, that isn't right for you, no matter how much we fight that reality and try to make it something else.

      We do so much damage to ourselves when we don't see it for what it is, and we let all those other things - the feelings, the what ifs, the if onlys - and most of all, the harsh treatment of our beautiful selves, get in the way of what is only a gift of being saved from any more heartbreak than we've already been through. Of course it hurts to hear that he's found this with someone else, but don't take any of that on yourself. This isn't about you. This is about him. When you're with someone who's truly right for you, he will love you like you've never been loved before. It won't be with the same level of intensity in terms of that illusive spark that has so little to do with real love, but it will be better and more real than anything you've ever felt before.

      Be so proud of yourself, Alva, for getting the help you need to get through this, for being open to seeing what can be so hard to hear, for giving yourself the chance at a whole new life and a whole new kind of love that starts with a choice to do something different to get a different result next time. You can do this - you're already seeing this so much more clearly! - and it is truly beautiful to see you putting into words the very questions that will get you to the other side simply by being courageous enough to ask them of yourself. Beautiful, Alva, keep pushing through. You're worth so much more than what you've had! So much more!

  8. Jackie Morrison says:

    There is a big difference between compatibility and chemistry. Sparks are chemistry and misleading. Comparability is more about how well matched people are by personality, temperament, etc and a better benchmark for long-term success and satisfaction.

    • So true, Jackie; and how easily we can confuse the two!

      • Jackie Morrison says:

        The spark is a chemical reaction and not all sparks become a flame. Compatibility is distinct from chemical and more likely to cause an enduring flame. Fires rise from a smoldering of embers after all. Most often a spark is like a sugar rush - short and sweet but rarely forever.

        • Exactly, Jackie. Because if you aren't truly compatible in the ways that matter, what do you really have?

  9. Gender Envoy says:

    "No spark" is just a euphemistic way of saying that she isn't physically attracted to the poor guy. Its good that she is not making a commitment to him. Better to end it now with honesty and candour.

    • I might have thought that too, however the woman in our story says that they enjoy great sex together, which tells me that she must by physically attracted to him - at least somewhat - and that they have some level of sexual chemistry.

  10. Thanks Jane! This is my hardest struggling ever but I have accepted it and will be fine, but it will take some time. It was the first time I opened up for anyone, the first guy that told me that he was in love with me, and it takes time to come over the first "love" right.That it happened when Im about to be 30 and have my body pumped with hormones and will to find someone didn't easy it..So, I´d like to conclude the things we written, and I think it is like you previously said, each one of us has to decide when it is right for her and it is not really possible for us to judge or advice someone if their relationship is "the right one". But I do believe, truly, that when it is right, we will not doubt anymore. We are all here because we have a hard time accepting, but deep down we know it, that this time it was not right. Otherwise we would not be here trying to find answers and truths. When its right, everything will be right and there will be no doubt whether he is the one or not..it will simply be ..right.

  11. Desiree says:

    Jane,
    As a seventeen year old girl, I watched romance movies about couples finding each other, and eventually feeling the spark. Sometimes I would imagine feeling a spark from a special someone knowing that maybe he is the one for the future. I try imaging what sex would be like for me, but for some reason, I can't picture it for some reason, even when I masturbate. I feel that maybe it's my "estrogen drive" that's already dead. I can't picture myself having sex. I feel like their is something stopping me from those thoughts that my inner self wants to dive into. I am a Christian, and I know that lust is one of the seven deadly sins, but I'd like to imagine what kind of guy would turn me on, make me orgasm, touch every part of my body. Oh god, I want to have sex so bad! I am a virgin, and I'm trying to wait until marriage, but maybe I should lose my virginity if I want to have sex that bad. I fear that I won't be good in bed because I've never had first on experience of being in bed with someone. I fear that when I'm married, my future husband will leave me because I can't perform well in bed and I'll start blaming myself. I also fear that if I have sex when I'm married that my husband would pass out and die, leaving me to blame myself, and not even forgive myself thinking maybe if we didn't make love, he'd still be alive. I fantasize myself single, and uninterested in men, but then develop a craving for wanting to be and feel loved, and eventually have sex. I am still a virgin, but think maybe I should lose my virginity. What do you think? Please help.

  12. Desiree says:

    Jane, sometimes I question when I'll lose my virginity. Will I enjoy it? Or will I hate it? I fear that when I have sex, I'll be too shy to orgasm and enjoy sex, and then my future husband will possibly leave me. Help me Jane.

    • Don't worry about the details, Desiree. When you're with someone who you're truly compatible with - who's right for you - everything will fall into place. If you take your time to really get to know someone before committing to him to make sure you're both on the same page, you won't have to worry about him leaving you.

I'd love to hear from you. Let me know what you think!

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