A man and woman laughing whilst at a cafe

I was wondering… if we have a spark

An hour of your time. That’s all it takes to ensure a rosy romantic future. Meet a stranger, look into their eyes, throw around a few words and glances, and wait for the chemical reaction. If you feel it – the frisson, the shudder, the flutter – rejoice! The foundation for a wonderful relationship is laid. If not, if there’s nothing there but another human staring back, with all their imperfections, it’s time to shrug and move on. Back to the drawing board. Back to trawling profile after profile. Back to the awkward opening messages and attempts at originality. It’ll be worth it though. Knowing that the next one could have it. Yes, it.

You know what I’m talking about: the longed-for, elusive spark. The reason, very possibly, you’re here reading this and not galloping on gilded unicorns down a beach at sunset with your soulmate while cherubs play harps.

That’s not me! you cry, I’m not looking for the impossible. I just want to feel… something. And the timescales for this are limited. I have an hour, maybe two, and if it’s not tweaking my heart by then I know this person could never mean anything romantic to me.

Pause, dear friend, and reconsider. Do you know who would actually be a good partner for you? And would you know when you encountered them for the first time? A sweet lady who had been single for 14 years who appeared on British TV series First Dates (discreetly filmed blind dates, well matched by the TV company) tearfully explained at the end of an evening with a man who shared her interests, passions, and sense of humour, who had commented enthusiastically on her “lovely heart” and how much she had to offer, and how much she deserved to be happy, and wanted to see her again, was a non-starter for her because there was no… can you guess? Spark. “Maybe I had really high expectations,” she said, after wiping her tears, “But I can’t help it. I’m the person that wants that fairytale ending.” I howled (what do you mean I’m overinvested?), a renowned psychotherapist despaired, and the entire nation (what do you mean I’m exaggerating?) threw its hands in the air. I’ve encountered many real life similar situations, and I am moving swiftly towards a zero tolerance approach on sparks. They are no indicator of a successful relationship, but rather a barrier to genuine connection. Sparks suggest we know someone more than we possibly could. They tell the lie that what we’re projecting on someone after eye contact or a conversation that seems to go deep very quickly is a sign of long-standing potential. Relationships are made not bestowed from on high. A spark may be one tiny element of what evolves into a great partnership, or it may be gone in a week. Sparks are not to be trusted – how often does one dater feel them only to be surprised the other didn’t? So before you write off a pleasant first meeting that didn’t set your world alight, will you ask yourself a few questions?

What could have been different about this date that would convince me a second was worthwhile?

How should a dating relationship unfold, and does my past suggest I am repeating mistakes – for example, am I always meeting people where the spark isn’t mutual?

Do I have such a fixed idea of what my future partner and relationship will be like that I am closed to people who might actually be really good for me, and me for them?

Is there anything holding me back from starting a relationship, like a fear of getting close to someone, that makes it easier to find reasons not to?

Who do I know in healthy relationships now who laugh at the idea of a spark when they first met their partner, and what would they suggest I do?

What if there’s no such thing as a spark and the only time I felt one was in that café with dodgy electrics and nylon carpets?

So, no more no spark talk, if I may be so bold. Instead, give it time, work out what might be causing you to write off someone after date – or even message – one. You’re obviously excused if they’re in any way mean, dangerous, or abusive and if you think you feel a spark even then, please message me asap. But why not see what could develop if you reset your expectations?

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