An Instant Spark In A Relationship Could Be A Major Red Flag. Here's Why

As a society, we adore a good tale of love at first sight. From movies that depict star-crossed soulmates to the absolutely booming business of romance novels, entire industries are built around that instant spark of chemistry that means you've found "the one."

However, this concept doesn't translate easily into the modern world of dating. In fact, expecting huge emotional fireworks may be an obstacle to discovering partners that align with you on a deeper level. Say you meet someone online and have fun chatting, but then feel no spark when you finally meet. This can be a huge disappointment that discourages you from getting together again — even if you'd been enjoying your conversations before.

On the flip side, feeling an instant attraction and jumping in with both feet doesn't promise relationship longevity, and can instead result in a string of short-term flings. That's perfect if you're only seeking casual fun, but isn't always the basis of a more significant partnership. It's no wonder that, after rounds of fruitless dating and hookups that went nowhere, many people find themselves wondering whether or not love at first sight is even possible. Most of the time, it seems that love is not as simple as waiting for attraction to strike like lightning and reveal your perfect match. Rather, here's what those sparks may actually mean.

What relationship sparks could really indicate

Much as our hearts hate to admit it, sometimes feeling a zing of electricity with a potential partner doesn't mean much. For one thing, if they're the type of person who just oozes natural charm, it's possible that they give off sparks with nearly everyone. Maybe they're just a textbook extrovert who loves connecting with people. This can certainly make you feel special, but doesn't always indicate anything deeper.

If your new beau has a wide narcissistic streak, there's also the chance that they're stoking the spark of your interest to feed their own ego. Unfortunately, many narcissists can be very charismatic, making your flirtations feel fun and exciting even when there is no genuine, long-term interest on their end. Keep an eye out for selfish dating behaviors like breadcrumbing in relationships to determine whether your crush is actually on the same level.

Finally, and perhaps most tragically, that heart-pounding connection may be purely physical. Our brains are hardwired to react to attractive pheromones, so that spark may just be a message from your body that it perceives someone as a viable mate (per BetterHelp). This basic sign of sexual compatibility is fine for a no-strings-attached relationship, but don't get it confused with a sign that you've encountered your soulmate. A few weeks down the line, you may find yourself realizing that you have nothing in common beyond that chemical attraction.

Of course, some people do hit the jackpot and immediately vibe with the love of their life. But the foundations of your greatest relationships don't have to start with fireworks, and that certainly shouldn't be your only metric to judge whether someone is worth a second date. Instead, there are other signs that your new partner could be a keeper.

What to look for in your next partner, instead

If instant attraction isn't the best indicator of lasting romance, you're probably wondering how you should approach your search for companionship. To begin with, it's important to give new partners time to open up — so long as there aren't any obvious red flags or signs of disrespect. "It's important to give someone a chance as you build the relationship, even if you don't feel that initial pang of chemistry," Logan Ury, Hinge's Director of Relationship Science, tells InStyle. "The right relationship might take some time to warm up, but it'll be worth the wait."

When going out with someone you're not sure about, it's also important to check in with yourself after each date. Maybe you didn't feel an instant thrill, but were you relaxed and comfortable? Did your partner make you feel good about yourself? Were you engaged and entertained? Sometimes, genuine romantic connections can begin feeling more like good friendships. So if you're enjoying your time together and feel curious about your partner despite a lack of spark, it may be worth giving the relationship a few more dates, at least.

"Eff the spark," says Ury. "I've come to see the spark, or instant chemistry, as one of the most dangerous concepts in modern dating. Expecting the spark causes us to miss out on amazing partners because we fail to see their true potential. ...The important thing to remember is that its absence doesn't predict failure, and its presence doesn't guarantee success."