Do you need ‘the spark’ for a relationship to work?

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We’re exploring ‘the spark’ this month as part of our collaboration with Vaupel Design for the Human Touch installation at Vivid Sydney. Here Psychologist and Dating Coach Melanie Schilling explains there are two different kinds of ‘spark’ in the dating world. 

Recently, Sally, 28 from Sydney, went on what can only be described as the Perfect First Date with a guy who could only be described as THE Perfect Man – he was handsome, charming, witty and genuinely interested in her. “But more than that, we had this… spark!” she exclaimed the next day. “I was literally struggling to breathe at one point.”

Ah yes, the ‘spark’. We’ve all heard of it, felt it and wondered just how important it really is to a relationship. Is it crucial? Or is it like enjoying a fantastic bottle of wine – great for a first date to kick things off, but not exactly essential to a successful relationship?

According to eHarmony Psychologist and Dating Expert, Melanie Schilling, it’s important to note there are two types of ‘spark’; “I call them the ‘WOW’ and the ‘AHHH’. The WOW is often driven by hormonal reactions to the physical presence of an attractive mate. It is primal and based on our innate need for sexual connection and release. The WOW can be triggered by unconscious signs like a certain smell, sound or memory and it often creeps up on us before we even realise it.”

Melanie believes this is what Sally experienced on her date. “With the WOW, there’s a physical response, like Sally’s, with quickened pulse, sweating, dilated pupils and heightened sexual awareness.”

Needless to say, the WOW is typically short-lived and does not always translate into a deeper connection. The AHHH, on the other hand, is the slow burn. “This is typically based on a deeper connection, compatibility and shared values,” explains Melanie.

So the million dollar question; which one is better?! Depending on what you want, the answer is different. The WOW spark in isolation can lead to amazing casual encounters, but they tend to burn hard and fast, then blow out pretty quickly.

If you’d like your relationship to last longer than a tank of petrol, then you need the AHHH. “Whilst the AHHH can have similar physical responses as the WOW, it tends to be driven by different things,” says Melanie. “This is the basis for a longer term relationship. The AHHH is often less intense and more comfortable, less immediate and more sustainable.”

But what happens if you’re not sure you feel any spark on your first couple of dates? Should you be worried that the relationship is headed to Nowhereville?

Not necessarily. The good news is that the spark can be instantly present, but it can also develop over time. “I believe the AHHH can grow, with or without the presence of the WOW. Because long term, committed relationship success tends to be based on non-physical criteria (such as shared values, similar interests and the capacity to make your partner laugh), it has little to do with the WOW factor.”

The tricky part is making the call as to whether the spark is a WOW or an AHHH… or both. The important thing is that the compatibility between you two must trigger the AHHH spark because this is the difference between platonic friendship and romantic love.

For Sally, she says while at first her spark was definitely WOW, it turned into AHHH the more the two of them hung out together. “It’s been six months since our first date, and while there’s never been another date that has literally floored me quite like that first one, what we’ve found now is a deeper connection,” she says. “It’s less sparkly, but it’s way better!”

Mel’s final word on the whole ‘spark’ debate? “Look beyond the physical, exciting stuff, and examine your real criteria for relationship success. The only way a spark can become an authentic fire is to add the compatibility factor to the physical connection.”

What’s your opinion on ‘the spark’? Can you tell the difference between the AHH and the WOW?  Let us know in the comments below, or join the conversation @eHarmony_AU or on Facebook.com/eHarmonyaustralia.


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