Insta-love 101: Why Insta-Love Just Doesn’t Work

I’m taking part in Insta-Love 101 hosted by A Novel Idea – a two week long event spread over many blogs (view the schedule) to discuss this ever so common feature of fiction today! If you know me, you know I don’t like romance novels. And I scorn insta-love. But now I want to explain just why I don’t like it…

Why Insta-Love Just Doesn’t Work

Imagine you are sat in a coffee shop, having your usual cappuccino and reading a book. You take your eyes off the page for just a second, and cast your gaze across the room. Immediately, you stop and stare at this breathtaking person, who in turn is staring at you. You can instantly feel the chemistry and right there you know you want to spend the rest of your life (or at least a large part of it) with this one person. You don’t know them, their name, their interests, story, anything. That latte they’re drinking may not even be their coffee preference. But still, you feel this overwhelming desire to be with them.

If that was me, I’d be completely and utterly freaked out.

Wouldn’t you? Why do our protaganists not think this feeling is weird? Why is it more acceptable or possible in fiction? Look, I get the whole star-crossed lovers, destined to be together thing – but I don’t think you can really come to that conclusion until you actually know someone (which rules Romeo and Juliet out…).

So why doesn’t insta-love work for me in books?

It is generally always based on appearances.

(image source)

It often tends to happen when the protagonist has seen someone for the first time, not spoken to them or had an all night in-depth conversation. Which to me just screams ‘shallow!’ and doesn’t really put the main character in a good light. Of course you can be instantly attracted to someone, physically at least, but how could you fall in love with them if you don’t know a thing about them?

You miss the soul-crushing excitement of having a possibly unrequited crush.

belle gaston
(image source)

Or is that just me?? Not knowing whether that person that you really like likes you back, feeling those butterflies every time you see them or talk to them, getting super excited when they contact you first. In most books I’ve read lately where there has been a budding romance, there’s been none of this. No big build up, just one little moment where both characters declare their feelings – and they NEVER get turned down! What is this magical world where everyone is instantly attracted to the ‘right’ person? Where’s the excitement in that? The sheer terror of your feelings being thrown back into your face? Pssh, who wants soppy perfect romance when you can have possibly unrequited love!

Characters tend to ignore everyone else in their life for their new ‘love’.

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(image source)

Okay, so you’ve known Mr. Smouldering Eyes for all of two minutes. It’s TOTALLY OKAY to now abandon and ignore everyone else in your life. Yes, I’m looking at you, Bella Swan! Just forget about those people who tried to help you ease into life at your new school. Just forget about your poor neglected dad who is trying so hard to make you feel comfortable in his home. Just throw all your cautions to the wind and go off with this guy, who on one of your first meetings looked as though the very sight of you was going to make him puke. Yeah. Good choice. *two thumbs up*

It takes time to fall in love.

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(image source)

Maybe this is more of a personal thing – but I do not believe in love at first sight. Sure, you can be really attracted to someone’s appearance when you first see them, but you don’t know the person inside. And you won’t until you spend time with them. See, Hades knows how it works. You get to know someone first – you go on dates, you chat, you share interests and passions.

From past experiences, I’m not particularly optimistic in relationships. Things happen that you don’t expect, they can be hard to maintain, you can lose interest, one person can want more than the other – they are hard. And I don’t think just loving someone is enough to keep it going, so insta-love as a device and answer for the perfect relationship seems like a bit of a laughable idea to me. And as much as I love the idea, I don’t think there is a ‘The One’ for everybody – so two people can’t be ‘destined’ to be together. It’s just a matter of finding someone attractive, both internally and externally, enjoying spending time with them, feeling yourself with them and feeling happy.

In conclusion, Insta-Love just doesn’t work because it’s not possible to love someone just like that. You need time to get to know them. Instant attraction is probably what most of our protagonists are feeling!

What are your thoughts on Insta-Love? Do you like it in books, or does it annoy you?

34 thoughts on “Insta-love 101: Why Insta-Love Just Doesn’t Work”

  1. Kinda, ya, I agree for the most part. Depends on how it is played in the book. Your second point especially – I am Ok with characters thinking they are in love instantly, because i will never downplay the power of a new crush. And from that a character may ignore his friends etc.

    I am ok with all this, as long as the narrative doesn’t want me to believe it is guaranteed to be happily ever after.

    1. I can see what you mean, new crushes can be pretty time-consuming. And I know they can seem super important, but characters always seem really naive to me if they think it’s love right away. Although I suppose the characters in question tend to be teenagers, and these are their first experiences. And in the examples I’m thinking of, it always seems to be happy ever after, or the characters believe it will be if the reader never really finds out.

  2. I agree that instalove just usually does not work! If you don’t know a person then it’s an attraction or lust or a crush, but not REAL LOVE that takes time to develop. And I absolutely love watching a good relationship unfold and blossom in a story. I think you made several great points on the matter and don’t really feel there’s anything to add!

    1. Yes! It’s so cute watching two people come together and realise just how much they mean to each other. Those little moments where you can see it happen are the best =)

  3. Insta-love just isn’t realistic. You can’t love someone if you don’t know that person. You an feel attracted to them, sure. There even can be some sort of insta-connection with someone, but love takes time. It’s not based on how hot someone is, but it’s build up by having conversations and by getting to know each other 🙂 I hate it when characters change their whole life and forget about everyone just because the guy has sexy abs.

    1. Exactly! You can get along with someone really well almost instantly, and find out you’ve got a lot in common – but I really don’t think it will be love until you learn more about them, not just facts but mannerisms etc.

      But apparently having a guy with sexy abs makes life perfect 😉 Pfft!

  4. Yeeeees, this post! Exactly! Exactly why I don’t like insta-love. I especially hate it when they fall in love just really quickly and it’s an A+ perfect relationship from the get-go. Like you said, relationships take time and work, and having a couple that just gets along about eeeeeverything doesn’t feel realistic.

    “Characters tend to ignore everyone else in their life for their new ‘love’.”

    OMG THIS. Every time an author whips this out, I groan. *sideyes at Katie Greene from Ink* It gets even worse when the other characters pop up just to fuel the love story, like suddenly jealous dude who was totally uninterested in MC at first. It’s just… Ugh. In the real world, I don’t think that behaviour is healthy at all. :/

    1. I refuse to believe it when the couples have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to complain about. I mean, their boyfriend/girlfriend has got to have at least one little flaw right?? Apparently not…

      I haven’t read Ink – I think I know the book, I’ve seen it around quite a few blogs. And oh god, don’t get me started on love triangles, haha! And it’s always the same formula. One life long best friend who is suddenly hot, and the mysterious new guy!

  5. I did a post for this too… and honestly, I don’t think instalove works. A prime example of this is that it usually happens in high school and most of the people I know who married high school sweethearts aren’t married anymore. I understand though in books it has to be used though so they can rush us into the relationship and then get on with the plot.

    1. It’s sad, but true =( I think if an author has to rush through a relationship like that then they really haven’t thought things through =( I know some relationships move very quickly, but still…

  6. I love this post! You are so right, and insta-love bugs the hell out of me. Not only is it shallow, but if someone told me ‘I love you’ after knowing them for hours or days I would take than as a sign to RUN from that crazy person.

    The Bella Swan point is especially true, she rejects all of the things in life we need – friends, attentive parents – and chooses the guy who breaks into her house to watch her sleep….. Great message to be giving young girls Stephenie Meyer.

    1. I love it when that happens in films or on TV and the characters actually DO run away! I know that I read a LOT of fantasy and sci-fi, so I can’t complain about things being ‘realistic’, but there are some elements that always carry over – like how humans react, how our relationships work etc. And insta-love will always bug me, no matter what type of novel it’s in.

      Yes, and that’s why it’s even worse – he’s not some really nice guy who is trying to help her settle into her new life – he’s a cold, unfriendly stranger who pretty much says to her face that he’s incredibly dangerous.

  7. I completely agree with everything you said!

    I don’t mind if a character develops a crush immediately, and is brought back down to earth with a bump. But when two characters are instantly attracted to one another, to the point of obsession, and nothing brings them down – like, reality. Then I have to roll my eyes and stop reading.

    1. Haha, and you feel like screaming ‘get a room!’ at them =P I know when I’ve had serious crushes I’ve been at LEAST able to think of other things… 😉

  8. I completely agree. Not only is instalove entirely unrealistic, it’s also bloody ridiculous when you think about the logic behind it. I can understand and relate to insta-attraction. I am attracted to people at first sight all the time. I can’t help it if they’re hot. But to say “Yeah, that’s the guy I’m going to marry!” as soon as you spot them is silly. And also really weird.

    As for the “possibly unrequited crush” thing – YES. I’m currently experiencing this, and while it’s confusing and sometimes kind of sad, it’s exciting and fun. I wish I could be instantly attracted to the right person, but it simply never happens.

    I don’t believe in destiny either, and I don’t think there’s a “The One”. I do think that you can connect so much with someone that you fall head over heels for them, whether it’s requited or not, but that takes time – months, years – and communication and passion and chemistry.

    So yeah, I hate instalove in books and movies and TV shows.

    1. Oh yes, otherwise we’d never have our wonderful celebrity crushes! I mean, there are lots of actors etc I find very attractive *coughcough*Michael Fassbender*cough* – but I’m not in love with them, because I literally know nothing about them.

      Aw, Amber! I hope it doesn’t get you too down. But there are definitely fun parts to it, right?

      I’m glad someone agrees with me with the whole ‘The One’ thing. I thought I was being super unromantic and pessimistic 😉 But it just seems kind of silly.

  9. YES! These are all the reasons I get annoyed with Insta-love too. I don’t really believe in love at first sight either – I think it’s something you have to work at. My parents (and pretty much everyone in my family for generations) had an arranged marriage, so I strongly believe that you can grow to love someone when you spend your lives together.

    1. Ooh, that’s interesting! Just goes to show to all those instalove fictional couples (if we could show them, that is =P) that it really doesn’t have to be love at first sight, and you might not always be interested in the person you end up with when you first meet them.

      Have you ever read any books that included arranged marriages?

      1. I haven’t, but it’s really common in India so maybe if I read more books set there? I think there are probably a lot of books where the royalty/nobility have arranged marriages for political power as well – I can’t think of any at the moment!
        Actually A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini involves arranged marriages but that was child marriage and obviously was not portrayed positively.

      2. This is true. And yes, it does happen a lot in fantasy! I haven’t known it to end well in fantasy books though, haha…

        Ooh, I’ve not read that one, nor the Kite Runner – but I know it’s one of my sister’s favourite books =)

  10. You make very compelling arguments here! It’s especially annoying when instalove is based on looks – it’s just not believable that you feel a person is the One because they are attractive! I do love romance in books though, and it’s only truly romance in my opinion if it is built on strong foundations.

    Great post and excellent use of gifs! 😀

    1. Thanks Charlene =D I’ve never really been a fan of romance novels, but I don’t mind romance in books, as long as it’s not the entire plot.

      I suppose in a way you could say that many relationships in classic novels do not have strong foundations – but that’s often how they worked then. I love them though, I was giggling the whole way through Sense & Sensibility with the sisters looking out for a man with a certain income 😉

      1. Ooh I just finished reading Sense and Sensibility and I totally agree that it is fun and the wittiness of the narrator is great, but I just don’t understand why Jane Austen takes us away from so many key moments like the conversations between Elinor and Edward, and even the proposals!! It’s just glossed over! Which is why I’m much more partial to Bronte. But Austen is nice.

      2. I should definitely re-read Jane Eyre sometime… I know you will approve =D I haven’t read it since I was 15, for GCSE English at school.

  11. You hit on one of the big reasons I hate instalove, which is the lack of a slow buildup! What’s the fun if they both like each other instantly and are together the rest of the book? The relationships I’ve liked most in books weren’t instant. There was the back and forth. The “does he? does she?” The natural awkwardness, which is especially common for teenagers who don’t necessarily have the confidence to just go and say, “Hi, I like you.” I miss that. I do agree that for teens, instant attraction can feel like love. I just hate how no one’s friends ever call them out for being totally boyfriend-obsessed. In the real world, if you pulled a Bella, your friends would get pissed off. Let’s have more of that.


    1. Yep. No exploring the relationship, or potential relationship, which also gives the reader a chance to get to know the characters. That’s true about the natural awkwardness – how are all these fictional teens so super confident??

  12. I completely agree. You really need to get to know someone to truly love them. So instalove is dull and boring in general cases, and I’m sure there are a few exceptions to prove the rule.

    1. Oh I’m sure there are, but in the majority of cases where I’ve read about insta-love it’s really bugged me.

      Anyone find any exceptions?

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