Why A 'Spark' Might Not Be A Relationship Dealbreaker (And What To Focus On Instead)

The feeling of falling in love can be difficult to put into words, even if it's the focus of countless pop songs and movie plotlines. Many people sum it up as experiencing a "spark," a jolt of hopeful energy that can even be felt physically as a butterflies-in-your-stomach sensation. Without that spark, many first dates never lead to second dates.

A spark is what's often behind love at first sight, fairytale stories, and a swoon-worthy match on "The Bachelor." Though it may be the standard when determining compatibility, it can also be elusive. Thankfully, some relationship experts believe that quick chemistry isn't a requirement for finding "the one." "First date sparks are overrated," Anita A. Chlipala, a dating expert and licensed marriage and family therapist, explained to Elite Daily. "Sparks don't mean someone will be a good fit for you as a long-term partner."

In some cases, sparks may even signal trouble ahead. Here's why sparks mean little in the search for love and what you should focus on instead.

Sparks don't guarantee compatibility

Sparks are often the result of infatuation early in a relationship, and while they might be enough to keep you hooked in the beginning, they don't say much about deeper compatibility. Moreover, what you might believe are sparks are actually anxious jitters. According to Psychology Today, both feelings are caused by adrenaline, which sets off an elevated heart rate, a fluttery feeling in your stomach, and other physical responses. You might also obsess over your new S.O., something that might seem like a sign of falling in love but can actually point to relationship anxiety (per Healthline).

Besides disguising anxiety, sparks might also distract from a person's red flags. "Some people are just very 'sparky,'" Logan Ury, a behavioral scientist and dating coach, told InStyle. "They're good at making a lot of people feel an instant connection; perhaps they're extremely attractive or best-in-class flirts." While this isn't always a bad thing, Logan notes, "Sometimes the spark is more an indication of how charming someone is β€” or narcissistic β€”and less a sign of a shared connection."

Not every spark is related to relationship anxiety or narcissistic charisma. Still, early chemistry doesn't always hold up in the long run. It takes time to know if you really click with someone or if what you're feeling is only superficial attraction.

What matters more than early-relationship chemistry

If sparks don't say much about compatibility, what does? Natasha Briefel, a brand marketing director for the dating app Badoo, revealed to Metro, "While it's always exciting to feel a 'spark' when it comes to finding the one, the most important factor to look for is open and honest communication." Can you openly express yourself on the first date, without fearing judgment? Does your dating partner share their thoughts and feelings, or do they seem to be holding back? How you communicate can say a lot more about your future as a couple than butterflies in your stomach.

It's also crucial to give a new relationship time to unfold, rather than expecting fireworks from the start. Matchmaker Maria Avgitidis told CBS News that daters should check in with themselves after a first date, asking themselves if they enjoyed the date and if they're still curious about the other person. If the answer to both questions is yes, she suggests continuing to connect for at least 12 dates in total before taking the relationship to the next level.

When you're not distracted by a spark, you can watch for red flags and dealbreakers in relationships. And when you take your time to get to know someone β€” flaws and all β€” you can make better decisions about your love life.