"Maybe it's intuition, Something you just don't question...I knew I loved you before I met you, I think I dreamed you into life, I knew I loved you before I met you, I have been waiting all my life, There's just no rhyme or reason, Only a sense of completion, And in your eyes, I see the missing pieces, I'm searching for, I think I've found my way home." Savage Garden
Can we love someone before meeting them? I believe we can, in the same way that we might "know" that we will not love someone even before we've met her or him. Our love is often based upon our romantic intuitions, which have developed before we met someone. Is such intuition helpful?
Intuition is not a mysterious entity or a kind of sixth sense. Like other types of intuition, romantic intuition is based on previously-formed evaluative structures, schemata that have been set during evolution and personal development. Our individual and evolutionary history is embedded in these structures. Hence, we may be predisposed to love a certain type of person even before getting to know a specific individual from this group. Thus, someone may tend to love wise, caring men with an ironic humor (preferably with a British accent). Meeting a specific individual who matches (to a great extent) this pattern activates our inbuilt schemata and enables us to benefit from this implicit knowledge. Accordingly, Steve Jobs said, "As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it."
The romantic intuition that is activated when loving someone before meeting her is somewhat similar to love at first sight. However, while love at first sight mainly involves an activation of an aesthetic schema, the intuition in loving before actually knowing is broader and is a response also to admirable character traits.
The initial fit to the given evaluative schema does not guarantee the growth of profound love, which depends on developing joint activities that promote the lovers' flourishing. It also does not guarantee the long-term duration of this love, as with better knowledge of the person, gaps might become apparent between our ideal image and the actuality, or the schemata may change when the agent grows older. However, the initial fit is a considerable boost to the establishment of long-term profound love.
Should a romantic relationship be recommended only if the agent has such a romantic intuition? I do not think so.
Very few of us are fortunate enough to find the person we love before meeting them. In order to find love, many people may need to change their notion of an ideal lover, or to make romantic compromises and be satisfied with someone who does not perfectly fit the given schemata.
Consider, for instance, the true story of Rosa, a single mother in her fifties, who said "I am looking for perfection and I have been mistaken in my choices. I turn down opportunities to be with men because I judge these men to be far from perfect. As I get older, I seem to be softening, but I also seem to be getting clearer about what I like and want. I don't want superficiality—but for the first time in my life, I am considering having sex with someone I don't see as partner material!" The search for profundity is indeed crucial for finding love that will remain fulfilling over time (see my article, Endless Love.).
The romantic intuition expressed in loving a person before meeting them is indeed unusual, and many people have failed to find such love. Consider another true story, the story of Elena, a married woman in her early forties who read many romantic novels and collections of love letters, and so wished to fulfill the ideal love described in these writings. She thought that her failure to achieve such ideal love stemmed from a personal fault, either in her or in her partner. Consequently, she engaged in numerous affairs while searching for the ideal beloved: “What I have been doing is wandering around the world in search of a home for my heart, and every one of my efforts made clear only one thing, which was that home was elsewhere. The most prominent feeling in my life was the feeling of loneliness, even when, or especially when, I was with another man.”
We should not waste our lives searching for a certain ideal that may not exist; instead, we should invest more effort in making our relationship as close as possible to the ideal and be prepared to make some compromises and revisions to our ideal, while not giving up the essential aspects of romantic love. As Tom Robbins said: "We waste time looking for the perfect lover, instead of creating the perfect love.”
Finding true love often involves a rocky road, the destination of which is not always known. Not everyone is lucky enough to find the person they love before their first meeting, or wise enough to stick to a good enough partner.
To sum up, we should not mistrust romantic intuition, but we should also not base our decisions merely on such intuition. Intuition by itself can be wrong, but so can intellectual thinking. Listen to your heart, take into account other perspectives of your own and of others, and then make your decision. Typically, intuition is an excellent starting point, but it cannot replace thinking; it can, however, be of great value in the romantic decision-making process.