Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye. — H. Jackson Brown, Jr.*

Certainly what makes us love is often invisible to the eyes of others. How often have you said, “I don’t know what she sees in him.” (Or vice versa, of course.) No, you don’t. You can’t. Love is intensely personal.

And sometimes even  the lovers themselves can’t see the why behind the emotion.

Here’s Helen Morgan singing about that very thing in the 1936 movie, Showboat.

He’s just my Bill, an ordinary man

He hasn’t got a thing that I can brag about

And yet to be upon his knee

So comfy and roomy

Is natural to me

 I can’t explain, it’s surely not his brain, that makes me thrill

I love him because he’s…I don’t know…because he’s just my Bill

So yeah, we know that feeling, too.

But there’s a flip side to this–the relationships that look perfect on paper. When you hold the two individuals side by side, they seem to fit together like two pieces of a puzzle. Like peanut butter and jelly. Like Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

You run the numbers, you weigh the similarities, you measure the distance between here and there, and it all adds up to love.

Except it doesn’t.

Because that same unknowable that makes us love someone also makes us not love someone—even if we really, really like that person. The heart sees something invisible to the eye, and sometimes the eye sees something invisible to the heart.

It’s an odd thing. It’s why making lists of all the qualities you want in a partner may or may not be helpful. You might be able to check off nine out of ten of those qualities (and if you have more than that on your list, maybe you’re a little carried away) and still not feel the spark we all crave.

That’s not to say you can’t be happy with the one who looks good on paper. Or at least contented, especially over time. Love means different things to different people. That’s what Tevye and Golde sang about in Fiddler on the Roof (as long as we’re talking Broadway musicals).

But still, if you want to follow your heart you have to listen to it. And sometimes it says that even if the math works, the romance doesn’t.

* A learned friend pointed out that Antoine de Saint-Exupery said it first, only he said it in French in The Little Prince: On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.

Image of young man doing math is available from Shutterstock.