When Tim and Marlene went through a rough patch in their marriage they were both worried they might not make it. They had grown apart in some ways, and had different ideas about what came next for them, now that the kids were grown. But they tell the story about how it was their chemistry that helped them get through. They had always had excellent physical and emotional chemistry. So even when they were angry or very sad about their relationship, they were able to comfort one another, and they were able to lovingly reconnect with sex.
Sex can be used by some to mask what is really going on. But usually the sexual chemistry between two people is like the canary in the coal mine. If the chemistry is still strong over time (even if it’s not as hot or urgent as it once was), something is going right.
But let’s back up. What about at the beginning of a relationship? First date? First days or weeks of dating? When and how do you know if it’s there or not and does it matter?
Well for one thing, yes. Physical chemistry—along with emotional chemistry and compatibility— is an important component in a romantic relationship. As you know if you’ve read my blogs, so are shared core values, life goals, relationship goals and many other factors. But physical chemistry can be the tie that binds through thick and thin, as with Tim and Marlene. Their bond of both sexual and emotional love was strong and kept them together—happily. They worked out their differences and recommitted to one another.
Here are the three basic (simplified) situations that can occur in a relationship:
♦ High chemistry/low compatibility. Do you have a history of dating people you can’t keep your hands off but who hurt you, leave you, disparage you, bore you (outside the bedroom), or with whom you have little or nothing in common? I could write a book about this kind of relationship which is all too common. (Many women are drawn to what they call “bad boys”—hot sex, damaging relationship. Why? That is for another blog.) Suffice it to say, a high chemistry/low compatibility relationship might last a long time, but at what cost? Usually they burn hot and burn out quickly.
♦ High compatibility/low chemistry—Why aren’t you hot for this person—he or she is PERFECT for you? Have you had that experience? On paper, someone is your dream match with all the qualities you could ever want, from shared goals and values to having the same sense of humor, hobbies, and favorite movies. But you just don’t feel it. The physical connection. If the imbalance does not right itself, it does not bode well for a fulfilling and happy relationship.
♦ High chemistry/high compatibility—What we all hope for. In many cases, when you have high compatibility the chemistry is either already there, or it forms over time. (Read on for more on that.) I would suggest that you aim for this, and don’t settle for an imbalanced relationship.
First dates. Is chemistry always instant? Is it possible to know after just one date which of the above scenarios is likely?
Maybe this has happened to you: you go on a first date and just don’t feel “it”—the attraction. Should you bow out of a second date by saying, “I feel a friendship connection rather than a romantic connection” or should you give it a little time? Adjusting for the obvious—e.g. you actively dislike the person, feel creeped out, find him or her in some way repulsive or offensive—if you have enough apparent compatibility with the person to enjoy the first date, chemistry aside, my advice is: give yourself another date, regardless.
Things to consider:
♥ Check in with yourself and your chemistry barometer. Do you have a history of high chemistry/low compatibility relationships or vise versa? Take this opportunity to be more mindful in your approach to dating. If you are unsure about someone, use the situation as an opportunity to learn more about yourself. What do you want and need in a relationship? What’s missing here? What isn’t missing?
♥ Avoid investing in the outcome at this point. If you focus exclusively on the chemistry connection between you, it may be too much pressure for both of you. Are your expectations of a first date realistic?
♥ If you enjoyed the person when you met, went out on a date, and you find him or her appealing, it’s worth spending more time to explore. It takes more than an hour at Starbucks to figure out if your life and relationship goals align, you are physically compatible, and share X number of key values.
♥ When you get down to it, first dates can be so filled with anxiety that basing all your conclusions on one may be paramount to shooting yourself in the foot.
♥ Chemistry can develop slowly. Sure, sometimes it’s instant. And sometimes it grows over time. I know so many couples I can’t count them all whose passion for one another developed. Their love, mutual respect, and attachment to one another opened the door for desire and passion to enter.
♥ There are no guarantees. Even chemistry that starts high can fade over time due to loss of respect, betrayal, or just failure of attachment. So the lesson here is: it’s a whole package. Chemistry and compatibility (including shared values and goals) in balance is the best scenario for relationship success.
After taking all the above into consideration, realize that ultimately chemistry is a necessary component to your relationship. So, if you’ve given it some time and are still “not feeling it” you should have an honest conversation. Chemistry is important. Without it…it’s friendship.