Chemistry is often what people look for when deciding whether to continue dating. It’s not the only factor, however for some it is vital. When two people have no chemistry then their dating is likely to end quickly. Did you know that strong chemistry between two people could be problematic, whereas some – but not excessively intense – chemistry could be helpful?
Let us first understand what chemistry is. Harville Hendrix, a couple’s therapist based in New York, wrote a book in 1987 titled: Getting the Love You Want. The book contained ground-breaking insights revealing that if you have very strong chemistry with a person while dating them, then that person probably:
- Reminds you of someone who you have unresolved, probably intense disagreements with, perhaps a parents, sibling, or previous partner,
- Or, he or she reminds you of someone you have strong affectionate memories of.
Having chemistry with someone can involve us noticing that being around the person feels sfe or even familiar. Sometimes this feeling is subtle. Whether it is strong or subtle, as a result of this familiarity, we open up to the person who we’re dating, and say things that we mightn’t say in ordinary conversations. We relax, may let our guard down, slowly begin to idealize them or the relationship, and hope that we’ll be safe and be accepted. As the feelings grow in intensity – especially if the chemistry is mutual – then we may not notice things about the other person’s behavior which would result in us feeling upset.
Strong chemistry is largely association
The strong emotions that we call love can be generated by us automatically associating the person in front of us – who we’re dating – with one or more people from our past. Our date perhaps reminds us someone we loved very strongly and had lots of happy memories with, or someone who we had a mostly antagonistic relationship with that hasn’t been resolved. Sometimes it is both.
This association is habitual, and most people are unaware that it happens; they are somewhat spellbound. When the person that we’re dating doesn’t remind us of someone from our past then the chemistry is likely to be less intense, and we’re less likely to choose to date them again. Why? Because we think that the chemistry wasn’t strong enough! There may have been some chemistry there between you both, and they may not have traversed any of our other exclusionary criteria, yet to dump someone because the chemistry wasn’t sizzling – even though they were otherwise attractive – is not necessarily always smart.
Strong chemistry may lead to love blindness
When we truly love a person then you see them for who they are. We accept them wholeheartedly. Love is not the experience of being blinded by strong emotions in the early stages of dating. However, when the experience of intense emotion is felt, there is impairment in our ability to accurately use our senses, attention, and to hear any validity in our intuition and others people’s views about the relationship.
This narrowing of our attention skills and judgement also occurs when sports people are under pressure. The stress of competition and of trying to win, which is often felt as intense emotion, impairs their sensory accuracy, and hence their performance. The result it that they are more likely to make an error. When dating, the error we make is that we look for signs that confirm that the person is right for us, that they may love us, just as the people we’re associating them with did in the past. The second part of our error is that we become inattentive to noticing things about the person – such as their behavior or opinions – that could lead to conflict in the relationship.
At some moment during the dating process, the two people have sex, and after physical intimacy, each person feels safe enough to start to reveal the totality of who they are; the good and the bad, so to speak. They’ve probably held back a little of their not-so-cheery side of their personality until after having sex because they wanted to be seen in the best possible light in order to experience the pleasures of physical intimacy. At some point in the relatonship, if the thrill of sex gets less interesting, the two people start to show more fully who they are. Since the intense affect that brought them together has passed, they begin to see things about the other person that irritate them. Alas, then the conflict starts.
When conflict arises, that is when we find out whether the person communicates sensitively, accurately, and lovingly, or whether they are uncaring, defensive, or even violent. The person who we have strong chemistry with may, if they’re willing to walk down the path of person growth with us, be someone who we can have a happy relationship with. But, if they’re not willing to grow, then we’ve got to make a decision: Move on, or stay in a relationship that is unsatisfying in some ways, and may – it’s difficult to know for sure – not get any better, or may get worse.
A middle way: Moderate chemistry
When we truly see someone for who they are, we see them holistically. We recognize all sides of their personality; we’re not blind to behaviors that will tick-us-off in the future, or selecting them because unconsciously their behavior or looks is similar to the person we’re associating them with from our past. Therefore your choice of whether to continue dating them isn’t based on the attentional blindness of intense chemistry, it is based on a middle-way of being aware that there is some mutual attraction, nothing especially aversive, and that there may be some things about them which may remind you of people from your past, and may need to be discussed together.
Why might it also be beneficial to date a person who you have moderate chemistry with? First, you have fewer expectations of your date being just like one of the people from your past. Therefore, you’re not expecting them to make you happy, or for you to have to happy around them. You can both be yourselves.
Second, you’re less likely to be in a relationship that is ultimately going to lead to both of you pushing lots of each other’s stress buttons. Stress, coupled with ineffective and insensitive communication skills, and low levels of support and external resources can turn relationships sour quickly. The last reason why it may be better to date a person with whom you have mutual moderate chemistry is that you’re less likely to have strong emotions altering your attention and perceptions of each other, and you will be able to see each other clearly, and respond accurately. Both of these can help a relationship to be more stable and loving.
This article assumes that there is one style of love; there is, however more than one style of love. John Lee wrote an interesting book about this subject named The Colors of Love, which you can read more about here.