Most of us have met potential romantic partners with whom we share great chemistry. These connections can be thrilling and special because they’re so hard to find. Chemistry means that almost-immediate connection with another person on many levels: great rapport, talking nonstop about anything and everything, sharing many of the same interests and hobbies, and having a fantastic physical/sexual attraction. Great chemistry can fill you with excited hope for a future with this person – as well as feeling intensely exciting and satisfying when you’re with them in the present.
If you’re looking for a short-term or purely sexual relationship, great chemistry is great fuel for that fire. However, if you’re looking for something more serious, and the chemistry doesn’t lead to a relationship, it can feel positively tragic. The intensity of the connection and attraction can lead to despair and devastation if it doesn’t move forward. Many of my clients have come in with just this very problem – feeling confused why a relationship isn’t moving forward when it’s so obvious the chemistry and connection is there.
Why don’t they want to continue dating me? We both acknowledge this spark. What we share is special; I don’t feel this way for many people. I know they feel it too. What is holding them back? How am I supposed to move forward with someone else, in comparison to something so amazing? I really think we could be something great together.
This is not to say that great chemistry can’t lead to a relationship, or even to a great relationship. And it’s certainly not to say that you shouldn’t pursue a relationship with someone with whom you have great chemistry. But the hard thing is that for various reasons, not everyone is equipped to have good relationships, and/or not everyone is in a place where they are ready to commit to a relationship.
Great chemistry makes noticing these signs and flags tricky because the intense feelings and connection can be so strong that the “high” of being with the person can make us irrationally “give a pass” to these flags. Or, in many cases, the amazing feeling of the connection trumps any surrounding negative experience in the relationship.
For example, if you have great chemistry with someone, but they are unclear about moving forward, you may spend an inordinate amount of time waiting on their next text, wondering when you’ll see them next, overlooking the fact that the rest of the week you’re fairly miserable because you have no idea when you’re going to hear from them again. When you finally do get that text, or see them in person, the high of it keeps you afloat for awhile – until the next miserable waiting period. The ratio of highs-to-lows is disproportionate – but because the intensity is so great, you lose sight of the fact the majority of the time this relationship is not making you happy.
In this way, romantic chemistry behaves like an addictive drug (it’s no coincidence we use the word “chemistry” in these situations!) It is well-researched that initial stages of romantic love acts upon us in biochemical ways, triggering the same receptors as addictive drugs. When you have particularly spectacular chemistry with someone, this “high” can be truly intense. You become, essentially, addicted to this person.
The problem with addictive drugs is that the physical and emotional high they give us alters or masks our sense of rationality and judgement, making it momentarily matter less if someone is truly a good partner, fit for a healthy relationship. They also make us alter our behavior in significant ways, negatively impacting our daily functioning and feeling in lieu of the “high” you get with this one person.
Distance from these types of relationships offers a better sense of perspective, which is why it’s so easy to see when a friend is in the grips of it. But when you’re the one in the middle of it, you’re stuck in the roller coaster of that emotional and physical high, and it can be very difficult to see through it, much less remove yourself from the situation.
So what do you do? Because it can be easy to be overcome by the addiction of great chemistry, it’s important to firstground yourself in the qualities of healthy romantic relationships so that you can be watchful for flags as they arise. I often assist clients in making a list of relationship qualities they are searching for, and evaluate that these qualities are in fact healthy and essential, so that they have a litmus test of sorts to compare any dating partner to.
There is an argument to be made that it is also wise to move slowly physically while you get to know a person and are evaluating their capacity for healthy relationships, as physical encounters can trigger more biochemical production that can make us attached/addiction more quickly, thereby blurring our perspective and judgement further.
At the end of the day, whether the chemistry is intense or lukewarm, you are still evaluating whether a person is a good potential long-term partner – able to do their part to provide security, trust, communication, reliability, and share the same general values and life goals as you in a relationship. Great chemistry can make evaluating those qualities tricky. Enjoy the connection – but move forward with a watchful eye.
If you would like assistance learning about healthy relationships or working through an existing confusing relationship, you can visit my contact page to make an appointment.
What are your experiences with great chemistry? Did it lead to a relationship? If not, did the chemistry make it harder to leave once you decided that’s what you needed to do?