As a matchmaker, I often listen to my clients talk about “chemistry.” The term pops up commonly after first dates, when describing their matches, and when it does it’s always a discussion of whether (or not) chemistry magically graced the date.
My clients seem to find a greater confidence, even experience a sense of relief after we’ve had this chemistry talk, specifically after they’ve laid out all the reasoning to decide if there should be a 2nd date—the grand conclusion is typically based on the basic idea of either: “I felt chemistry!” or ”there was just no chemistry.”
The word, chemistry, is used to describe an elusive energy felt or not felt when meeting a person and it’s frequently used to justify important dating decisions. In this article, I present the varying meanings of chemistry that can help (and I hope challenge) your dating process, as well as aid in navigating the slippery slope that is chemistry.
1. Chemistry as Familiarity
Some of us use the word “chemistry” to describe how we notice something familiar in our date, from our own lives, from our past. Your match may look like your uncle who dearly love, or your ex with whom you had a wild love affair.
In general, chemistry used in this way bridges past experience with the present. If you listen to your gut (only) and pursue this sense of familiarity, it can help maintain emotional safety, yes, but it can also limit you from expanding into new possibilities—(i.e. you end up dating the same types of people, over and over).
In other words, familiarity mistaken with chemistry can keep you in unsuccessful, looped dating patterns.
But it’s not all bad. How can familiarity as chemistry be helpful? An example, if your childhood experience was loving and nurturing, you likely value and seek-out those traits in partners, continuing to nurture your present relationship experiences in those same, familiar, loving ways.
However, if past experiences in attachment were abusive and/or disruptive, you may seek-out partners who perpetuate those familiar feelings, even when harmful. If this hits home, do not be discouraged, you are not alone! Often, these cycles operate subconsciously, but you have control.
I urge my clients to directly identify where the familiarity is coming from.
Any sources that are not in your long-term best interest should be closely examined and disbanded (which is not an overnight process, but it starts by calling it out now!). In this, you are on a path to form different and healthier relationships.
2. Chemistry as Socially-Imposed Attractiveness
Most of us grew up being constantly exposed to various examples of “attractive people” in the media, and continue to experience them every day of our adult lives as well. While these images are socially constructed, they impact our love lives in powerful ways.
But make no mistake, the media is not a reliable source to inform your most fundamental and personal feelings.
Without being explicitly told, we learn how certain characteristics of a person are more attractive (socially) than others, and those messages are reinforced by watching others’ interactions. For example, we may see an actress with a slender figure, lighter-colored skin, and long straight hair being treated as favorable in TV shows, and we will come to subconsciously consider these attributes as desirable.
And when we notice the same attributes in our dates, we may notice that attraction as ”chemistry.” This is dangerous. This type of “attraction” has very little to do with any form of authentic connection. Likely, it is paper thin and will fade as quickly as it struck. People change in appearance over time.
Relationships based solely on socially-imposed, visually-constructed standards of attractiveness are not long for this world.
We all have a tendency of being drawn to “attractive people,” but it’s imperative to observe and consider more lasting characteristics. We’ve all heard decades-long married people describe their spouses as ”just as beautiful, (or handsome)” after all these years. An authentic soul-to-soul connection is made in these cases, and even when appearance changes, chemistry remains intact. This is the kind of chemistry discussed next
3. Chemistry as Deep Soul-to-Soul Connection
Every once in a while, we meet someone and feel immediately drawn to them without knowing why. This may happen outside of the dating setting, in our everyday lives (for example at a coffeeshop or a bookstore), and this type of magic moment is not limited to certain age groups or gender.
For example, you may help an older woman with a box of oatmeal from a high shelf at a supermarket, and as she thanks you with a genuine smile and shares how you remind her of her late husband, you notice how the smile warms your heart and you cannot help but smile back. Later on, you realize you keep thinking about the woman, hoping she is having a good day.
When you feel this kind of connection on a date, you are in for a treat!
Sometimes, people describe the feeling as ”we just met, but it feels like we’ve known each other for a very long time.” Take care! This soul-to-soul connection is rare, and should be cherished and nurtured carefully.
Chemistry as familiarity, chemistry as socially-imposed attractiveness, and chemistry as soul connection may seem distinct from one another…
But it’s important to recognize they could all be in-play simultaneously. We are complex beings! As a matchmaker, it’s my job to help clients navigate the perplexing nuances of chemistry. I do this by helping clients understand where “the noticing” is coming from.
An example: You’re very attracted to your date. Upon reflection, you notice they resemble the elementary school teacher you had a little crush on. It’s important to recognize this fact as a genuine contributor to your feelings, and now you’ve also identified the kind of chemistry you’re feeling in this case, i.e. chemistry as familiarity.
It’s just as important to identify what you’re not feeling and why that could be so. For example, when a match meets all the priorities you’ve identified with your matchmaker, but you just don’t feel that instant connection, it could simply mean he/she doesn’t look like anyone you’ve known or been interested-in before.
True connection is developed over time. Don’t give up too quickly when you don’t feel the immediate click, and trust your matchmaker when he/she shares that this match indeed comes with all the parameters you’ve discussed.
Your match may come in an unknown package, but isn’t that what finding a partner is all about? Love is an exploration. I encourage my clients to embrace that. Why? Because as all experts in the dating industry can attest: Instant chemistry is likely just that—instant and then instantly over.
Thank you, lovelies!