Afraid something’s wrong because you’re not “feeling butterflies?” Think again…
Chemistry between two people is important, especially when you’re dating. Because, let’s face it, it’s not enough to be partnered with a kind, stable, thoughtful, attractive, interesting, and fun person, is it? No. Mere decency, values, and character won’t cut it. You want to feel the feels. You’re craving “chemistry.”
How do I know this? I’m a dating coach. And I have these types of conversations frequently:
- Jen tells me about a date, saying, “I was so excited about him– he’s perfect on paper. He’s exactly what I want. But… he doesn’t give me butterflies. We’re not going out again.”
- John tells me about the woman he’s been dating for months. “She’s wonderful. I really like spending time with her. I know we could have a great life. My mother loves her…” “But?” I prompt. He sighs, “I just kind of want more passion. I want to see what else is out there.”
Both Jen and John are making the common dating mistake that destroys potentially amazing relationships. They both want to feel the intense, obsessive, “I can’t live without you” craving of early-stage romantic love. When that’s missing, and their relationship feels easy, reliable, and straightforward… they assume that something must be wrong.
I get it: Chemistry matters. In fact I spend a lot of time working with my dating coaching clients to help them up their own “chemistry quotient” in order to be more attractive to the kind of people they want to date. If there is no chemistry, there’s no future. It’s that simple.
However, in addition to helping people “find the one” as a dating coach, I’m also a marriage counselor. I know what it takes to create a happy, healthy long-term relationship. When I’m working as a dating coach, my number one priority is not just getting people dates, but helping them see the big picture — and what a lifetime of love actually involves. So I tell my Jen’s and John’s exactly what I’ll share with you now:
“Never confuse anxiety for love. Never prioritize chemistry over character. And never believe that a ‘chemistry feeling’ is a reliable source of information as to whether someone is going to be a good long-term partner for you.”
In fact, the exact opposite is often true: The people who are most likely to make you feel “chemistry” — an anxious churning in their presence, sleepless nights thinking of them, and feelings of euphoria when you’re around them — are often the ones who are the most emotionally (or literally) dangerous for you to get involved with.
For example: A mercurial, highly sexual, unpredictable woman will make your heart pound in a way that the loving, kind kindergarten teacher with a fondness for Dansco clogs will probably not. Likewise, a rakish, troubled bad-boy will light you on fire, in a way that the earnest CPA who cares enough to iron his shirt and show up on time won’t. But who do you want to try and build a life with?
“Chemistry” is a cocktail of lust and danger that wrings the dopamine out of your neurotransmitters. You know that giddy, nervous feeling you have getting into the rollercoaster car before it starts ratcheting itself up for the first big drop? And how, although intellectually you know its okay, your body is reacting like it might be about to die? That’s not a bad approximation to the giddy / euphoric / so-nervous-I’m-about-to-throw-up feeling we can have about someone we have intense chemistry for.
New idea: Feeling this way about someone is actually a danger signal. As I teach in my online dating coaching class, and wrote about in my breakup recovery book, “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to An Ex Love,” chemistry is strongest when you feel anxious, insecure, or afraid. This is one reason why illicit affairs feel so intoxicating and have the power to destroy a family… and why the very same relationships are so often frustrating and disappointing in the cold light of day.
Feeling attracted to your partner is important. Wanting to be around them is a good thing. Feeling happy in their presence is fantastic. You need those things, and you deserve them. But it’s a huge mistake to believe — as too many modern daters do — that feeling generally happy and attracted to a kind and good person without that roller-coaster feeling is “settling.”
As a marriage counselor I’ve had a front row seat for seeing what happens long term after people prioritize chemistry over character. It’s not pretty. Trust me: It’s terrible to realize that you confused excitement, passion, and anxiety for love, and then tried to build a life with a self-centered, impulsive person who made you feel agony, ecstasy and insecurity…. But who was never able to truly love you back.
I want to save you from this sad fate. You can certainly have a healthy, enduring relationship with someone you feel passionately about. But, if it’s going to work, the person you choose must also have substance and strong character.
To keep yourself on track as you date, remind yourself what true love actually looks like:
- True love shows you that your needs and feelings are important… instead of jerking you around emotionally and making you feel bad.
- True love stays loyal, and committed to you… even during the low points of your partnership.
- True love is respectful, engaged, pleasant to be around, and a good friend to you… even when it isn’t getting its way.
- True love isn’t a top-of-the-mountain peak experience. True love shows up in small, humble, self-sacrificing ways every single day.
- Most importantly, true love takes responsibility for behavior, and is willing to make changes… just because it’s important to you.
There’s a huge difference between toxic, crazy-making chemistry and true love. True and unwavering love is not showy. It’s not agonizing. It doesn’t make you feel insecure, or bad. It’s actually pretty easy. It’s reliable. It’s trustworthy. It’s often quietly pleasant. It can also be too easy to brush aside, especially when you’re busy chasing the flash and glitter of “chemistry.”
All the best,