Sunday, March 4, 2012

Chasing After Instant Chemistry is Foolish

Instant chemistry. The story goes that when you meet "the one," you'll have this explosion of attraction that will lead you down wedded bliss for the rest of your lives. Hollywood movies and television shows gush variations on this theme. Dating advice columnists build manifestos on it. Teenagers dream about it as they begin dating, and even through the challenges and hardships, carry pieces of that narrative with them far into adulthood.

There's much to pick apart in the story, but for today I'll just focus on the chemistry thing. The following is from a blogger who has been posting her online dating experience stories. She writes:

It was going on two hours and we decided to call it a night. I was disappointed in myself because I couldn’t see anything wrong with Kevin, but for some reason again, I wasn’t interested. I didn’t find that chemistry—that elusive instant chemistry—that I’ve been looking for.

When I read this, I felt a twinge of sadness. Because in my experience, instant chemistry has almost always been a lie. The times I have had that flash-bang chemistry, that I gotta screw your brains out and never leave your side kind of thing, have been crash and burn events. A few weeks or a month of hotness, followed by the realization that we had little in common. Or our values were wildly different.

With every woman I have dated for a longer period of time, including those I ended up having long term relationships with, there was a more gradual build up. Which is not to say that it began with nothing. Some connection was there right away, but the level of that connection to time to uncover. Took shared experience to see whether it was fleeting or something deeper.

Here's the thing about chemistry. Unless you know someone from a different context (friendship, co-worker, etc.), you are meeting a total stranger. You tend to know next to nothing about them, and so whatever is pulling you towards them is unclear, unexamined, and untested. You have no idea if what you experience on the first date is their true selves or some mask they have developed to weather the dating storm. You don't know how this person will react when the inevitable stresses/conflicts of a relationship occur. You don't even know if they will want anything more than a hot night or two of sex.

Seriously, believing that instant chemistry is the main ingredient of your dating dish is delusional. Painfully delusional. It's as if people have this idea that everything will just fall into place right away, which doesn't happen even between couples that experienced that kind of chemistry in the beginning.

In fact, I would argue that the worst aspect of the story is the ways in which it lies to us after you meet someone. The challenges of learning each others' way in the world are either diminished, or considered signs that things aren't working out. The natural, and needed, growth that comes from working through conflict together is left out entirely. And the pressure for everything to be fucking fantastic all the time is heightened. Which is tragic, given how nothing is always fantastic, not even the most wonderful, fulfilling relationship.

It's time to shed these lies. They aren't serving anyone, and they don't lead to lasting love.


  1. I agree. It takes time to get to know someone, to trust them. Instant chemistry is not what great relationships are made of. We try, and fail, and try again, then fail again. Most of those relationships are doomed, lots of drama and issues, mostly because people take the chemistry and ignore everything else. I find myself not even wanting chemistry because I want to really get to know a person and their authentic self. I'm really against it, actually. It makes smart people do really dumb things. I find that with online dating, it's what most people are looking for and if it's not there, they go for the instant sex.

  2. But then with online dating while maybe you don't look for 'instant chemistry' what do you look for? I've been on dates with people met through online dating sites and I've known I've never wanted the person to ever touch me. Didn't know until I met them, though. It was just an instant visceral thing, even though I tried to overcome it with my brain. It wasn't even that the person wasn't physically attractive. I just didn't feel any attraction to them.

    So maybe you don't look for instant chemistry but you have to rule out zero chemistry too. Maybe you look for someone in the middle? Chemistry and attraction do play a part in dating. So, middle chemistry? I have to say for me it's yea or nay, though, and there's not much middle ground.

  3. I met a guy well I known him years back I never really found him attractive until this recent weekend we were at a family reunion. I coyld already hint that I may of caught his eye how he was starring back at me while passing the football back. Must I put in we are NOT related this was my aunts husbands famkly reunion I just decided to come to get out of town for a few days. Back to the story the way he looked at me with those big bulgy eyes I could not resist not glancing back. That night however happen to be when the Instant Chemistry came along. The 70s party was the last event of the family reunion everyone met back at the recreation center. Me & him havent spoken to each other yet. I kind of keeped my eye on him. Spotted him sitting at the park by himself I decided to give him some company, so I sat on the slide. We talk as if we known each already everything about one another the connection was unbelieveable unlike anything i've ever felt before with anyone else. We walked from the park to the woods making a bet to see if we could make it to were the darknesd begans, nevertheless it was just a way to connect more. We stood there in the woods with the lights from the baseball field shinning across and he asked me for a kiss. I granted him with a kiss and we walked back to the park. We held each other tightly fanning away misquitos, and laughed and conversated with each other. The night ended just as fast as it started and he had to leave he gave me a kiss , got my number , and walked away. Silly me my phone was off I didnt pay my bill so im sitting here hoping that he would text or call. and that Im not wasting my time feeling this way. Based on the connection we had that night theres not a doubt in my mind that tells me that he didnt feel the same way. Im hoping he did.

  4. I blame Disney. Seriously. Too many little girls grow up watching Disney princess movies and thus grow up believing their true love will be an instant connection. Instant in the "he's nice but I didn't feel anytjing so no second date for him" sense. I saw a couple of profiles that looked interesting online, but when they said they could tell riht away if thee was a connection... I bypassed them like a blocked artery. I refuse to give all my effort into being a good guy (friendly, respectful, responsive, empathetic, happy...) and have a woman with a metaphorical stopwatch decide in the first twenty seconds that I don't get a second date no matter how good of a guy I am because she didn't feel an instant connection!