Chemistry. We all want it. We all talk about it. Most of us have experienced it at least once. But what does it really mean?
The most recent time I felt nearly overwhelming chemistry, it began as he and I were walking toward one another for our first meeting, having previously only been chatting on a dating app. We weren’t even physically close when the sparks flew between us. When he got to me, and leaned in for a friendly hug, I didn’t want to let him go.
He isn’t movie star gorgeous. He isn’t much taller than I am, and I am short. he isn’t a snappy dresser, other than the cool fedoras he likes to wear. That day he was wearing a ball cap. As he approached he was thinking, “She is so cute! I hope she likes me.” I did. As he approached me, I was thinking, “Wow. He is even sexier in person than in his photo. I like his walk.” He said he had never felt anything like our chemistry before. I had once or twice, and probably should have been more cautious, but I am a therapist, not a fortune teller.
I do know that chemistry in and of itself isn’t good or bad. Like much of life, it just “is.” I also know, that for me, chemistry can and has been the aura surrounding an emotionally unavailable man.
For some of us, history is chemistry. We are drawn to someone psychologically because they are familiar. They remind us, on a subconscious level, of Mom or Dad or someone else who was vital to our development. The familiarity makes us feel at home, even if home was chaotic or unstable, and that feels like love. Sometimes it is. Sometimes, though, it is our psyche trying and hoping to heal, by creating similar situations to ones we have been in before, and finding love in people who treat us as we are used to being treated.
We can use this attraction to monitor our own mental and emotional health, and even to heal. As Harville Hendrix explains, we can bring all that hurt out into the open with our partner and ask them to help us heal, in exchange for us helping them heal. And this can actually lead to true and real love. But this is an ideal, and is tough to implement at first meeting.
Imagine if I had said, when Mr. Fedora and I first met, “Oh wow. That’s intense chemistry I’m feeling. How about you? You too? Cool. Then there’s a good chance you are emotionally unavailable. Want to help me heal from my abandonment issues?” Yeah. That could work.
As it is, we must develop the relationship after the chemical beginning to even know for sure if the sparks are derived from our injured psyches rubbing together. Only then can we bring up our relational issues, own them, ask them about theirs and agree to hold hands through the land mines.
Our chemistry did not fade over five months of weekly dates. He was an hour and a half away, and decided to come out of retirement and take a full-time job again. Maybe that’s why the relationship didn’t develop. Or maybe he is emotionally unavailable and therefore fits my pattern. He admitted to being quirky with lots of closed doors and limits. And even though I am a therapist, I can’t and won’t try to fix a partner. It’s unethical and foolish to do so. However, because we never had that discussion of wounded psyches, I will always wonder what could have developed from that chemistry plus some very healthy interaction. If or when lightening strikes again, I plan to find out.
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