Several years ago, I remember frequently rendezvousing with someone I met through a mutual friend. I would sneak out of the house at night, jump into his car, and we would head to a remote, hilly area to talk and mess around for hours.
I was in community college while he was attending business school, and after he’d turn off his car, we would cluck away on whatever topic interested us at the time (politics, usually), and then some.
After he’d drop me off at home, I’d be filled with colorful spring butterflies and rainbows and unicorns and basically whatever you’d find on a Lisa Frank stationery set. I could picture us kissing passionately with Disney fireworks exploding in the background, or something equally as cheesy.
As a young, naive, impressionable college student, I quite honestly thought this was love, and I couldn’t wait for the day when we’d go from casual messin’ to an in-love item.
But that day never happened. He never introduced me to his other friends and family; he never invited me to parties; he never took me out to eat; and whenever we’d find ourselves at the same party, he’d completely ignore me. I was confused as fuck and didn’t pick up on the fact that casual messin’ was all he wanted.
Many years later, I learned to blame the media for this totally unrealistic view of love, and I learned that, at the time, I was feeling too much “chemistry” instead of the more stable “compatibility.” I also learned that these misleading casual encounters and the accompanying (blinding) chemistry were far too common, and many people fall for them every day.
Let me tell you more about chemistry and compatibility and why it’s better to look for more of the latter in your dating life.
As I alluded to earlier, when you have too much chemistry, you’re essentially wearing chemical blinders that keep you from identifying red flags. Those chemical blinders are masquerading as a love potion in your bloodstream as you laugh and dance the night away with someone who seems more or less like Fabio on a white horse. You see the mask without realizing that Dracula might be underneath.
“Call it passion. Call it love. Call it sickness,” a guy named Mark Manson writes on his website. Chemistry will “ravage each others’ dopamine receptors in a neurological orgy of starry-eyed dreaminess. When you’re together — which simultaneously seems like all the time and not enough — it’s dominated by whispers of sweet nothings, liberal usages of the ‘L’ word, and a disgusting level of cuddling that nauseates all persons within a 20-foot radius.”
On the other hand…
Compatibility might seem boring compared to the chemistry that the media and rom-coms celebrate and plant in our brains as the way to experience love. Compatibility removes the intense emotion that puts us on the edge of our seats in a movie theater, the Prince Charmings we see through our fantasy glasses, and the intense Lisa Frank colors from our lives, but it actually helps us see people for who they are.
Basically, searching for compatibility helps us slow down, see things more logically, and minimize our chances of future hurt. In other words, it lowers our chances of rushing into damaging relationships.
I like to call compatibility the “Claritin Clear” for your itchy, watery, allergy stricken eyes that have trouble seeing the truth. With “Claritin Clear” compatibility, we get to see what we have in common with our potential mates instead of falling for the charm masking an asshole.
“Compatibility is a natural alignment of lifestyle choices and values between two people,” Manson said. “A priest and a stripper have a major incompatibility and I doubt many end up dating each other.”
It’s the “long-term potential between two people,” he adds.
Dating Lesson: More Compatibility over Chemistry
If there’s anything to take away from this story, by golly, it’s to look for compatibility over chemistry in your dating life.
“Sometimes I am asked why infatuation and the feelings that accompany it, such as butterflies in the stomach or a racing heart, cannot last,” said Ty Tashiro, Discovery Network’s relationship expert and a University of Maryland professor, in his book, The Science of Happily Ever After: What Really Matters in the Quest for Enduring Love. “These visceral feelings are powerful feelings of lust, and they cannot last for a simple reason; you would die.”
Oh, whaaaaa?! Yes, there can be too much of a good thing, meaning those butterflies and racing heart equate with stress and high blood pressure. I might even liken the feeling to taking cocaine (although, I’ve never tried it, but that’s my guess based on the almighty powers of deduction). Obviously, cocaine-like feelings are unsustainable in the long-term, and your body is going to want to retreat to self-preservation.
According to Tashiro, you’re better off “liking” the person than “lusting” after them. The research he cites in his book says that lust declines at a rate of 8 percent per year of marriage, while liking declines at a rate of 3 percent.
So, with those numbers in mind, let’s take this back to my “rendezvous” story.
While that guy and I had tremendous chemistry, his heart was in a different place and not ready for a relationship. He was also unhealthy, frequently drinking and drugging. Eventually, he was honest about his intentions when I confronted him about our situation, and we stopped rendezvousing when I met someone else.
I still see him from time to time at our mutual friend’s parties, and we’re on good terms. He cleaned up and moved out of state years ago, while I stayed near our old stomping grounds, which allowed me to meet my partner of six years and counting. He still cracks me up, though, and we can still chat for hours, but with timing and our lack of compatibility, it wasn’t supposed to work ‘til death do us part. But thanks to our past, I can tell this story so others will less likely to fall into a similar trap.
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