Compatibility and Chemistry in Relationships

Compatibility and Chemistry in Relationships

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Most dating advice glosses over the concepts of compatibility and chemistry, assuming most people having an intuitive grasp on what they are and why they’re important. When you have chemistry with someone, you just feel it. When you’re dating someone you’re not compatible with, it’s obvious — like biting into a piece of spoiled fruit, the discomfort is impossible to ignore.

Compatibility and chemistry are mostly ignored by dating advice because they’re things that can’t be faked or changed. Instead, we spend most of our time studying self-improvement, presentation, and the technical mastery of social minutiae, all in an attempt to excel at the sales job of our romantic and sexual services to possible partners. Dating advice is designed to get that person who we feel is out of our league, to somehow trick or coax or cajole them into noticing us. The girl we’ve never had before. The man we’ve fantasized about. And if that guy or girl who’s out of our league is actually not compatible with us, well, we don’t really want to hear about it.

Compatibility and chemistry, although not the same thing, are often used by people interchangeably. They’re words people use loosely to define an ephemera which exists in the space between two people; the unspeakable and unseen connection, or lack thereof. But they’re different and their difference is important to understand.

Compatibility is a natural alignment of lifestyle choices and values between two people. A priest and a stripper have a major incompatibility and I doubt many end up dating each other. That’s compatibility. Put simply, if I value women who are intelligent and educated and I meet a high school drop-out who values guys who have big muscles and like to hunt deer, then we have a fundamental incompatibility that will probably never be overcome and we will never date one another.

Compatibility usually corresponds to the long-term potential between two people. High compatibility between people comes from similarities in their lifestyles and values. Educated and liberal people usually date other educated and liberal people. Hedonists usually date other hedonists. Insane religious nuts usually date other insane religious nuts. For no other reason than people of opposite moral values, quite literally, repel each other. And sometimes violently.

Chemistry on the other hand, represents the emotional connection present when you’re with each other. Two people who have a high degree of chemistry have emotional make-ups and personalities that bring out warm-fuzzy emotions in the other, creating a kind of positive feedback loop through which they continue to make each other feel better and better. When you have a high degree of chemistry with someone, they monopolize your thoughts and/or your free-time. You’ll stay up talking until the sun comes up and not even feel like an hour went by. You’ll hope that every call or text is him/her. And it will be. You’ll walk through life constantly wondering, “What would he/she think about X?” where X is a song, a bird, a walk through the park, a traffic jam, or a tenuous visit to the dentist.

Call it passion. Call it love. Call it sickness. The basic traits of your/their personality and your/their slightest behaviors 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.

Specific examples of what creates strong chemistry are harder to peg. It may be the way a girl laughs at your jokes, the questions she asks you about your day, the way you hold her in bed, or how you help her move into her new apartment. Chemistry is made up of subtle behaviors and dispositions that positively correspond with the other person. It’s a closed karmic loop. Chemistry is felt immediately and by both parties equally. The most important rule about chemistry is that whatever you’re feeling, she is most likely feeling it too; you almost become empaths for one another.

The artist Alex Grey once said, “True love is when two people have pathologies that complement one another.” He was only half-joking. High levels of chemistry usually come from opposite yet complementary qualities in people. A girl who is high-strung, energetic and slightly neurotic will have a high degree of chemistry with a guy who is relaxed, mellow and open. Introverts usually have natural chemistry with extroverts. People who are orderly and intense planners often work best with people who are spontaneous and unorganized.

Unlike compatibility, a lack of chemistry doesn’t repel one another. A lack of chemistry simply results in a lack of emotional intensity. Things just feel kind of dead and boring when you are together.

Chemistry is also reflected in the bedroom. A lack of chemistry will mean boring, emotionless sex. A high-degree of chemistry will mean intense, life-altering, heart-pounding sex that causes your mind to cosmically splatter itself on the walls of your consciousness.

Compatibility and chemistry don’t necessarily always occur together. A relationship with high compatibility but little chemistry is likely to be a boring yet convenient series of meetings and conversations, dry and dull until both parties simply stop caring and drift apart, or they consummate their mutual convenience by getting married and promise themselves a lifetime of simple and asexual companionship. Sadly, this arrangement isn’t uncommon.

Chemistry without compatibility on the other hand, usually leads to disaster. Sometimes it can be as simple as not living in the same part of the world. But usually it’s far more complicated than that. It’s when it feels so right, when you know it’s so wrong.

It’s the person who you know is bad for you but you can’t stop seeing her. Your behavior becomes completely irrational. Your thoughts distort. And soon, you and your fellow torture-victim-of-choice initiate a perpetual cycle of mutual emotional-immolation, both spiraling through love/hate cycles together at the speed of life. You suddenly find yourself spitting out phrases such as, “I don’t care if he’s married to a convicted felon, we’re meant to be together,” or “Look, I know she faked being pregnant to get me to propose to her, but you know, it may just be fate, right?” while your friends all stare at you, jaws agape, unsure whether to risk backlash by trying to snap you out of it, or to feign support while you continue to spin helpless and deluded in your tornado of love, wrecking your own life in the most unsubtle of ways.

High levels of chemistry with major incompatibilities is bad news. really bad news. These relationships usually begin quickly and passionately, exploding like a flaming geyser, which then extinguishes just as quickly as it began. Logic kicks in. Reality makes itself known. And you suddenly realize how fucking offensive you find each other. They’re traps. And getting out is easier said than done. Your heart says yes, but your head says no. And then you convince your head to say yes, which in turn makes your heart say no. Which makes your head say, “Wait, what the fuck?” So your decision-making falls back to your penis — because this girl is so fucking hot, after all — even though you know your penis rarely makes wise decisions, which leads to bloody satin sheets, embarrassing public arguments, unpaid drink tabs, thrown iPods, changed locks, unanswered phone calls, tear-ridden voicemails, and the sterile interior of a clinic, or if you’re lucky, the famous oh-god-please-don’t-give-me-a-false-positive-you-piece-of-shit-$9.99-pregnancy-test-from-7/11 experience, which is guaranteed to challenge any man’s sanity. And then there you are (wherever you go, as they say), and you find yourself jobless with two one-way tickets to Bermuda that were never used, six stitches, slashed car tires and a shattered cell phone. But at least that fucking cunt is gone (even though you still kinda miss her).

Not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything. Nope.

The experience is vicious yet thrilling. And will never let you forget that we are, after all, animals.

Navigating the dating territory of life with confidence requires that you understand these concepts. If you want to ultimately end up spending your time with amazing men/women/whatever who you enjoy — and I don’t just mean enjoy fucking (that should be a given), but I mean really, truly, enjoy — then it’s important you get a cognitive handle on these emotional indicators. The most important aspect is understanding what you want — what makes a person compatible to you, what personality traits have chemistry with you? The first question I ask everyone I work with is “What do you want?” It’s crucial you know. You need to know what you like and what you want in a partner. If you don’t, then you need to cautiously gain enough experience until you do know.

I’ve found over the years that I’m incapable of dating girls who aren’t incredibly smart. I can make it 2-3 dates with a woman of average intelligence or less and that’s usually solely by merit of drowning my face in alcohol until I become incapable of listening to her any longer. It becomes insipid and dull, and I refuse to be an insipid or dull person. Since a long-term relationship with these types of women would necessitate I take up alcoholism as a hobby, we inevitably part ways. I also don’t work well with girls who are particularly religious or who have socially conservative values (I shouldn’t have to explain this one). I need a girl who likes to travel. And who cares about politics. These are important things to me. I’ll still sleep with women who aren’t compatible with me, but I know better than to try and date them.

I’ve learned that I have chemistry with women who are driven and ambitious. Their personalities work with mine in a unique, yet comfortable way (for both of us). I’ve found my personality meshes well with women who are a tad neurotic, as I’m generally too laid back for my own good. I also “click” with women who appreciate a dark, sarcastic wit and are very giving and caring. I regularly find myself seeing teachers, nurses, social workers, volunteer workers, etc. multiple times and sometimes having a serious relationship with them.

These are the women who work for me. Who works for you?

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  • Reply

    Mo S.

    7 weeks ago

    Beautifully written, Mark. So true. You’ve nailed it. They both normally inevitably confuse you.

  • Reply


    7 weeks ago

    Superbly written article. I can relate completely with the ‘crazy’ girl love/hate scenario which made me laugh out loud – it’s like you are describing 3 of my ex’s in perfect detail. Good to know someone else is experiencing these things and still honing down what girls work for him. Too often or not I get lost in the moment, lose my head and drift into another incompatible relationship despite knowing what I want.

  • Reply

    JD Khalesi

    2 weeks ago

    I love this MORE THAN REFRESHING article: “intense, life-altering, heart-pounding sex that causes your mind to cosmically splatter itself on the walls of your consciousness” [PERFECT DEFINITION BTW] just can’t be articulated or measured but it’s VERY REAL and can wreck everything else you have in your life. I wouldn’t give back even a second of the ecstasy, even after it ripped through my chest because it made me more alive than anything else it fucked-up. Plus, all that shit can be fixed, right? How many times would you say one gets to feel that in life? Based on my personal experience – once. But then again, maybe you can just go to a LOT of rock concerts, skydive, or go on a lot of roller-coasters to make up for putting up your white flag on chemistry.

  • Reply

    Anna Bee

    1 week ago

    You pretty much nailed it. I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I have a weak spot for the ‘bad boy’ types. After experiencing continuous disappointment and heartbreaks from these consistently toxic relationships, I finally have had enough and woke up from my drug-induced haze and saw what I was doing to myself. In a desperate attempt to break my toxic habits, I allowed myself to take the time and energy to focus on getting to know who I truly am and what I value in life and in a partner. I’ve finally fallen in love for the first time in my life. I’ve fallen head over heels with myself and with life. I believe self-discovery and self-love is the only way to be able to know what we want in a lifetime partner. The man that I now aspire to marry will share the best of my own qualities that I value in myself, as well as possess the traits that I am lacking or are weakest. I am a highly energetic, free-spirit, free-thinking artist with a compassionate heart and a logical mind. I was a former Spanish teacher now obtaining my nursing certification who loves to do volunteer work. I recently met and am dating someone who is extremely laid back, composed, witty, and I sort of understand how you feel, just from the other side! Not a bad bone in this guy’s body, perfect gentlemen, and treats me like a lady should be treated. He’s a great guy and is completely different than any other guy I’ve dated. I know he will be good for me. But I’m holding back from him because I don’t feel the intense chemistry that I’m so accustomed to. I enjoy being with him but I feel guilty for having dull moments. I know that I’m more attracted to a man’s mind and heart. Love can and will grow if I choose to continue to see him and those connections will naturally take time to develop. I’m just not sure if I’m making the right choice by continuing to see this guy feeling this way. I don’t want to waste either of our time. It’s just different because in the past, my predicament would be that my heart was saying yes while my brain said no. Now, my mind is telling me yes but my heart is slow to follow. Maybe you could give me a male perspective and relieve me from some of this internal conflict!!

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