Most dating advice glosses over the concepts of compatibility and chemistry, assuming most people have an intuitive grasp of 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 vs Chemistry
The terms compatibility and chemistry are often used by people interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing. 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 the 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 dropout 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 someone laughs at your jokes, the questions they ask you about your day, the way you hold each other in bed, or how they help you decorate your 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, he or 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.
Healthy and Toxic Combinations of Chemistry and Compatibility
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, but 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 defaults to your genitals — even though their track record for decision making is about as good as a drunk third grader’s — which only leads to embarrassing public arguments, unpaid drink tabs, thrown iPhones, 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 anyone’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 psycho is fucking gone (even though you still kinda miss them).
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 you should ask yourself is “What do I 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’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?