A lot of dating advice glosses over the concepts of compatibility and chemistry, assuming most people have an intuitive grasp of what these two words mean and why they’re so important to a successful relationship. We kind of assume we know what compatibility and chemistry mean and whether we have them or not.
Dating advice mostly ignores compatibility and chemistry because they can’t be faked or changed. Instead, most dating advice focuses on the nuts and bolts of dating: what to say, when to say it, how to not look like an ass-face.
Dating advice also caters to people who want the “hacks.” They want to know how 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 that.
COMPATIBILITY VS CHEMISTRY
The terms compatibility and chemistry are often used interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing. A lot of people use the words loosely to try to define that thing which exists in the space between two people — the unspeakable and unseen connection (or lack thereof). But they’re not the same thing at all, and understanding the difference is crucial if you want a happy, healthy, and long-term relationship.
Compatibility is the natural alignment of lifestyle choices and values of two people. A youth minister and a drug dealer are probably incompatible and I doubt many end up dating each other.
If I value women who are intelligent and educated and I meet a high school dropout who is attracted to 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 is about the long-term potential of two people. High compatibility between people comes from similarities in their lifestyles and values. Generally speaking, educated liberal people usually date other educated and liberal people. Hedonists usually date other hedonists. Insane religious nuts usually date other insane religious nuts.
Chemistry, on the other hand, represents the emotional connection present when two people are together. When there is a high degree of chemistry, that strong connection can bring out warm, fuzzy emotions in the each other, creating a kind of positive feedback loop through which two people 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 awake talking till the sun comes up and not even feel like an hour went by. You’ll hope that every call or text is him/her. 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 colonoscopy.
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.
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 mesh with behaviors and dispositions of the other person. What’s created is a kind of closed karmic loop in which chemistry is felt by both parties equally. The most important rule about chemistry is that whatever you’re feeling, he or she is most likely feeling the same way. You almost become empaths with 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 woman who is highly-strung, energetic, and slightly neurotic will tend to have a high degree of chemistry with a guy who is relaxed, mellow, and open. Introverts often have natural chemistry with extroverts. People who are orderly and intense planners sometimes work best with people who are spontaneous and unorganized.
Unlike a lack of compatibility, a lack of chemistry doesn’t repel –it simply results in a lack of emotional intensity. Things just feel kind of dead and boring.
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 comfortable 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 find themselves in a lifetime of uncomplicated and (often) 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 often it’s far more complicated than that.
When two people are completely incompatible, their behavior becomes completely irrational. Too often, two incompatible people initiate a cycle of mutual emotional immolation, spiraling through love/hate cycles together at the speed of life.
People find themselves saying things like, “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?” Meanwhile, friends stare, jaws agape, unsure whether to risk the backlash by trying to snap them out of it or to feign support while their love-blind torture victim pal continues to spin helpless and deluded in a tornado of love.
High levels of chemistry with major incompatibilities is bad news. Really bad news.
These relationships usually begin quickly and passionately, exploding like a geyser, before dying down just as quickly as it erupted. This tends to happen when logic kicks in and when reality makes itself known. Suddenly, you realize how fucking offensive you find each other, but getting out of such a relationship 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.
At this point, your decision making usually 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, an oh-god-please-don’t-give-me-a-false-positive-you-piece-of-shit-$9.99-pregnancy-test-from-a-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). The experience is vicious yet thrilling, and will never let you forget that we are, after all, animals.
Not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything. Nope.
Know What You Want
Navigating the dating landscape with confidence requires that you understand these concepts. If you want to ultimately end up enjoying your time with an amazing partner—and I don’t just mean enjoying 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 with you, what personality traits have chemistry with you? The first question you should ask yourself is “What do I want?”
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.
Back when I was dating, I found that I was incapable of dating girls who weren’t incredibly smart. I could 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. 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 learned that I don’t work well with women who are particularly religious or who have socially conservative values.
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?