You can’t trust chemistry

Don’t prioritise chemistry in a relationship above everything else.

Players can ooze charm. Abusers can ‘love bomb’ you with ‘chemistry.’

There are so many reality TV shows where the participants harp on about chemistry all the time. Yes chemistry is important, but it’s not everything. Moreover, it can be built up slowly over time.

Prioritising chemistry is a recipe for a hot mess of a short lived relationship, which might explode in flames as fast as it started.

Think of the person you had the most chemistry with — where are they now?

Chemistry isn’t necessarily an essential building block for long term successful relationships nor an accurate predictor of what the future holds.

Love addicts can mistake intensity for intimacy. Intimacy is feeling safe to be vulnerable, let down your guard, and to fully self-disclose about who you are and be accepted for that.

Intensity is about highs and lows, hots and colds, uncertainty and anxiety. It’s a euphoria similar to a high you can get from recreational drugs. You get an intense neurochemical shot of dopamine when you are in the ‘highs’ of the relationship, and keep craving more of this when you are in the ‘lows.’

Intense chemistry — or that first ‘limerence’ in a relationship — isn’t meant to be an emotional coping mechanism. Love addicts have often suffered childhood trauma and learnt that vulnerable equals danger. They can struggle to form healthy bonds and long term relationships, often going from one relationship to the next as soon as that first ‘limerence’ high of three to 24 months wears off.

“Love at first sight” is not a predictor of relationship success. Sure, there are always exceptions to this rule, but generally speaking, long, slow and steady courtships guarantee relationship success.

Chemistry can attract you to the “wrong” person. If you want a life partner but are only attracted to commitment-phobes, start examining your attraction. Chemistry could be your unconscious keeping you safe from the hurt of a real relationship by only attracting you to shorter term relationships or charming player types.

Chemistry changes depending on your mood or medication. Research shows that when men are hungry or stressed, they’re sexually attracted to bigger and more curvy women than they are are when full because of unconscious attraction and its associations. Studies show that women are attracted to very different types of men when they’re on the pill compared to when they’re not. So much for “chemistry.”

You might start a relationship with someone because of the high chemistry that tells you “this person is my type!” — which is a problematic term in itself. Then, after two years, the chemistry is gone and the relationship fizzles out.

Your “type” could be an unhealthy unconscious pattern. You might be attracted to a man who is similar to your father — for example, emotionally unavailable like your dad was. The huge amount of effort and work that you have to put in to get their attention can feel comforting and familiar. “This must be love”, you say! The chemistry is powerful, but it’s an old unhealthy pattern.

Please don’t prioritise chemistry in a relationship above everything else.

Cat O Dowd

Sex Therapist Relationship Counsellor Art Therapist