One big myth about relationships that I’d love to dispel is the notion that it’s necessary to feel “chemistry” with someone right away in order to have romantic success.
This, frankly, is false.
In fact, it might actually be not just wrong, but the exact opposite of what we should be looking for!
Because often what we call “chemistry” is a triggering of some attachment pattern developed in our childhood.
Consider an example:
My client Jane (not her real name) met Beau (also not his real name) on a social networking site. She’d posted something feisty, and he called her out on it. He was handsome, eloquent, and playful, all of which made Jane overlook his red flags.
She was instantly attracted, and the two began a whirlwind romance, driving many hours to meet each other, spending tons of time on the phone and having video calls.
Jane fell in love fast. Some of the things she desired about Beau were his combativeness, his willingness to oppose her at times, but also make her feel special and deeply loved at other times.
Jane saw some concerning things, too. Sometimes Beau wouldn’t respond to her for long stretches of time, sometimes days of silence, and this triggered Jane’s anxiety. He always had an excuse when he got back, usually saying he was very sick.
In her whole life, Jane had never felt such intense chemistry with anyone, never experienced such a heightened desire to be with someone. She overcame her earlier wish not to have children when Beau said he wanted to have a child with her.
She was deeply, madly in love.
What Jane didn’t realize was that most of what Beau told her was fiction. His “illness” was probably the other woman he was seeing.
If we go back in time and look at Jane’s childhood, we can see that her father behaved a lot like Beau. Combative much of the time, pushing and challenging, then occasionally offering validation, praise, or love. Jane’s father was physically absent some of the time and emotionally absent most of the time.
As a result, Jane developed a disorganized attachment style (for more explanation of attachment styles, see this post). She became avoidant and fled if she had too-interested partners. But with Beau’s avoidance, she flipped to her anxious pattern.
Unbeknownst to Jane, the pattern she had with Beau was mimicking the relationship she’d had with her father. And because the push-pull of the avoidant-anxious pattern evoked a familiar feeling in her, it felt “right.”
Not just right. It felt perfect!
This sense of excitement and uncertainty (“Will he respond? OH MY GOD HE RESPONDED!”) made Jane feel amazing, and all the excitement and bliss when he responded to her allowed her to overlook all the anxiety she felt when he pulled away.
Her nervous system was conditioned by her childhood to make her crave that sort of upheaval.
So though Jane sensed this feeling as “chemistry,” what it really was was trauma.
This Is A Too-Familiar Story
Jane isn’t the only client whom has come to me with this story. It happens over and over.
If you have childhood wounds, particularly attachment issues stemming from an insecure attachment with your caregivers, I would caution you to be very careful about seeking “chemistry” with a romantic partner.
Because what you may actually be setting yourself up for is explosiveness.
And I don’t mean that in any positive sense.
So here’s my advice:
If you have a history of trauma, and you’re going on dates to meet a potential partner, start asking yourself different questions.
Stop asking: “Do I feel a spark with this person?” or “Do I feel chemistry?”
Instead, ask: “Do I feel safe with them?” “Do they make me feel good?” “Do I enjoy being with them?” “Did I have fun?”
If you have attachment issues (and let’s face it, most of us do), stop letting your issues “pick” partners who are likely to trigger you.
You might object! You might say, “But Xanet, I can’t be with someone safe! They feel BORING!”
If this is true for you, then you might need to do more healing work before jumping back in the dating pool.
You’ll know you’ve started to heal when your “picker” gets better.
You will start choosing the people who treat you well.
You will start choosing safety over explosiveness. (And it will feel good!)
You will start feeling better, happier, and be able to fall more deeply, healthily in love.