Is It Chemistry, Or Is It Love?

young couple on an umbrella, under a bridge


All you know is that you let him into your heart and fell in love. Or did you?


There’s no feeling like it.

Your eyes meet, your hands touch, and you’re suddenly consumed with a new partner.

You live for the present, you dream of a future, and your heart outraces your head.

All you know is that you wouldn’t trade this feeling for anything in the world. If this is how strongly you can feel, why ever settle for anything less?

Then it happens.

You start to fight.

You learn he’s jealous, or controlling, or irresponsible, or unethical.

He starts to pull away.

You begin to walk on eggshells.

You don’t know where you stand.

You crave the pure feeling you had before, but you spend more time worrying than feeling peaceful about your relationship.

And then it ends.

He tells you he needs space.

He tells you he wants to see other people.

He tells you it’s not right.

Or, who knows, maybe he doesn’t tell you at all. Maybe he just fades away.

All you know is that you let him into your heart and fell in love.

Or did you?

I mean, yeah, you loved him — intensely, unconditionally, with all of your being.

And yeah, he said he loved you — and, for a time, you never felt more connected to another human being.

But does this really meet the test of true love?

Not by my standards. And probably not by yours.

Love doesn’t flee. Love isn’t jealous. Love doesn’t cheat. Love isn’t cruel. Love doesn’t make you feel bad about yourself, or insecure about your future.

Love endures.

What you’ll notice is that when you’re incredibly attracted to someone, all of your critical thinking powers immediately go out the window.

When we talk about being “in love”, we’re often talking about a feeling, as opposed to the enduring bond experienced between two people for a long period of time.

Even Wikipedia backs this up:

“Lust is the initial passionate sexual desire that promotes mating, and involves the increased release of chemicals such as testosterone and estrogen. These effects rarely last more than a few weeks or months.”

You’ve probably experienced this.

“Recent studies in neuroscience have indicated that as people fall in love, the brain consistently releases a certain set of chemicals…which act in a manner similar to amphetamines, stimulating the brain’s pleasure center and leading to side effects such as increased heart rate, loss of appetite and sleep, and an intense feeling of excitement. Research has indicated that this stage generally lasts from one and a half to three years.”

You’ve probably experienced this, too.

“Since the lust and attraction stages are both considered temporary, a third stage is needed to account for long-term relationships. Attachment is the bonding that promotes relationships lasting for many years and even decades. Attachment is generally based on commitments such as marriage and children, or on mutual friendship based on things like shared interests.”

You’ve probably realized this, as nearly all of your lust and attraction has NOT resulted in stable, happy, long-term relationships.

The reason I’m sharing this with you is not to convince you that you’ve never truly been in love (although it’s possible). What I’d like you to consider is that the EFFECTS of lust and attraction have been HURTING your chances of finding love.

What you’ll notice is that when you’re incredibly attracted to someone, all of your critical thinking powers immediately go out the window.

This is why you’ll put up with a man who only calls you once a week, a man who doesn’t call you his girlfriend after three months, a man who doesn’t propose after three years.

If you want to find love — a love that endures — you have to find a new way than the one you’ve been using for your whole life. Start by distinguishing between chemistry and love, and you’re on your way.

If you were thinking critically, you’d never put up with this, but you’re not. You’re under the biological effects of lust and attraction — hereby known as “chemistry”.

And all I’m pointing out is that while chemistry is an incredible feeling, it is in no way a solid predictor of your future. It’s literally just a feeling. A feeling that masks your partner’s worst traits and allows you to put up with them.

So instead of chasing chemistry at a cost to your own mental health, take a second to realize that if you feel that high feeling, you are likely ignoring something fundamental which will later break you up.

You don’t have to trust me. Just look back on the greatest chemistry you’ve ever felt and think about how those relationships ended. Ask yourself if you want to be in another relationship where you’re always fighting and you never feel secure in your future.

I’m guessing you don’t.

If you want to find love — a love that endures — you have to find a new way than the one you’ve been using for your whole life.

Start by distinguishing between chemistry and love, and you’re on your way.

P.S. Here’s what it looks like when you can do this yourself:

I felt so obsessed with this guy simply because he had lavished me with tons of attention, he was hot… has his act together and I was in the throes of obsession land; mainly because he was pulling back a bit, and I was feeling “not good enough”.

Instead of obsessing about how I’m not going to be good enough… I started thinking… “Y’know… I’m not sure I’m ready to accept a potential relationship where I might be walking on eggshells”

And I woke up feeling so FREEEEEE and in CONTROL.  OMFG!   I’ve never EVER turned around obsessive thoughts about a man into a feeling of control.  Now, I have fallen for Mr. Passionate-moves-too-fast guy at least 3 or 4 times in the online dating world HOOK, LINE AND SINKER, so I recognize this in myself… and I recognize there is a certain type of guy that I attract that likes to move at lightning speed and THAT MEANS NOTHING as far as the big picture…

Evan… you’ve really changed my life.  I just can’t think of a bigger gift than having control over my emotions when it comes to dating.   NOTHING.   No amount of money… no amount of success would have been able to give me this.  This is almost BETTER than finding Mr. Right… just knowing I now have a monetary amount of control over something that I felt so powerless over for so many years.

THANK YOU EVAN!     You have completely changed my life… probably more than any one person ever has!


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  1. 1

    This is a battle I have fought in my head and heart more times than I care to remember. I’ve reached the point that I can’t do it anymore. It’s exhausting and never turns out well. Evan described my experiences TO A TEE.

  2. 2
    Mikko Kemppe - Relationship Coach

    Very good explanation of what so often happens to us when we don’t think critically or realistically about what it means to be in love. So many times we create illusions in our head about our partners and we fall in love with that illusion when it has nothing to do with the reality. I agree, chemistry in a sense of pure lust or infatuation is never lasting and a poor foundation for long lasting love.
    Well explained!!!

    1. 2.1

      I have fallen into this.   3 bad relationships.   strong chemistry.   last one turned out bad.   addiction is the common theme.      ignored the signs.   i want to do things differently this time.   I am being a stickler.   It has finally clicked we must value same things and healthy lifestyle.   Ironic most of my life I felt so ugly and hideous physically.   Lost weight and look great.   Hated myself and my body for years.   I am so much more than my looks.   I attract nice looking men.   I have been told men only see sex with me.   I am so much more than that.   Well rounded and interesting.   advocate for wellness and honoring the body.   vegan.   I truly attracted my soul mate this last time-they are meant to shake you up and show you things.   Help me grow spiritually.   On the conscious path.   I believe in true love and marriage and value family.   No success.   I took a dating class and working in self improvement and bettering my life.   clearing out the past and how can I make my life better.   There has to be a balance.   Gotta be a connection between 2 people.   I want a person who values what I do, similiar lifestyle choices and wellness.   It is better to be alone than with unhealthy people.   I am energetic and empath.   People’s energy and lifestyle choices affect me.   I must be around people who are healthy period.   Or I cut it loose.   This is new for me.   Thanks for sharing.

      1. 2.1.1
        Alicia Dionizio

        U helped me out so.much jus by what u said. Thx a lot hun

      2. 2.1.2

        The comment “men only see sex in me” breaks my heart. In fact it shatters it. I too was told by men and women both I smelt like sex. I looked like sex. I could make so much money by selling sex.

        Absolutely disgusting. I dress modestly, volunteer and rescue pitbulls, live alone and read while I’m not working or in my garden. I am almost asexual, I have no desire for it I certainly don’t ask for that attention and yet I’ve had people say the same thing to me. Is appalling. It’s abhorent. It’s wrong.

        You my dear are a radically powerful being! You bring love and light with you, you a teacher a friend and a role modle and you are blind to your students. SEX can be powerful and such a magically spiritual act when it is with someone who values you and wants to see you happy and succeed. Those who say you look like sex are unhappy slaves to their mind who function in low vibrational states of fear and negativity.

        You are so much more than that. All you can do is appreciate in the most basic way a male of your species found you attractive enough to want to copulation. Drop it let it go and do not suffocate in shame guilt or disgust. Try to shake it off and find the guy who values you for what’s beneath and centered in your chest and what’s in your head. You heart and your brain is how you love, genitalia is only babies (or the locked door to a higher realm with Mr right)

        I had to comment this because I felt shame and embaressment for far to long when I was told this. I heard it so often I assumed my character was flawed if that’s all they saw. No. They have immature weak characters who can’t see anything more.

        I love you my sister and I know you will find your way 🙂

  3. 3

    I can totally relate as I’m in the exact same situation now and we’ve been on and off for over a year now. I’m not happy most of the time and we have more fights then good times and despite all this I still keep holding on. I think I have it in my head because there was mind blowing chemistry when we met, that it’s meant to be but when I think about it, I’m not in love with this person. I, too, find this exhausting as I seem to be attracting and dating the same type of man.

  4. 4

    Me too, unfortuately. Looking back atall of my serious relationships they were more serious on my side than on his. I was willing to settle because I was selling myself short.

  5. 5

    Propose after 3 years?

    Heck, I just proposed to my girlfriend after 8 months.

    She said yes. 😀

    1. 5.1

      congrats, man!

    2. 5.2
      Alicia Dionizio

      I would have married my ex in a matter of days. A yr later we were hitched. We lasted all of 4 still in love with him and we’re divorced now. 🙁 thx for sharing

  6. 6

    When I was in college, I had those crazy obsessive types of relationships. Then I wasn’t in an LTR at all for a long time…my grad school friends all told me I was a committment-phobe. Really, I was just waiting for someone I had enough in common with for it to be “real.”

    I have mentioned before that I knew the BF was”the one” on our first date, but it’s not because I was unbelievably attracted to him (though he is a handsome guy, and we did sleep together on the first date). It’s because our first date is when I found out he was a liberal, atheist, vegetarian, Mensan, cat-lover, who doesn’t want kids.

    Since I am all of those things, too, and they’re <b>individually</b> hard to find, and have <b>all</b> been dealbreakers for me in the past, well – it was obvious that someone I had that much in common with off the bat would be worth exploring further.

    At three and a half years or so, we’re starting that third stage, and while we no longer have sex 8 times a day, we’re a team. And that’s the best part 🙂

    1. 6.1

      “not because I was unbelievable attracted to him” and what! Slept on the FIRST date? and then “while we no longer have sex 8 times a day”… say, there WAS CHEMISTRY all along, don’t you think???

  7. 7

    I don’t get it – I have never lost my head with a man so that I wouldn’t have seen that when it doesn’t work. Not even as a teen…
    I haven’t even ever felt that kind of chemistry toward anyone that you describe in that letter.
    There are only those whom I find
    a. physicall attractive (and it vanishes if they are idiots),
    b. those who are ok, therefore possible if the personality and our personal chemistry works, and
    c. majority = those whom I wouldn’t open my legs to – no matter what since they are not sexually attractive to me.

    Further more I have never ever been bed to a man who would make me lose my senses..
    I would love to lose control – at least once.. instead of being always on the sensible side – that you preach to be the right answer as being “love”.
    That is why I say “I want someone whom I find sexually attractive” – since it means the whole package: physical attraction, but the mental chemistry too together with fact that I would be able to admire his ethics too.
    If those are not there, why bother?
    I have enough experience of relationships where on the sack it got boring within a month as novelty wore off.

  8. 8
    Relationship Advice From Penny

    Wow, lately this topic of chemistry seems to be popping up a lot. I even wrote an article about this on my relationship blog recently. (In fact, at the end of the article, I quoted something by you, Evan 🙂 The article is called: What is chemistry? You’ll be surprised it’s not what you think!

    Chemistry plays a big part in how a relationship develops. Though having chemistry with someone can be great in many aspects, without understanding that it can work in the positive as well as the negative, we can’t fully grasp that it can also be the very reason we end up in unhealthy relationships.
    For some people who love the idea of being in love, with chemistry involved, they can sometimes fall for the wrong partner and still think they’re in love with this partner, but really, they’re not they’re in love with the idea of what this person could be. They build up and fall in love with an image of their own creation versus the actual partner they’re with…

  9. 9

    I hear your pain (starthrower68) and am right there in the same frustrating, leaking boat. It IS exhausting, and every time it happens to me, I feel like a big jerk — or thrwarted, doomed, betrayed, and hostile, convinced that maybe this really is my destiny. Then I tell myself maybe I’m too wounded to be able to attract the right man, or maybe, when all is said and done, there really are no available men out there who aren’t shallow, personality-disordered, or unable to sustain a committed relationship. So why keep trying? I mean, really, am I a masochis? Or is it me who’s messed up? And on and on and on. That line of obsessing is like my personal runaway train, incredibly hard to stop. I’m a believer that the truth will set me free, and the truth is, for me, the “in love/lust” feeling is apparently my personal drug of choice . It’s got many of the same addiction symptoms of any other drug, including the obsessing and withdrawal. I crave the attention AND the intensity, even though I say I’m tired of it, and even though I recognize the triggers as they’re flying out of Mr. Lover-of-My Life’s mouth. What’s critical for me is turning the thoughts around, just like Melissa described in her letter to Evan, and do what I call “self-containment.” Once I reel myself in, forgive myself for falling into the love-lust trap again, then I can start to shut-up the negative self-chatter, and put myself back in control of me. I know I am capable of making better choices in a man if I’m willing to slow the train down, get some objectivity, observe the seduction as it’s coming at me, and acknowledge the power it can have over me without acting on it. I can take as long as I need to decipher what a man’s putting out there and decide for myself whether he is good for me. There really is no need to hurry and decide, regardless of what he is saying or doing.

  10. 10

    I don’t want chemistry not to be there at all; on the contrary, it HAS to be there. The trick is having a balance. Good chemistry with someone you admire, but doesn’t make you lose your head. Since I don’t usually see these situation coming, and am usually blindsided, how can I head them off at the pass, or can I? And if I can’t, how do I dismantle the attraction and desire that linger when the relationship (such as it is) ends? Because yes, it does become obsessive. Most of us have enough control not to become stalkers, or when it’s done, leave that person alone, but when chemistry is intense, you don’t just flip off a switch. Is cold-turkey the best way to kill it or is there a better process?

  11. 11

    Thanks Zann; not that I wish you turmoil, but at least we all can relate which helps. I’m not condemning myself right now, but I just had this happen with a married man and I KNOW better. But I’ll be damned if I didn’t fall for it. It finally hit me how ridiculous it was to be feeling needy over guy who never was available. I’m not pinning the blame on him; I take full responsibility for my poor judgement and lack of behavior. Fortunately there was nothing more than conversation, and I realized that this guy’s heart would be no more open if he were single that it is married. The minute he started the seduction, I should have had the strength and courage to say, “no, stop right there”. I didn’t because I felt chemistry. This is someone that I had worked with previously and had felt an attraction for. He made me feel sexy, beautiful, and desirable and it was intoxicating and addicting. My faith and value system didn’t even keep me from getting sucked in, at least for a little bit.

  12. 12

    @ Honey #6

    You wrote: ” Really, I was just waiting for someone I had enough in common with for it to be real.

    I have mentioned before that I knew the BF was the one on our first date, but it’s not because I was unbelievably attracted to him (though he is a handsome guy, and we did sleep together on the first date). It’s because our first date is when I found out he was a liberal, atheist, vegetarian, Mensan, cat-lover, who doesn’t want kids.
    Since I am all of those things, too, and they re <b>individually</b> hard to find, and have <b>all</b> been dealbreakers for me in the past, well it was obvious that someone I had that much in common with off the bat would be worth exploring further.”

    Yes. To me, that is the best description of chemistry. It’s not about what someone looks like, or how lonely/bored/horny/desperate one might be when they meet someone else who gives them attention – it’s about finding that person you truly connect with.

    Why attempt to have a romantic relationship without that? Why have a legal marriage without that?

    I’ve become burned out on this blog because it describes only two types of relationships: Lust-which proves to be short term, or, ‘compromising’ for someone who treats you well so you won’t be alone.

    People do find the kind of chemistry – connection you did Honey. It isn’t that rare, it just seems to not happen automatically, when you want it, wish it. I have a sense though, that it is less likely to happen if a person really isn’t open to it. Perhaps you were open to it at the time?

    Or was it totally unexpected in terms of your life plan? 🙂

  13. 13

    Great explanations between chemistry, lust and love; but you’re talking about feelings vs logic—and when that happens, feelings trump logic every time and logic goes out the window, especially where matters of the heart are concerned; if it was THAT easy to figure out, then I would think that a large amount of society wouldn’t continue to repeat their patterns; however, there will probably be a large group that may continue to in these relationships–we all know how hard it is to change our behaviors, especially when there are more complex variables involved; I don’t think it’s as easy or as black and white as Evan describes it to be; I think if it was, dating coaches would be put out of business, there would no longer be a need for books such as finding mr/ms. right, and very few people would need to go and lay on a couch and talk to someone–we could do it without anyone’s help.

    1. 13.1
      Alicia Dionizio

      Ur so right!!

  14. 14

    @ Selena, #12 – I think we share a similar view on this. Are the BF and I exactly alike? Of course not. Are there issues, hobbies, etc. on which we disagree? Passionately! But the connection and the amount we have in common on the really important stuff is all there, and it’s part of what makes him so attractive to me (and that attraction has only grown with time). I certainly didn’t compromise to avoid loneliness 🙂

    I think that I was open to a relationship at that point in ways that I hadn’t been previously – I’d been more or less single for 3 or 4 years at that point, so I knew myself pretty well. And, since I’d been on Match that whole time and gone on dates quite regularly, a pretty good idea of what I was looking for.

    When I met the BF, though, I’d pretty much decided that I wasn’t going to try and meet anyone until I’d finished my degree and moved to a new city. I’d resigned my Match membership and everything – I found him on MySpace and sent him a one-line e-mail. He graduated and moved to another city before I did, so we were long distance for about half of our first two years together. And I moved to a city I never would have expected! But that’s what happens…

  15. 15
    Mikko Kemppe - Relationship Coach

    I agree with Selena (# 12) in that what Honey wrote (#6) is how I define the word chemistry as well. I think Evan well describes and defines the word chemistry in a sense of lust or infatuation.
    Like Selena I also believe you don’t have to compromise in that it is possible to have great chemistry with someone in all levels: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. And why not go for it all? I have seen and met many couples who have it all, and I have come pretty close my-self.
    But I also understand that it is not for everyone. Growing personally and finding someone you have chemistry with in all levels
    does often take time and commitment. And not all of us are looking for the same things in relationships. Ultimately all relationships come in different shapes and forms, none necessarily better than the other ones.

  16. 16

    I think the real growth comes when we realize that the chemistry we felt was not necessarily real love. It causes us to step back and realize maybe that isn’t what we really want. When we can re-center and re-focus, we see that the situation was not really good for us and we can assess our feelings for the other person a bit more objectively.

  17. 17

    I’d hate for great folks like Selena to no longer be interested in this blog because of the recent string of articles. At the same time, though, I don’t think that Evan is saying that Selena’s definition of chemistry isn’t necessary. If you look at how he describes his feelings towards his wife, he’s feeling Selena’s form of chemistry. How can one describe someone else in the glowing terms that Evan uses for his wife without feeling Selena’s form of chemistry? The thing is, I think people are operating off of different definitions of the same word which is why it’s’ so frustrating to many.

    I think Evan’s schpiel is that you don’t need to wait for the vegan/Mensan/loves cats/atheist/doesn’t want kids/liberal and have great excitement towards them (probably what Evan describes as chemistry and Selena describes as infatuation). Instead you can have Selena’s form of chemistry with someone who tolerates cats rather than loves them, eats meat but is willing to have vegan meals with you, and who was in the honors program but not quite a Mensan (just to use the examples from Honey’s post). These are the types of compromises that I would say Evan is in favor of. You’re not looking for someone who meets everything on the checklist perfectly, but rather someone who can work with everything that’s important for you. But if one of you wants to have sex 8 times a day and the other wants it once a month, I don’t think that Evan’s going to be suggesting a compromise. I think he’d call it an irreconciable difference and call it a day.
    For reference, here are Selena’s definitions of chemistry and infatuation from #40 on Passion vs Comfort thread:
    Chemistry is that hard-to-define *something* that you feel towards some people and not others. It’s more than sexual attraction and you don’t have to look far into anyone’s life to see that is true. Review your friends, co-workers, relatives there are some you click with more than others. Some who really get you, yes? Chemistry is something that is special, something beyond get along well with . I’ll venture when most of the posters on this blog are attempting to defend chemistry to EMK that’s what they mean: the difference between special and get along well with. If you’ve ever had it with a partner, the idea of being partnered to someone without it is pretty unappealing.
    Infatuation is based primarily on physical attraction and is largely hormonal. A blunt way to describe this is fresh lust. Which can give you that giddy feeling; aka: butterflies, sparks. Sex during the period of infatuation is described by some as fireworks. It’s exciting and intoxicating because it’s new. It’s a high.

  18. 18

    @ A-L #16
    Well stated.

  19. 19

    These kinds of views and articles make me think, and I like thinking. 🙂 What I find perplexing in Evan’s words are comments like … “Ask yourself if you want to be in another relationship where you’re always fighting and you never feel secure in your future.” I believe you can have chemistry and not find yourself in these situations in much the same way as how you can have love and find yourself unsure of your future.
    If you are in a relationship based purely on lust or infatuation (aka chemistry, as I believe Evan defines it), we all know that eventually the passion-fueled veil will be lifted and the reality of who the person truly is will be revealed. I believe the relationship fails in most cases for reasons such as no compatibility, or the couple is not mature enough nor have the desire to make the transgression to real love which is far from perfection, or their insecurities drive their need for other things.
    In Melissa’s letter, her insecurities for needing attention and validation from others was the driving force behind her looking for the guy who would fall all over her in an instant, lavishing her with whatever they could offer: materialism, sex, empty emotional platitudes. Chemistry, in and of itself, was not the problem; only the fallout.
    I tend to think of chemistry differently, as a connecting bond that consists of both physical attraction and compatibility. Without both, you only have lust or settling. As the relationship matures, the chemistry becomes real love.

  20. 20

    Selena #12
    I’m also in agreement with you. If one thinks of chemisty as fireworks-inducing, mind-blowing love-at-first-sight (actually lust), then one is bound to be disappointed. But if chemistry means geniune liking, common interests and values, a sense of connection and comfort PLUS sexual attraction, then chemistry is essential. Is it easy to find? No, but that is what makes it special. The problem is that sometimes we think we have the more lasting kind of chemistry, but we really don’t. Some compatability issues don’t pop up until after you’ve put 3 months into dating, which is what spending time getting to know someone is for.

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