Is It Chemistry Or Is It Love?

Is It Chemistry Or Is It Love?
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Have you ever been in a relationship with a person who made your heart flutter?

Who made your toes curl?

Who gave you butterflies?

Chemistry.

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.

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.

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.

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.

If you’ve mistaken the passion of being “in love” for true love, you’re not alone. My entire dating coaching practice is designed to illustrate to you how you’ve naturally been making the same mistakes your entire life, and how to course-correct instantly.

Now you know from reading my material that I have a whole bunch of challenging thoughts on love, but this “Chemistry vs. Love” theory isn’t something I pulled out of thin air. 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.”

I’m guessing you’ve probably experienced this. The high passion that feels so good, but often comes to a crashing halt. You’ve probably also experienced this:

“Recent studies in neuroscience have indicated that as people fall in love, the brain 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.”

Yep. This is when all the excitement and newness of a passionate relationship wears off.

When sex is no longer exciting. When you’re finding flaws with your partner.

When you struggle to remember how amazing it was in the first few months. Says Wikipedia:

“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.”

Ah. The third stage.
The third stage is the one that determines whether your passion actually turns into the love that lasts a lifetime. If you look back, you may be shocked to find that all of your lust and attraction has NOT resulted in stable, happy, long-term relationships.

Funny how that works.

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.

When you’re incredibly attracted to someone, all of your critical thinking powers immediately go out the window.

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. And if you need a helping hand, that’s what I’m here for.

Sometimes you can be the smartest woman in the world and still have blind spots.

Join our conversation (97 Comments).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.

Comments:

  1. 21
    MH

    Boy, do I need help in this area. Great column to know when it’s wrong, but Evan please do more columns on how to know when it’s right. One thing I find I do with a nice guy is that I question everything and just don’t have faith in him in the future because I keep thinking something is wrong with him. Please help us to change this thinking completely.

  2. 22
    Jennifer

    I view Oxytocin similarly to how I view PMS: they both are real and exist, but the effect varies from woman to woman and neither is an excuse to act like you don’t have any sense.

    I doubt any woman here would argue that she behaves in ways that she absolutely can’t control when under hormonal influences, so let’s not make it sound like oxytocin renders women unable to make smart choices.

    Passionate feelings that make you feel obsessed and anxious to the point of unhappiness- bad. Passionate feelings that make you feel excited and contrent- could be good. Feelings that stir up very little to no passion at all- perfectly fine if that’s what you want, I just wouldn’t count on a rush of passion rising up later.

    No one positive factor about a person should make you ignore a gaggle of warning signs/ negatives, whether that positive factor is strong chemistry or anything else.

    1. 22.1
      SusieQ

      oxyticin is a powerful force like being drunk or drugs and yes people on pms act how they wouldn’t normally act. Some very angry yet not knowing they would respond so angry at times.

      Land some people just feel more or others are able to keep a lid on it and be less passionate.

      Thats what passion is having no bridle on your sexual energies/emotions and letting happen happen without a stop sign from the brain.

       

      Some people think with their head, heart or labido.

      People should Prob use their mind for good decisions but possibly less passion. Does passion exert itself from the mind? The heart?

  3. 23
    BC

    Well, Jennifer#22, I’m no expert on oxytocin, but I can absolutely get the drift of how this stuff works to lull us into a trippy dippy lovey dovey can’t get enought state of mind.   It may not quite render women unable to make smart choices, but it tosses us into that crazy in love zone which can be mighty darn hard to just walk away from, especially when the object of our desire is showing equal, if not   even greater signs of attraction and bonding as we are.   Its pretty darn addicting stuff!   God help us.  

  4. 24
    Nicole

    @BC…yes but I think Jennifer’s point is that they make it seem as if any man who makes a woman have an orgasm is going to control her, and that simply isn’t true.   
    I think plenty of women can totally hook up with a hot man that they don’t want a long term or serious relationship with.   
    And what is the chemical explanation for men who cannot let go of toxic women?   B/c I’ve known plenty of men who got abused by horrid, toxic shrews that they would not let go of.
    So the problems with chemistry do not just render women powerless and foolish, and we should stop talking as though it’s a one-way street.   
    The advice about chemistry is good for both genders, and both genders are susceptible to staying with bad people because of the “heat” they feel towards that person.     

  5. 25
    Selena

    I concure with Diana #18.

    “Chemistry” as it is so often defined in this blog is merely initial sexual attraction – lust – infatuation. That fades because nothing can stay “new” indefinetly.

    Chemistry is that unexplainable click you feel with some people and not others. You may feel it with different friends, co-workers, relatives. In a romantic relationship, sexual attraction is part of it, but not soley it. Chemistry encompasses mental attraction, emotional attraction, and compatibility of personalities. Chemistry is what you feel when someone “gets” you.

    Infatuation is not falling in love. Infatuation is temporary. Falling in love is what follows infatuation – a progression. And that progression does not always happen. One may be highly infatuated at first, then find it ends  either abruptly, or gradually as they get to know the other person better. Often with the realization the other components aren’t there – the mental and emotional attraction, the compatibility of personalities.

    Oxytocin isn’t super glue. If it were, all women and some men would be hopelessly bonded to the first person they ever had sex with. For life. Most of us haven’t.   Like infatuation, oxytocin  is temporary. It’s not an excuse for making unfortunate choices and sticking with them. There are more psychological reasons involved for doing that.

    1. 25.1
      Shewas

      You sound like a very intellectual person reminding me of someone.

      Anyway all good points. 🙂

    2. 25.2
      Al

      I agree completely. Thank you.

  6. 26
    Jennifer

    BC#23- I can see how my comment can read like it was harsh and directed at you, but that’s not the case at all! Sorry if it came off that way.

    I just don’t want people throwing up their hands hopelessly in the face of any hormone; too many bad outcomes can come from that 🙂

  7. 27
    BC

    Jennifer#26-Oh, yeah, I totally agree that we can’t just throw ourselves completely into the fates of hormonal highs and lows, in love or any other situation in life.   I’ve been in that infatuated state of mind, as I’m sure most of us, men or women for that matter have been, and its quite a roller coaster.   I’ve also been involved with guys who I liked an awful lot, and was super compatible with in most ways, while those feelings of getting all swept away were just not there.   Of course, as someone else was saying, I believe Nicole, the oxytocin overload is just temporary, so we come back down to earth soon enough.   Then its either sink or swim, with more of a basis in reality and trying to make a go of things or moving on.  

    This is interesting reading, and in case anyone thinks I am a nutcase with no control of my emotions, I’m not.   Ha!   But, when I was in my twenties, I WAS more easily led by raw emotions as opposed to trying to find that elusive blend of passion and stability…hard qualities to balance sometimes in a relationship.

  8. 28
    Babs

    Woow, this is so true, chemistry doesn’t last, sometimes when we say we are following our ‘heart’ we are actually following chemistry. Its a good feeling but our decisions can not be based solely on feelings. I have feelings for someone, they quite balanced thou, but he’s seeing other people and cohabiting with another, drinks, but has other good qualities. Eish am confused and I feel too old for this feeling (29). I don’t call him anymore but he does- we’re on a break. Am planning to telll him to leave. Meanwhile, my heart was ashed by a 60 year old man whom I had intense feelings for…online, only to discover that I was not the only one. He called me names and left my heart in ashes, but am ok now, when I consider his age, I knew it was never gonna work out.

    In summary, chemistry alone should not affect our decisions

    1. 28.1
      Iva

      You brought an  interesting piece of information, what was that experience with the  60 year old man?… what made you had intense feelings; were you almost convinced to try this relationship…explore the  phenomena, because I think, it has to do a lot with the oxytocin origination…

       

  9. 29
    Anna

    I just want to address you a sincere huge thanks… Love your clear view on things and your witty illustrating examples. Reading this made me feel SO much relief and calmness and made me more confident about myself and everything… I’ve been having doubts about a situation for about three years now… Of course I’ve tried to work things out on my own and have touched some points from the article by myself…but it’s crystal now! Thank you so much 🙂

  10. 30
    Annie

    @17

    I agree with you 🙂 I can say it’s really nice to actually come across some-one who recognizes/believes this, particularly a man.

    I’ve have tried to patiently explain my position on this(and sometimes not so patiently) to so many people,and the truth is they just don’t want to believe it.

    To create a really great, monogamous , enriching, uplifting relationship, you have to leave the “exciting” parts of male female relations alone, till you are sure you want to create that excitement with that person due to genuine respect and compatibility.  

    To wait, is to “choose” some-one to experience excitement with. That is what creates the bond. This is the person you get excited over. Not “this is the sexual stimulation” I get excited over, and then get bored with as you need “new” excitment. Casual sex, dilutes the powerful bond that sex can create.

    Would you agree with my reasoning?

    It is something I struggle with Jack, especially in my country(Australia) which is honestly one of the most promiscuous countries in the west.   

    The most common response I get when I say I want to wait (and I explain my reasons) is “You have sexual issues, You want to withhold sex and manipulate a man, You want to control a man’s sexuality, You’re a prude,   I think I’ll win a man by playing hard to get, YOU DON’T Associate Sex with LOVE do you?HAHAHAHAHA…etc etc etc”.

    They don’t understand. They also end up in such horrible relationships and then blame the opposite gender. We have some serious gender War issues going on in my country because of this.

    You are a breath of fresh air on this blog. I’m glad for that 🙂

      

  11. 31
    Pineapple

    But how come men get to feel the wonderful effects of chemistry?   They won’t go without it!

    1. 31.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Men get into crappy relationships based on chemistry just as well – and make horrible mistakes because of it. Why? Do you think that they don’t?

      1. 31.1.1
        temi

        Hi Evan, I do think men get into crappy relationships based on chemistry as well. I’ve seen it many times. Nice guys who put up with women who do not appreciate them, and everyone thinks, “OMG, why is he with her”. Then, other guys say, “well, she must do something for him to make up for being so nasty to him”   The answer must be chemistry…. And vice versa, it works that way too. I’ve seen men also ruin  stable marriages and seen families ruined over a man’s short, discovered passionate fling with a mistress, and, who, afterwards,  were heartbroken over the demise of their marriage and wish they’d never done it!   Chemistry can take us all over. The best and worst physical experiences I’ve ever had were due to chemistry. The highs do not lift up the lows. Biology has dealt us all   a difficult stack of cards……

  12. 32
    Pineapple

    I think men don’t date without any chemistry, whereas women are taught to “get a guy to grow on them” and trade his excitement for stability….

  13. 33
    Trish

    I met a great man and was excited just to see him and be with him and he always told me that he just wanted to be with me regardless of the fact we were sleeping together and we didnt always have sex when we were together we just loved each others company, we had everything in common and we really “got”each other, but then he told me the ‘spark’ just  wasn’t  there for him (he loved me but wasn’t in love with me) needless to say we are no longer together, we were close friends and knew each other for a cpl of months before we slept together, he’s looking for that “spark”he had as a 16 yr  old and now he’s nearly 50. I personally think as we age (I’m 50) it’s very different, for me it’s more about  compatibility.  companionship and real love/ trust /respect that can be built upon, not a fleeting feeling of euphoria that wears off.And Annie is right(I’m in Australia) when you like a guy you have dated a few times they think there’s something wrong with you when you  don’t  want to have sex with them,preferring to wait a few months to see where the  relationship  is headed and if the bond between you is real and   could last a lifetime, they think were playing hard to get, but one problem is that there’s so many women here with very low or no morals it makes it hard for the rest of us looking for a real connection.

  14. 34
    judy

    For me, chemistry is as described by Selena (25).   I know what LUST is and/or sexual attraction.
    Say Evan, what do you think chemistry is?

  15. 35
    Nura

    Hi, am getting engaged to this guy who I have known for 7 months. His sweet tall dark and handsome. His almost everything a girl dreams of.
    Every time we French kiss I don’t feel anything. His the first guy I kissed. Al i know is I should feel something but I just feel his lips against mine. I don’t feel butterfly’s when am with him. There’s no chemistry at all. I know part of me love him because u care about him a lot, and I miss him if he doesn’t call. :(((. But his a really good guy I think am lucky. There’s nothing wrong with him. But yet I know deep down something is not right.

    1. 35.1
      SparklingEmerald

      Nura – If something doesn’t feel right you should not get engaged or married to this man, until you can get over that feeling. If you can’t shake the feeling that something isnt’ right, you shouldn’t be with him.

      It sounds to me as if you aren’t in love with this man, but you think you “should” be.

  16. 36
    oneK

    I put this comment in another (older?) blogpost (am I the only one who can’t see dates on comments?):
    I think there is a major selection bias in the statistical analysis of chemistry vs little-chemistry argument, which is similar to the argument supporting arranged marriages.
    More arranged marriages last specifically because the kind of people who agree to them are not the kind of people to end marriages (unless there is major abuse).   Similarly, those willing to enter a relationship without that chemistry are probably willing to endure long periods of discontent for the sake of maintaining the relationship.   
    If you define the success of a relationship by its longevity then yes, those starting out with little chemistry will be more successful. But this says very little about relationship satisfaction, which is far more difficult to assess.
    Personally, with the feeling of being in love so universal and seemingly part of the human condition, I don’t understand wanting to deny   one of life’s true pleasures.   Surely, while acknowledging that it does not last for long, it can be seen as an essential foundation on which other elements of a fulfilling relationship are built?
      
      

  17. 37
    natalie

    I am happy to have found this site. Ive been in an undefined relationship but basically we know we are friends and weve been talking for a 2 years. We are miles apart but we are able to build a strong relationship.   The constant communication we have made us attached to each other. He told me that he was emotionally attached with me and he wants to progress the relationship. He visited me once, I visited him once in the two years span. I can tell that there was no spark in our first meeting,   nor the second but the latter has a different feeling to it. Even that there was no obvious spark but I can feel the attachment I have to him, its a different feeling than chemistry,   just far far more different.   My heart doesn’t flutter and there’s no electricity but im happy and contented and I like to be around him. He have a lot of flaws, but I found all of those charming about him. Though after the last
      visit and a week of contemplation,   he said that we cannot be more than friends for there was no spark which I found a shallow reason and was just too confusing for me cause what we have is far more and beyond just attraction, we still didnt really talk about it and I don’t know he have the feeling I have. But what can I do. I have to let him go and find someone he has a spark with.  

  18. 38
    Temi

    I have definitely confused being in love with chemistry and paid the price!   I think for women, this may happen even easier than for men.   The moment  women get intimate with someone we feel chemistry with, all these attachment hormones (oxytocin) take over, and we think we’re in love.   It was the most intense feeling I ever had and I really believed he was the one. I’m not naïve and  I’d had several long-term relationships.   Clearly, this man had many faults, was narcissistic, made me miserable, enjoyed making me wait, was manipulative, not  really  attractive, yet, I could not stop the relationship and wanting to see him.   I am a normal, intelligent person and generally calm. Yet,  I lost all my judgment.   After about one year, he suddenly wanted to “disengage” and subsequently dropped me like a bomb because he wanted “new experiences” He was in his mid-50s, me 15 years younger. Of course,  now  I wish I’d never met him. He appeared so sincere, educated, kind and said all the right things in the beginning, such as “feeling so attached to him” and that “what we had was nothing like he had ever had before”. Like another commenter said: Yes,, the passion was unbelievable, something I can never forget, but the misery is absolutely horrible when it ends. Now they say this type of “addiction” is like having to quit heroin. I’ve never used drugs, so I would not know. Only that kicking this kind of chemistry is horrible.   I will never forget him, but I wish I had never met him.   I am in a much calmer relationship now, with less passion, but feel loved. And that, I am building on and feels much better.   It is good to read that I was not alone in this and hope we all make better choices in the end.

  19. 39
    Amanda from tennessee

    When I first started dating the man I’m with, it was 5 years ago. We fell in love instantly. Or I did. I immediately felt like he was the one I was supposed to be with. It was a feeling of, I just knew. He cheated and it killed me inside. I dealt with it over and over and eventually ended up cheating myself. We stopped cheating and I guess you could say realized how much we meant to each other. That was the first year. Now, I’m lost In our relationship. I love him dearly. But I’m now feeling like I’m destined for so much more. Like I’m supposed to be living this great love story. He has proposed, I’ve accepted. But that was three years ago this Christmas and were still not married. Every time I try to plan our wedding, I get discouraged by him and I feel like his whole heart isn’t in it so I stop the planning process. Its like I feel like it’s never gonna happen. So at this point, I’m asking myself, after 5 years of this yoyo, what do I do?! Bc I literally am ready for the next phase of my life to start.

    1. 39.1
      EmeraldDust

      Amanda @39 – I think you already know what you should do, but it’s just very hard to do it.   Good luck to you.

    2. 39.2
      KarmicEquation

      If you’re not happy, leave him. It’s that simple. A relationship requires MORE than just love. It requires that both people are vested in meeting their partner’s reasonable needs and helping him/her in their quest for happiness.

      If he isn’t or doesn’t want to meet your needs…and it sounds like getting married is a need for you and is a perfectly reasonable one considering you’ve been dating 5 years — you need to leave.

      It sounds as you’re each other’s habit. It’s hard to kick a bad habit. Sometimes even when you know it’s killing you.

  20. 40
    Kath Jacka

    I think this is a pretty astute theory and one that we all need to hear more often. I have just decided to end a relationship with a man I’m still in love with (whatever that means) but who I don’t love in the true sense of the word. We had an intense, chemistry-fuelled 18 months but it emerged that he was irresponsible, self-absorbed and neglectful of those around him. I saw an unhappy future for myself and decided to walk away.
    It has not been easy but I had a deep realisation that charming, charasmatic types are great fun for a while but not a good bet for a truly loving and committed partner. They are half formed people and you cannot change them if they can’t change themselves.

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