Is It Chemistry, Or Is It Love?


I write a lot about this subject, but today’s newsletter got such a strong positive reaction that I decided to post this on the blog for anyone who does not have a subscription. And if you don’t have a subscription and you don’t want to miss exclusive content like this, please click here to register and get the 5 Massive Mistakes eBook and my free weekly emails that come with it. Thanks.

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. 21
    Curly Girl

    Fallacy: Estrogen is not the hormone responsible for female lust. Female lust is caused by a hormonal cocktail of testosterone, preogesterine, AND estrogen. But more the first two. Sorry, Wikipedia.

  2. 22

    If you really want to consider something purely academic, I just thought of this: I am on medication for depression, which can leave you emotionally flat at times, but for me, centered most of the time. I can still experience highs and lows, but not usually to the extreme. Unless, that is, I feel intenste chemistry, lust, or whatever the appropriate word is. I realize we’re talking about a different set of neurochemicals; I guess my point is, whatever you call this thing that we’re dicussing, it’s very potent and powerful, and no wonder we take leave of our senses.

  3. 23

    @Selena #12. I’m so with you. I don’t believe ‘worthwhile’ relationships are either/or, I don’t believe chemistry is always temporary, nor do i believe finding a good match for you that you also feel wild chemistry for is so rare as to be almost impossible.

    I’ve tried to figure out if it’s a definition thing, or just the way it’s being stated, but I’m starting to believe that Evan and I just have wildly different viewpoints on this subject.

  4. 24

    I’m not sure Evan is saying it’s either/or. I think what he’s saying is that chemistry and stability/comfort should have a balance, which how all things in life should be, balanced. I’m also of the notion that maybe what some consider pure lust, others are calling chemistry. It appears we’re arguing over semantics.

  5. 25

    Evan, I’m not sure what you’re saying either. You mean the speed and readiness at which you’re willing to to de-clothe and jump into bed with someone <i> isn’t </i> a good predictor of future relationship quality???? Or that I may have a sh*t load of turmoil in my life and hormones flowing through my veins, but it doesn’t mean I have any genuine character, stability, passion or love. That all I care about is making a custom slave who’ll worship me and tell me I’m special, otherwise I act like a spoiled and deranged b*tch? Gee, what a grown up and sane view.

  6. 26

    Absolutely true. How many bad decisions have I watched my friends make when they were clearly under the influence of Lust. Lust that they called Love.

    Personally I think this is something that needs to be explained to teenagers at school, REPEATEDLY.

  7. 27
    Karl R

    starthrower68 asked: (#9)
    “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?”

    Self-awareness helps me. I realize when my attraction to someone is interfering with my judgment, and I take that into account when making decisions.

    For example, I started dating one of my dance partners about 3 weeks ago. We had been friendly and known each other somewhat beforehand, but once we started spending time with each other, we’ve basically been rushing headlong into a relationship. I’ve spent most nights at her place for a couple weeks.

    Obviously, a lot of this momentum is fueled by physical attraction and mind-blowing sex. I won’t claim that my judgment is unclouded by that.

    However, that doesn’t blind me to the obvious. There’s a substantial age gap that will probably prevent this from becoming a long-term serious relationship. And based on our conversations, we both agree on that.

    Since neither of us wants kids, that gives us plenty of time to make choices. I am feeling the initial high of the relationship right now. But I can afford to let it wear off before making any decisions about where I might want things to go after the first few months.

    It’s like functioning while drunk. I’m aware that I’m impaired, so I try to avoid doing anything stupid (like making major decisions) until I sober up.

    starthrower68 said: (#10)
    “I should have had the strength and courage to say, no, stop right there. I didn’t because I felt chemistry. […] He made me feel sexy, beautiful, and desirable and it was intoxicating and addicting.”

    Could that be a self-confidence issue? If you feel sexy, beautiful and desirable all the time, then there’s less of a reason to latch onto someone when they affirm that feeling.

    starthrower68 said: (#15)
    “I think the real growth comes when we realize that the chemistry we felt was not necessarily real love.”

    When I feel infatuated, I assume that it has no bearing on real love. Until the feeling diminishes, I can’t be certain whether I really love the woman or not.

    And during that period of time, I try to build a true friendship so there’s some kind of foundation for whatever relationship exists afterward. This may explain why I remain friends with so many ex-girlfriends.

  8. 28

    Regarding what Karl R said in #27, referrig to starthrower68’s comment #10 — “I should have had the strength & courage to say “no, stop right there.” Karl asks whether this could be due to a self-confidence issue, as opposed to responding to lust/chemistry/infatuation. I think this is the crux of the whole matter. Regardless of how you define chemistry (hormones, sparks, connecting), and regardless of whether the attraction is instant or slow-growing, what matters is why you are attracted to this person at all. Meaning, why him/her out of all the humans roaming the earth? A self-confidence issue? I’d say almost every poor decision I’ve made in my lifetime — whether it was in an intimate relationship, a friendship, a spending spree, imbibing too much — was probably due to insecurity of some kind. I mean, I’ll be the first to admit I am not 100% secure in who I am 100% of the time. Sure, I like to believe I’m getting closer (& at my age, I sure as hell hope I am), but Geez-Louise, we’re all products of our environment & history. My point is that I can get all kinds of great dating advice, just like the kind I’ve gotten on this site, but if I don’t have my s*&t together and don’t have a good idea of what my “issues” are, where I’m vulnerable or where I have a tendency to become a little, uh, neurotic and veer off my normally-sensible track — then I’m gonna have nothing but trouble in relationships. Building a healthy relationship with anyone — regardless of whether sparks flew and regardless of whether your current sweetie met all those dealbreaker requirements on your Checklist — requires awareness of yourself and mindfulness of what is happening around you in every interaction you encounter…but especially in intimate ones. Otherwise, you’re going to keep experiencing the scenario starthrower talks about: You knew the dude was married/addict/womanizer/unethical/commitment-phobe/whatever, but you let yourself be drawn in because it was attention that felt good at the time. And when the attention’s withdrawn, that’s when an insecure person (I’m talking about myself here) feels the resulting bad stuff — the regret, the shame, the guilt, the despair, loneliness, abandonment. Even secure people feel disappointment and frustration when a relationship they were enjoying ends, but because they were never sucked in as much out of need, they rebound quickly & keep it in perspective. That’s why it’s critical to me that I become a master of the fine art of detecting when I’m feel attracted, freezing the action in my head, and evaluating it for what it really is before acting on it. Lastly, flirtation feels good, but it’s no indicator of anything other than: He came, he saw, he liked, he flirted. (sorry guys, I realize it works both ways). End of story.

    1. 28.1

      your all very wrong, if you love someoen you love them, there is no ohh im insecure and he is too, thats bad drama and they obviously odnt love someoen if there focusing on all there problems and not being in the now, and in the moment with them. your not looking for a friend. (or parental figure) Love is LOVE. its pure and unexplained, you never wanna escape it.  

  9. 29

    @ Zann # 24


    Agree with every word. Thank you for writing that.

  10. 30

    Wow Zann. Soberly thought out post. Some really great comments in this thread. Thank you all for posting your most interesting thoughts.
    I believe being brutally self-aware of these tingling feelings and removing them to see what we have left is a valuable habit. Because I react so strongly to a disintegrating relationship I needed to find a way to process subsequent ventures of finding a potential mate.
    I break it down like this:
    Human chemistry is unreasonable, doesn’t analyze. Emotions triggered, reactions to. Can be positive or negative, but still we have little control how it affects us when it chooses to appear.

    But, yet we all have a string of thought, an element of quiet space in our brains called logic. After going over all the cold hard facts then maybe seeing what kid of relationship we actually have is clearer. I think sometimes folks have the logic/instinct tuned too low to hear, but it is there.
    I never discount instinct (the sum of all observational faculties telling you if it’s safe or not, perhaps..), either. If you don’t know what, but something doesn’t feel right, cue to check the logic.
    When we listen, really listen – we have a choice.

  11. 31

    Wow.. Matched everything I was feeling… Too bad it ended..?

  12. 32

    Hmm, this doesn’t sound like a description of chemistry, however, it sounds like a description of sexual attraction/physical attraction with is DIFFERENT from chemistry. Chemistry is based on the things that we don’t notice as humans, e.g. scent, genetics (not eye color, but the things that deep in the DNA code) that make two people compatible in a scientific sense. Chemistry has nothing to do with looking at each other, holding hands and feeling attracted to the other person. There are plenty of times when people feel physically attracted but there is either bad or nonexistent/neutral chemistry. I think the blog post might have been better titled “Is it Physical Attraction or is it Love?” since that’s what the whole post is about. It’s been scientifically proven that good chemistry leads to longer lasting relationships free of infidelity.

  13. 33

    I don’t think it really is a question of whether chemistry and stable relationships are a real dichotomy(ie. they are clearly not).

    The problem is one of an established history of prior unsuccessful outcomes, which suggests an alternate strategy, presupposing an alternate outcome.

    Merely appealing to blind probability is not strategic.

    Merely being more critical or savvy in your observations of *others* is *not* strategic.

    Choice-sets that significantly *deviate from prior, unsuccessful choices*, on the other hand, *are* strategic.

    This can be a bitter pill to swallow, no matter how much we try to sugar coat it.

    It is well understood in evolutionary game-theoretic terms, as Pavlov(win-stay, lose-shift), and has been experimentally validated.

    If you have an established history of falling into the ‘chemistry-trap’, this is speaking to some (justifiably) low confidence of positive outcomes – given prevailing(pathological) tendencies.

    Ask yourself, what is more important, getting your next chemistry *fix*, or improving your prospects at finding love?

    I hear alot of the women in this thread protesting that they can’t fall in love *without* this elusive chemistry.

    But there are different kinds of chemistry – short acting(lightning strikes, gone in 60 seconds, when the relationship fails – which most women in this thread are only too accustomed to), or long acting(the kind that takes, months, if not years to evolve and appreciate).

    And the first one *is*(no matter how much you might not want to believe), poorly correlated with women and stable relationships(an assumption that is supported by any non-trivial understanding of sexual evolution).

    Does this seem like an unfair double-standard?

    Perhaps, but if so, it is one with a basis in immutable evolutionary laws.

    And no amount of incredulity, or wishful thinking is going to amend it.

    The long acting chemistry is never going to be manifestly evident, because it takes *time* to evolve – time that can only be accorded by a conscious decision to privilege alternate factors beyond sexual(ie. short-acting) chemistry.

    The human brain is the most plastic organ in the human body – we *can* change the way we think, and we can remap our brain through new experiences, given that we can break symmetry in setting the initial condition that predisposes those experiences.

    Given a real opportunity to achieve a goal, any cognitive impasse must be considered before decrying the whims of an unjust universe.

  14. 34

    Myyyy mom wwas with one other guy than my dad and she said she didn’t love him near as much as my dad, and the thing is my dad was lust and LOVE. he was her fantacy and her lover. I think people date someone who corresponds with there personality, my mom is highly confident so is my dad. so there you go. but possesiveness, I could say my dad has this or I could say he doesn’t and loves my mom so much eh doesn’t want her to leave. it’s all in how you see the world and the things around you. but anyways my mom loved my dad BEFORE she met him, she met his sister and she would talk about him and my mom knew she should meet him and went to a party too see him. she didn’t know my dad and he didn’t know her but my dad walked by my mom as if he didnt notice her, went right up to his friend and said “im gonna marry her someday” and, then some guy called my mom a bitch and my dad punched him in the face and my mom never left his house. First time meeting eachother they KNEW they loved eachother. I have a similar story… I was in grade 8 and actually 12! My friend hayden use to talk about this boy, his cousin who lived far away…and I feell like inlove with him, like I just knew I loved him by how he talled about him… the first dance came up in september 18th and I went… and I had never known or met this boy.. as soon as I walked in the door I saw him like 50 feet away from me! I noticed him BEFORE I MET HIM. and then my friend later showed me that was him! I just knew, I was sooo attracted to him. I use to sing love story by taylor swift everyday…thinking about him and then eventually one day at this hill we were sledding… and my friends were thropwing around his hat, usually I dont interferre and just let them do but I got up took his hat and walked over to give it to him, he bent over to take the hate and I just felt like when everything stops and poeple talk about this in the movies… and you feel like omgosh this amazingg feeling , als I have is this picture in my head of him bending over my friend josh who was jelousy wrestling him cause he knew how much I liked him and me passing his hat to him. IT WAS AMAMAZING!!! and I dont know if he felt what I did… but I bet he did cause he asked me out righjt after. and my othger friend hayden was so jelous cause he liked me too, he didnt tell me. Ive loved him ever since grade 8…. I waited to see him all year and I only ever saw him 7 times. I know nothing about him but omg did I love him. none of these sights are even explaining chemistry right its where everything stops and YOUR IN FOREVER. because it felt so long within a second- a huge feeling, of love. not lust its love. and the thing was I found him everything ive ever wanted, lust and love. I didnt even kno what lust was but I loved him. its been sooo many years…

  15. 35

    When I met my husband he was very charming and delightful to be with, it wasn’t love at first sight but the more I got to know him and spend time with him I did love him. We’ve been together for 7 years now with 2 kids.   I don’t know what happened to me but I secretly was starting to have online relationships one in particular that had me feel all the exciting feelings you talked about when you feel when you lust in the beginning for someone. We were suppose to meet but things transpired and never happened. It started to get out of hand I felt like the girl above feeling neglected and not good enough because he was pulling away and I got obsessive and emotionally out of control.   It was exhausting for me…everything. We parted ways and I’m still married, I’m trying to get over things here but it’s hard. Your post was very insightful thanks.  

    1. 35.1
      Lauren Miller

      Never felt chemistry with my husband. We had similar family backgrounds and I was married at 22, he was 30, due to parental pressure I didn’t follow my gut feeling and break up with him. I guess we were just friends. Physically I do not find him attractive as he is short and was always “old” to me. Sounds shallow I know. I have never really been happy and have always felt it was the lack of chemistry. Just stayed married due to avoiding divorce, now feel guilty. 34 years later, 2 children grown   up and left home.

      He would be classified as a “good” husband but I just don’t click. I have always felt the chemistry was missing and today not happy in marriage and live with regrets.



  16. 36

    I’m happy to find this post big time. I’ve been experiencing this same issue but with my boss…. I am married, he is married and we don’t ever give flirting signs, we respect each other completely. But one problem is that I can not look at him and when I am force to look at his eyes I feel so much tension, it got so bad once that I had to tell him to “stop talking” I was turning red I felt like I needed some one to throw a ice bucket on my head.! I can’t think straight when his around. I told my friend I think I am love sick over someone I don’t even know. I try blocking my feelings and it just made me upset and angry… I was even being mean to my boss but it did not work. So, now I just try to avoid him… But is hard because my office is next to his.

  17. 37

    How to keep the relation after chemistry is over? I think chemestry is a plus to begin a relationship, without chemestry nothing happens

  18. 38

    Chemistry is the foundation of love then comes the logical part..compatibility , understanding and compromise is what is needed to sustain love…
    It is also very unfortunate when you have chemistry for someone that is unvailable..bcos they may be no opportunity for that chmistry to develop into love..this person may presently having issues in his/her relationship.. Or may well be in love with the initial person in his/her life…are you happy to be a side attraction …and what happens when they break up with you..surely you going to feel used..Except somehow if that person breaks up or divorce their initial person. .then you might get lucky..
    Chemistry does grow into love .Love on the other hand   grows from strength to strength as years goes by.. it grows into a bond
    Can this bond be broken. YES it can.How? When there is no chemistry,compability,understanding, compromise,versatility and empathy.. love dies…Love can die but true Chemistry can’t …especially if it mutual Chemistry…Infatuation is completely different from chemistry..Chemistry is deep stuff..Chemistry is the means to an end (love).if the means is gone or lost..then there will be no end /product   (love)

    ? I would tell you. .Lack of chemistry, compatibility,understanding   and compromise =death of love

  19. 39

    Mate, you need yo give up your day job, because you missed the pertinent fact that not all (changes in brain) chemistry is lust, and evolution has seen this chemistry play a major part in “romantic connection” for the purpose of furthering the species as a whole.

    Great for the cave days of course, where we fought for food and survival and natural attrition such caused by disease, natural disaster, etc. One to three years of lust is enough to get three children out (and that’s only presuming cave male is solely bedding one woman).

    Enter our modern age, we know the brain chemicals that do this, and its easy mistake of that early energy for “love at first sight.” But just because attraction is biological and chemical, it does not mean it has to be controlled by such baser urges (knowing these exist and shaping them to a longer term purpose is proof of enlightenment) – and as dozens of other advice sites state, relationships take work because of this very fact!

    Yes, there will always be the abusive types who play list predatorially to obtain dominance. There will always be the “big reveal” of true self that Hollywood has attuned us into despising (ever seen this in a movie: “If you knew I hadn’t done half of the stories I told, would you have followed my advice?” “Yes, because I still learned from you, and look how far I’ve come since.”). There’ll always be fear of missing out in the gravy train, desperation to prove ourselves worthy, codependency for any number of reasons.

    Instead of tarring relationships as lust and that’s why relationships fail, teach the way to using this lust period to reinforce what’s going to come, the inevitable breakdown of this joyous star crossed stage – again, like a dozen other advice sites (including those attached to eHarmony and

    Yeah, hard, critical thinking goes out the window because Walter White’s knocking up some good stuff in you head. But it’s not impossible to do that setting up, like discussing the feelings with each other in a critical sense, having the past experience/sti talk prior to making it sexual, and quite probably my cynical favourite, deliberately challenging societal and biological norms to ride the biggest wave of list into the record books (i.e., lay the ground work of love).

    And teach and understand that love doesn’t come first. That soul mates occur further down the track – realising its you and your mate (not God) ooking at footsteps in the sand, and at the troubled times its one partner carrying the other and vice versa. That this is the exception to the biological norm, but its achievable monogamously and without the need to go polyamorous, open or “neomonogamous” (though these may work for some – let’s not be too prudish).

    Teaching this, and for free, would make this article awesome. As for me, I’m riding the chemical wave of a new interest (and being of a bachelor) – but I’ve stated up front that I’ve moved too fast before (thanks inner cave guy), and she has said the same, and while the connection is chemically valent I’m happy to play gentleman and move to my better judgement for my benefit and hers.

    My other learned secret is to achieve equality by acting like a commonwealth in what parties bring to the relationship, giving their equitable share. But that’s for another time…

  20. 40

    Coming out of a separation – 18 months ago – I thought myself ‘off the market for a while’. After going out for drinks with friends, boom, I met this girl and couldn’t think straight all evening from the first minute I met her. People around us noticed and commented the next day. Personally I just acknowledged it in a mildly embarrassed way remarking it was nice to know that such feelings were still possible. All in all I liked the feeling that life was teaching me that there were a few surprises up her sleeve and there’s a life still to live.

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