Should I Risk Getting Hurt, Or Settling And Being Unhappy?

I’m a 50-year-old divorced woman with two relatively young children, and I’m dating two men. Both are great guys: accomplished, educated and successful. One of them I have wonderful chemistry with. He’s handsome, articulate and says he is quite smitten with me. We’ve had many special moments together, and he has asked me to be exclusive with him. He’s a recent widower (4 months after a long illness), and is working through the grief, but says that he didn’t expect to meet someone so quickly that “did it for him.” The other gentleman is more emotionally stable (divorced 10 years), and I like him a lot. He’s gentle, kind and has already stated that he is in it for the long haul with. The trouble is, no chemistry. I’ve even been on a road trip with him, and while we talked non-stop the whole 10-hour trip, I couldn’t bring myself to sleep with him. I have not slept with the other gentleman either.

My question is, do I go for the chemistry and the chance that the recent widower will wake up one day and realize that he still misses his late wife and I am simply a salve for his pain, or do I go for the more stable, but less desirable alternative? I figure, either way I’m taking a risk that I will not be happy. But there is also a possibility that either guy could be the ONE. I’m kind of giddy about the widower, and know that if I don’t go for him, he will not last long on the dating scene. He’s also close by, while the other man lives about 40 minutes away, and just texted me 3 times. The widower I see about every other day, and we talk, or IM or text every day. In my mind, most of the good ingredients are there for both men. I’m just afraid of falling in love and getting hurt, or settling and being unhappy. —Kim

Dear Kim,

Your question brings up a very important distinction in the chemistry vs. compatibility debate that has been raging on this blog for years.

You CAN have a chemistry that is a 10 and have a wonderful life together.

And it’s a distinction that I’m afraid gets lost amidst all the shouting, straw man and slippery slope arguments that are used to challenge my assertion that compromise, compatibility and character are the best determining factors in a successful long-term relationship.

You ready? Here goes:

You CAN have a chemistry that is a 10 and have a wonderful life together.

In fact, if you read closely, you’ll see that I’ve never said otherwise.

There’s nothing “wrong” with the 10 chemistry except for the fact that it’s such a powerful force that many women accept an unhealthy relationship — putting up with lack of commitment, emotional abuse, and poor communication just because of that “feeling”.

However, if your 10 chemistry is financially stable, emotionally available, and commitment-oriented, then there is absolutely NO reason that you shouldn’t be with him.


If you put a 10 and a 6, side by side, and, for all intents and purposes, they are equally devoted to you, you should ABSOLUTELY choose the 10.

In my experience, 10’s are risky bets, simply because they know they’re 10’s —which means they can be selfish, narcissistic, unsympathetic, and fickle. Why? Because they CAN be — and women will always put up with them.

But being a 10 in someone’s eyes is not synonymous with being a jerk, nor is it mutually exclusive with being thoughtful and committed.

Being a 10 in someone’s eyes is not synonymous with being a jerk.

Are you taking a risk with a widower? Yes. He’s on the emotional rebound, bigtime. Yet, plenty of widowers simply prefer being married than being alone, and if you’re the first one there, then you may just get lucky.

Just promise me that you won’t stay with this 10 if it turns out that he doesn’t treat you well and he’s ambivalent about your future.

Otherwise, I think you’re in an enviable position.

Tell the 6 that you’re moving on and good luck with your 10!

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  1. 1

    REALLY bad advice, Evan. she hasnt even been physical with either of them! why in the world should she tie herself up with someone before there’s any sort of commitment (other than that they wont sleep with anyone else, for now. big whoop!)? the jury is still out on BOTH of these guys and the reader needs time to continue to assess them both. she is in the best possible position: so early that she hasnt slept with them yet. ZERO need for exclusivity under these conditions. you are advising her to throw away a good marriage candidate for what? To allow a guy who is most certainly not in the clear enough to love her or commit to her long-term happiness.

    hope she reads this, tells widower that she really likes him and is excited to see what the future might hold, but that its too soon for her to cut off the ability to socially date others.

  2. 2


    The baby has made you sleep deprived!     Kim does not have great chemistry with the stable emotionally available guy…..she is getting her #10 Chemistry with the guy who maybe on the rebound.   She is asking you if she should turn her back on the Chemistry and go for the stability and risk being bored to death.

    This is not uncommon!   Attractive women who are used to being pursued sometime can think they only want what they can’t have.     The thrill of the chase also applies to women.

  3. 3

    I had that 10 chemistry once in my life. Quite frankly, for myself, I’d rather a lower chemistry on the scale (not non-existent but doesn’t need to be a 10), and higher on the ability to communicate and enjoy each other. My 10 chemistry match I enjoyed being around, he was funny but lacked emotional depth. However, there came a time when he ended up with a heart condition and the physical side went south quick. I realized that we were more buddies once the physical was gone. And let’s face it, if your in it for the long haul, physical chemistry can be short lived (especially if your older), you want someone who you connect with emotionally, and that you enjoy with or without the physical. And as Evan said, if he doesn’t treat you well and ambivalent about your future, walk away.

  4. 4

    I was recently dating a guy who started out as a 6, but kept declining with every date – after a month, I still hadn’t slept with him, and every time he reached out to hug or kiss me I cringed!   He did NOTHING wrong – always treated me with respect, planned great dates, was available – in short, everything I said I’ve been wanting.   But I felt like I had to break it off with him, since a relationship where chemistry starts low and gets lower doesn’t have much chance, right?   Now I feel like a jerk – and like I must be impossible to satisfy 🙁

  5. 5

    Don’t disagree with your advice here. However, the woman pictured holding the apple and cake is clearly 65+. Maybe next time you can find an actual 50 year old woman in picture since I’m sure that’s what you were going for.

  6. 6

    Agee with JerseyGirl… definitely older than 50!

  7. 7
    Evan Marc Katz

    Ellen – I’m not sure where I said she should tie herself up. I did say she should “go for” the 10, presuming that the 10 likes her in return, of course.

    JerseyGirl/Fawn – I don’t choose the pictures on the blog, nor do I worry about them being “perfect” for the article itself. Life is too short, wouldn’t you agree? 🙂

  8. 8

    Too early to tell. I’d tell the widower that since it’s been only 4 months since his wife’s death, it’s too early for exclusivity and keep dating them both.   If she feels NO chemistry for the one guy now, she may never but I’d give it another few weeks just to be sure.

  9. 9

    Sorry, but “no chemistry” means “no chemistry”. It doesn’t mean “sort of attracted”, it means, as in Katie #4’s post, that the thought of kissing or hugging this person makes one cringe. It might be a bit soon to be exclusive, but not everybody has to “circular date” until kingdom come either.  

    Believe me, a man who didn’t feel any chemistry with a woman would be out the door.

    Yes, 4 months isn’t very long, and I would be wary of moving too fast, but people process grief differently. If his wife had a long illness and the prognosis was poor all along, the “10” man may have spent quite a bit of time coming to terms with his loss before her actual death.

    A man with whom you have NO chemistry is not a good marriage candidate for YOU, no matter how stable and nice of a guy he might be.  


  10. 10

    I think Evan’s advice was great. The OP is clearly in a dilemma about which one to choose and obviously seems to prefer the 10, but is worried about how reliable he will be. However, so far, as Evan has pointed out, the signs are good (or as good as they can be at scuh an early stage).

    Obviously, there are no guarantees but at the moment it looks good, so she might as well go for it with widower and see what happens. After all, life is short. . Also, the ‘6’ guy deserves to have a chance to find a woman who sees him as a 10 too (or at least a 7!).

  11. 11

    A couple of things came to mind while reading this post.   First, the lack of chemistry COULD be due to the fact that the 2nd gentleman has shown himself to be “in it for the long haul”.   The widower with 10 chemistry is not so sure of a thing which makes him a bit more exciting.   I would submit that in 4 months, if you have not developed chemistry with someone, then you probably will not do so.   I have also found that for me, if I feel a 10 chemistry with someone, it’s probably not going to go well.   The no-chemistry gentleman will figure it out at some point, as he is going to want to sleep with our OP and her response (or lack thereof) may be a dead giveway.   At that point, he will probably decide to move on himself.  

  12. 12

    The trouble is, no chemistry. I’ve even been on a road trip with him, and while we talked non-stop the whole 10-hour trip, I couldn’t bring myself to sleep with him.

    The reality of the situation is that most men NEED sex in their relationships. If you either can’t bring yourself to sleep with him at all, or are having to force yourself to tolerate physical intimacy with him, then that lack of chemistry will come back to haunt you. You will eventually get tired of him pleading (verbally or otherwise) for sex that you find distasteful, and he will get tired of feeling undesirable.

    Thus personally, the lack of chemistry would cause me to see the less desirable man as more of a risk then the grieving man in this situation.

  13. 13

    I had the best chemistry with my ex-husband…. I thought what we had was perfect… so we committed ourselves to one another… rather quickly… I was sure I had met my soul mate…
    He eventually had little outbursts of bad behavior…. I accepted his excuses and requests for forgiveness. I married him…. Sang ‘Grow Old Along With Me’ to him at our wedding… We both said we believed it was for the rest of our lives…(In the end… he said he simply changed his mind)….
    I believed we could and both wanted to make it through anything… But those little bad behavioral outbursts…got worse over the years….and ultimately turned into abusive behaviors.
    I later realized that one can become so blinded by what you believe you have…that you don’t even realize how toxic it has become…
    Chemistry is wonderful….but the feeling that everything is so perfect because of it… does not make it true… There is a lot more to a relationship….Chemistry grabs you…. and makes you want everything to work…. Only time will tell you if you have the perfect relationship….to go along with that chemistry….
    My thought is….take your time with this….no need to rush even if you think he’s going to get grabbed up…
    My ex would have been grabbed up too…handsome, charming…and so on…In fact I thought the same thing…   I wish I had let someone else have him back then!! He’s already grabbed again because he can’t be without a woman! Does that make him a good catch? NO! He’s a very charming narcissist! Too bad I was blinded by the great chemistry or I might have seen this….
    So… take your time.. with the one you want to enjoy being with…and see where it goes…with your eyes wide open… chemistry and beyond… Don’t just grab him because someone else might! Be with him because you truly believe he could be the right guy for you….

  14. 14

    The widower is a ticking time bomb. It’s too soon after his wife’s death. Give A LOT more time to see how he copes. Right now it sounds like he’s having trouble being alone, or he was in a loveless marriage, but I kind of doubt it.

  15. 15

    I agree that she should go for it.   I also think that it will probably fall apart within a year because the guy is on the rebound and is seeking out the most available source of comfort.   But if the alternative is not desirable   then why force it.   At least this holds the promise of something new and  intriguing.      What’s life without a little risk.

  16. 16

    After reading some of these comments I get the sense that some people feel if it is too much Chemistry it will not last. Not true!!!   The things is you have to make sure you have all those other things   as well.   And you can have both.  

    Also that whole notion that a 10 has options is true to the extent that if you have “it going on ” so to speak, you have many options.   But the options may not be a good fit or to your liking.   Also one person’s 10 is another person’s 7.   How many times have I heard a friend rave over a guy: looks, personality, and charm only to be quite surprissed and not impressed when I finally meet him.

    I am in a similar situation now and its too early to tell which way things will go.   The difference I actually feel chemistry for both but one is more than the other,   They are very different personality types.  

    Time will tell whether I crash and burn or live and learn…… and love  

  17. 17

    I am the OP, and I have an update to say that last week, the widower and I tenderly parted company, at least temporarily, because he “got scared.”   We left it up in the air – we will check back in from time to time (2 -4 weeks), but it is in his court, and while I will be patient initially, he knows that there is a shelf life on my feelings. I wish I could also say that I have seen the error in my judgement and went for the gentleman who is lacking in the chemical attraction department, but I  have realized that neither of the two are suitable for me at this time.  That gentleman has taken to texting and calling  incessantly throughout the day, and I have beome weary of this.   Where are all of the NORMAL, emotionally available single, attractive  40-60 year old men?   Are they really all narcissistic control freaks and  into dating  30-40 somethings?
    And, yes, Evan … the woman in the picture could be MY grandmother.   But thank you for the kind and helpful advice.   I wish I could say that my widower was ready for a relationship, but alas, he is not.   It could well be a year or more  before he is.    Timing,  as they say, is everything.   Thanks for all of the great comments.  

  18. 18

    Evan’s advice is   spot on. The otherwise nice man she can’t bring herself to sleep with is a non-starter. I’ve been in that position, and if after even a few weeks have passed and he isn’t growing on you, it’s not gonna happen.
    Just because she has great chemistry with the 10 doesn’t make him a bad match. Too many seem to assume that chemistry is always going to blind you to negative traits, and that’s not always the case. You can enjoy the chemistry and still assess the situation pretty realistically. If the 10 is treating her well so far, the chemistry can hardly be seen as a red flag.
    I’d probably be more concerned about how recently he’s been widowed, except that it happened after a long illness. In my experience, people who have time to prepare for losing their spouse often do their grieving ahead of time and are ready to move on fairly quickly.

  19. 19

    Whats with the numbers between 6 and 10 ??? I have never rated a guy on a numerical scale. Come to think of it I’ve not rated anyone else this way either!!   For goodness sake don’t analyse numbers and go with your feelings. It really comes down to who you feel good being around and who brings out the best in you. That is all. It is not about hedging bets.

  20. 20

    Yes, the widower is a risk but in my view this is a one horse race.

    I’ve tried really hard to make myself fancy  extremely eligible men who were extremely keen on me.   It doesn’t work.   I had the same experience as Katie #4.
    Sure  attraction can grow but she should be  feeling some inkling  by now if its one of those cases.

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