Compatibility and Chemistry: Why You Can't Have One Without the Other
Romantic Chemistry – The Spark
In the context of relationships, chemistry is a simple "emotion" that two people experience when they share a special connection. It is the impulse that you have to see this other person again; it is responsible for the "spark."
There are many symptoms of having good chemistry with another person. The arousal of the nervous system causes adrenaline in the form of rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and sensations of excitement that are often similar to sensations associated with danger. Other physical symptoms include increased blood pressure, flushing of the skin, redness in the face and ears, feeling of weakness in the knees, and uncontrollably smiling whenever thinking about the other person. One can also feel a sense of obsession over the other person, longing for when they can see the other person again.¹
There has been numerous attempts to explain what causes this type of romantic chemistry to occur. Researchers say a combination of factors are needed, including physical attraction, similarity, non-judgement, feeling understood, mutual trust, communication, and mystery.
Author Mark Manson says, "Unlike compatibility, a lack of chemistry doesn’t repel one another. A lack of chemistry simply results in a lack of emotional intensity. Things just feel kind of dead and boring when you are together."²
Chemistry must be present for a romantic bond to take place, and it is most intense in the beginning of a relationship. However, the intensity will eventually subside and the relationship will be tested for its strong foundation. The basis for this foundation stems from how compatible you and your partner are together.
Compatibility – The Essential Factor
Compatibility is the glue that holds the relationship together. It is the foundation on which you build your lives together. It comprises your lifestyle choices, habits, interests, worldviews, beliefs, and core values. Compatibility will allow for a harmonious relationship where big decisions will be easier to make because you and your partner are "on the same page." Individuals with matching life priorities are able to share goals and push each other in order to achieve those goals.
When you are compatible with someone, you will experience similar lifestyles made up of habits and interests. For example, if you are a passionate environmentalist vegetarian who only buys local, organic, non-GMO, fair-trade, pesticide-free, chemical-free groceries from Tom at the co-op, I doubt you will want to date a Monsanto employee with a hefty diet of beef-stuffed hot pockets.
When you are compatible with someone, you will experience similar worldviews made up of beliefs and values. You should agree on topics that will comprise your future family’s core values. For example, if you want to raise children in the Greek Orthodox Church, and your partner is part of the New Age movement, there may be an issue.
Mark Manson puts it this way – "Compatibility usually corresponds to the long-term potential between two people. High compatibility between people comes from similarities in their lifestyles and values. Educated and liberal people usually date other educated and liberal people. Hedonists usually date other hedonists. Insane religious nuts usually date other insane religious nuts."²
Why You Can't Have One Without The Other
Having chemistry without compatibility will make for a strenuous relationship full of conflict, and having compatibility without chemistry will leave you craving more. One cannot be present without the other for a relationship to flourish in the long-term. Furthermore, chemistry without compatibility can be a ticking time bomb. These relationships begin rapidly and passionately, and all of a sudden, you find yourself too far in when you realize it's an unhealthy situation. Don't fall victim to this – allow your head to catch up to your heart. Allow your heart and your head to guide you in your relationship.
You may experience compatibility first, as with a relationship that started as friends, or chemistry may have been the initiator with a spark that was felt the first time you laid eyes on each other. How the relationship begins is less important than the feelings that develop over time.
1. Campbell, Kelly, Ph.D. (2011, August 21). "Relationship Chemistry: Can Science Explain Instant Connections?" Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/more-chemistry/201108/relationship-chemistry-can-science-explain-instant-connections.
2. Manson, Mark. (2010, December 17). "Compatibility and Chemistry in Relationships." Retrieved from https://markmanson.net/compatibility-and-chemistry.