Is chemistry really that important?
January 17, 2007 9:15 AM   Subscribe

I've been seeing a great guy. He's sweet, smart, funny, and he likes me! So what could possibly be the problem?

My boyfriend (I'm female) of around six months is a wonderful guy, and I get the feeling he's pretty serious about me. Why wouldn't he be? I've given him no reason to think I'm having any doubts.

The problem is this: I'm just not sure that there's any chemistry any more. To be honest I don't know if there was really that much to begin with, but whatever. What has been bugging me, and the reason I've been holding back on breaking up with him, is that I am not sure if chemistry is really that important.

Is it realistic to hope to be with someone that I'm really into? The guys that I've really fancied in the past have generally turned out to be bad for me. I was miserable waiting for them to call, I was eager to make sure they saw me at my best, they were often total wankers in the end anyway. Current boyfriend is a swell guy. Is that what I should be going for? You'd think by my age (early 30s) I'd have this figured out, but I would really appreciate some outside input.

(I want to add that his feelings/not hurting him any more than might be necessary are a high priority in all of this. I just want to be sure of my own feelings before possibly cutting him loose, rather than possibly jerking him around with an "I need some time to think" type thing.)
posted by different to Human Relations (26 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
How have you felt about other boyfriends at the six month mark?
posted by chrismear at 9:18 AM on January 17, 2007


Good question. Generally, very happy with them/settled/into the companionship but still very much attracted to them.
posted by different at 9:21 AM on January 17, 2007


It could be a simple case of what gets your chemistry going. Maybe mystery and taboo do it for you. If that's the case, you'll sadly never have that kind of chemistry with someone you know well.

I have no easy answer for you because it's hard to know exactly what's in your head and where you're coming from.

I've been married 22 years, and during that time have come periods of intense passion, cooler familiarity, amiable distance, and even a few periods of general antipathy. Overall, though, it's been the right thing for me and the Mrs. And we've come to understand that there are cycles in every relationship.

It could be just that the novelty has worn off. If this relationship is worth keeping, there needs to be something more than novelty and sex.

I would say that if you can ride it out a little longer without further level of commitment, just do it for while. If it one of those cycles, it will work itself out. If your feelings continue to fade, perhaps it's time to move on. As long as there isn't a time critical event pressing a decision, you might try being patient and see what happens.
posted by Doohickie at 9:27 AM on January 17, 2007


Your question reminds me of some of the great answers I got on mine. I asked it a little differently, and involved a couple other details, but I think you might find some of the similarities beneficial.

My basic opinion, molded in part by the responses to my question, is that if you're both decent, growing people, and you make a commitment to each other (along the lines of love being a decision, not something you fall into), the chemistry is going to develop, perhaps slowly, but surely.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:29 AM on January 17, 2007


Chemistry is almost always front-loaded in a relationship, sort of like mortgage interest, and in the long run it is not very relevant. Frankly, for a long-term relationship you're doing well if you manage to find someone who 1) is fundamentally trustworthy (honest, non-abusive, etc.), 2) doesn't bug you too much (taking into account a reasonable amount of change and compromise on both your parts), and 3) you are willing to have sex with, even if they no longer turn you on the most you have ever been turned on in your life.

Given a partner with those three characteristics, I believe you can build a successful long-term relationship and grow into a deep, lasting love.
posted by kindall at 9:53 AM on January 17, 2007 [4 favorites]


The guys that I've really fancied in the past have generally turned out to be bad for me. I was miserable waiting for them to call, I was eager to make sure they saw me at my best, they were often total wankers in the end anyway. Current boyfriend is a swell guy. Is that what I should be going for?

Maybe you're not used to dating swell guys. It sounds like there were elements of drama in those previous relationships, which you liked/got use to. Current guy is just...nice, so you don't feel the chemistry that you're used to feeling.

But being miserable while waiting for someone to call, while you're trying hard to show them only the best of you sounds exhausting. As in not fun. Having a guy you can hang out on the couch with in your ratty underwear while eating sloppy joes and drinking beer might be nice.

Try role playing, to inject some drama/spice into things.

Maybe talk to him about your feelings?

But overall, stay with him and see how it goes while exploring this different type relationship. You might find it grows in you.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:55 AM on January 17, 2007


Enjoying yourself? If the answer is yes, then keep going. Feeling sort of listless, like you don't care? Stop.

I've been there. The best ones are always like this and the chemistry ones are always crash and burn. YRMV.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:01 AM on January 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


Is it realistic to hope to be with someone that I'm really into? The guys that I've really fancied in the past have generally turned out to be bad for me. I was miserable waiting for them to call, I was eager to make sure they saw me at my best, they were often total wankers in the end anyway. Current boyfriend is a swell guy. Is that what I should be going for? You'd think by my age (early 30s) I'd have this figured out, but I would really appreciate some outside input.

It sounds like you are attracted to wankers/guys that treat you badly. You need to either change that about yourself or settle down with a wanker for the long haul.

I assume by "chemistry" you mean sexual attraction. If you're not attracted to this guy and never were, now would probably be a good time to end it, so you don't hurt him too badly.

OF course you could make it work, I'm not saying it's hopeless, but this is my gut reaction based on the limited info I have.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:09 AM on January 17, 2007


I used to confuse drama with chemistry - are you sure you're not doing that? And what Ironmouth said.
posted by ml98tu at 10:30 AM on January 17, 2007


"Chemistry" changes, and is therefore a bad metric for relationships.
posted by koeselitz at 10:52 AM on January 17, 2007


What's more, you can change it yourself if you try.
posted by koeselitz at 10:53 AM on January 17, 2007


In relationships, when "chemistry" is used, it often actually means something closer to "boredom."

It's not that "bad" guys are the only interesting ones out there, it's more than your prototypical nice guy lacks obvious depth. He feels easy to know, easy to get close to, he's uncomplicated... and so it's not long before you've figured him out. Once all the mystery is gone, we can get bored/sick of anyone.

You can "settle" for that... we use that word for a good reason. Many folks eventually do, but the optimal answer is to find a "nice" guy with hidden depth, so you can keep "discovering" him for a long time. If you're bored this soon, it probably indicates that this guy either doesn't have it, or that you need someone that doesn't require quite as much digging to get to it. But if you -haven't- tried, it wouldn't be a bad idea to go digging and find out for sure before you make your decision.
posted by Pufferish at 10:55 AM on January 17, 2007 [6 favorites]


If you aren't still very much attracted to him, but you have been with other guys at the six months stage, it sounds like there's something lacking to this new guy,something ...ineffable?
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 10:55 AM on January 17, 2007


basically: figure out what is important to you, and do it. We have no hope of advising a relationship from this vantage point. If you have RL friends who know the both of you, or even just yourself, they are going to be a 1000x more able to help you figure this out then any number of random strangers. good luck
posted by edgeways at 11:12 AM on January 17, 2007


If you aren't still very much attracted to him, but you have been with other guys at the six months stage, it sounds like there's something lacking to this new guy,something ...ineffable?

But I think the question about the other six-month guys may be, "How did it turn out?"

As others have said, it's easy to confuse drama with chemistry. That's what popular movies and music and novels and love stories (and raging teenage and 20-something hormones) have all taught us to do. If you're not willing to throw yourself off a building when contemplating life without him, then it must not be love!

If your nerves are always jangling because he might at any second do something that hurts you, or because an argument is always just around the corner, or because you're always trying to skirt around certain issues (like commitment) because you feel like you're on thin ice, it can feel like chemistry. But I think it's closer to pure nervousness.

I had those sorts of relationships in my 20s. They felt big and epic and dramatic, but I think they were just nerve-wracking. I never felt like I could settle in and be myself, because I was always subconsciously worried that I would misstep and the guy would explode or leave or "get skittish."

I think that dramatic (and to some extent, self-obsessed) high-pitched ideal can mask the lack of deeper connection to a person. I don't think any of those boyfriends really knew me very well (despite long relationships in a few cases) because all those jangly nerves kept me from going any deeper into myself and sharing what I found there.

I once heard Dr. Drew say that you should always proceed with large amounts of caution when you're immediately blown away by a "love at first sight, can't live without him, we haven't talked but yet we're soul mates" thing, but it's extremely likely that he just reminds you of some unfinished drama from your past that you're about to get re-embroiled in. It may be worth thinking about your past relationships and seeing if that's the case for you, in a kind of Freudian sense -- if those guys were exciting because the stoic unresponsive one gave you a battleground for working out feelings about your distant father, or the overly needy one gave you a way to be the mothering type that your mother wasn't, or whatever (sorry for the cliches there!). If you see that emerging as a theme from your past relationships, then it might be worth looking at your current guy as a way to escape those past battles and come at the relationship as equals, without so much baggage.

If, however, you really are bored, or contemptuous, that's a different matter.

(I would also say, though, that taking some time to think isn't necessarily a bad thing. If you need a bit of space without him to determine if you would miss him from your life, you can also do less dramatic retreats like taking a weekend trip by yourself, going to visit your family without him, etc.)
posted by occhiblu at 11:20 AM on January 17, 2007 [4 favorites]


My basic opinion, molded in part by the responses to my question, is that if you're both decent, growing people, and you make a commitment to each other (along the lines of love being a decision, not something you fall into), the chemistry is going to develop, perhaps slowly, but surely.

Put me in the opposite camp. If you're questioning your chemistry, which I'll think of as attraction, at 6 months you are doomed. It will not get better. It will get worse. The fact that you're asking a bunch of strangers if you should stay with him is also a very bad sign.

Break up now. Let him be with someone who will appreciate him. Allow yourself to find someone that knocks your socks off. Life is too short not to.

Lastly, you should take any advice by dr. drew as absolute crap. That is all.
posted by justgary at 12:01 PM on January 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


your relationship is doomed. cast him off now so he can go find a woman who will appreciate a sweet, smart, funny guy. what you need is a boorish, insensitive, potentially violent nascar fan who makes ya feel hot! you can find one in just one night of pubcrawling, i guarantee it!
posted by bruce at 12:54 PM on January 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


It seems that if you're not attracted to him now, you never will. Chemistry may wane over time, but it generally will not pop up out of nowhere. He may be a great guy and you may like him, but if you're not attracted to him, he's not for you relationship-wise
posted by anondonna at 1:00 PM on January 17, 2007


Yeah 6 months is pretty darn early to be confronting this concern, it doesn't look good to me. If you're unsure about your own reliability on the subject, then set a date in the future, say two months from now, and spend that time giving it an open, genuine, ambitious try. Then if it doesn't go well, you'll be able to say, "I've spent over a quarter of our relationship thinking he's not the right person," and you'll feel more confident about doing what you've gotta do.

Then again, you may just need that much time to get over this hump and adjust to a person who takes longer to really know than you thought. Maybe it's not that he's too boring for you, it's that less badass people just reveal themselves differently and at a different pace than their less reliable and more exciting counterparts.
posted by hermitosis at 1:43 PM on January 17, 2007


The problem is this: I'm just not sure that there's any chemistry any more. To be honest I don't know if there was really that much to begin with, but whatever.

I had the same exact problem. She was a great girl, we had a lot in common, no drama at all, and zero chemistry. We tried for three years. Chemistry never got better.

Life's too short. Don't settle for less than swell AND chemistry.
posted by callmejay at 1:53 PM on January 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Break up.

I'm a 30-something guy, but I think this relates. I've gotten myself into a bad pattern of dating women who I was only moderately attracted to, but who were otherwise very cool and, probably more to the point, VERY into me. For my three past girlfriends, I kept waiting, waiting, waiting for that deeper attraction and those deeper feelings to develop. They never did, even after 6 months, even after a year.

(Personally, I'm starting to think that if the feelings don't develop for me within 4-5 weeks, it's a lost cause.)

Meanwhile, each one totally fell for me. So then I get to be the big asshole and give the whole "I'm just not feelin it anymore" speech. It sucks hurting somebody you care about, but better now than later.

So let him go. He deserves somebody who loves him. You deserve somebody you love. Sometimes love sucks, sometimes you get hurt, and sometimes you hurt people you care about. But when you get it right, it's pretty damn amazing.
posted by LordSludge at 2:01 PM on January 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Non-wanker is important. Chemistry is important. I think you should try not to think of these two qualities as mutually exclusive. IMO, you should aim for both.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 2:36 PM on January 17, 2007


this question will never get old. And it will never get answered, because every single case is an individual choice, and whether the choice is right or wrong is a judgment, and that judgement depends on your own understanding of love - etc.

My vote is to hold out for someone you feel excited by, but I have not been in a real relationship for years now, so obviously my approach has major down sides. And I know at least one couple who started off with one partner lukewarm but which eventually resulted in actual real-life happiness on both of their parts. I also know someone who just broke off a serious relationship because she began developing feelings for someone who wasn't her partner, and realized something important was missing between her & her bf (the other person was unavailable, so she broke up not for someone new but to be true to herself).

I guess I would say that it's not a yes/no thing, and no one person is going to match every ideal you might imagine, but at the end of the day, you want to want what you've got. To me there are various levels you have to think about:

-intellectual (stimulating conversations)
-emotional (understanding each other, feeling connected)
-sexual (feeling excited by their presence, being compatible in bed)
-practical (kids, where you'll live, $$, medical)
-sense of humor, personal style, privacy issues

You're not gonna get 100% on everything. But if you're seriously lacking in an area that you think of as important to you, you've gotta be able to embrace that and decide it's actually not that important, or you will be unhappy. If you can't, it will probably eat away at you.

I think my friends who ended up happy even though one of them was initially not that into it worked because they were so amazingly compatible in pretty much every way but the direct sexual link. That sorta grew after their emotional connection deepened, and it also sorta became less important mentally. But they are definitely the kind of couple that everyone else is so happy got together, because they are externally awesome together - they play off each other really well & were basically best friends for a while before they gave the romantic thing a shot. If you have that kind of foundation, it might be worth spending a bit more time on it. But if you're only a mediocre match in other areas, then it's likely to be deal-breaker.
posted by mdn at 2:56 PM on January 17, 2007 [18 favorites]


You may not need "chemistry" but you need to want to be with him on a day to day basis.
posted by footnote at 3:48 PM on January 17, 2007


I swear I'm not trying to recruit but ummm, ever thought about dating a girl? I went through guy after guy with no chemistry and extreme boredom. Found the right woman, mucho chemistry, happy Cwgrl. :) Just a thought.
posted by CwgrlUp at 4:05 PM on January 17, 2007


I agree with the 'break up now' suggestions. Not only are you only six months in and feeling a distinct lack of chemistry but you aren't certain there even was any, ever. I'm curious as to why it's even lasted this long if you've never felt "That into him" - what spurred you on to move from being just friends or just dating to being exclusive/in love/whatever if you never felt like it was amazing? I don't think I could ever get into anything with someone who didn't make me feel nuts about them.

Also, sometimes the nice guys are just as exciting and invoke as much attraction/chemistry - even more in fact, than the nasty ones who'll ultimately mess you around and make you unhappy. You just have to find the right one!

I think probably you need to break up with him - the fact that you're asking strangers about it is very indicative in itself. Hope it all goes okay :)
posted by angryjellybean at 7:39 AM on January 21, 2007


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