How to Know if You Have Chemistry or Are Just Trying to Make It Work

Are you trying too hard to make it work? This counselor has answers.

Alexei gives Loren bunny ears for this photo.


Alexei gives Loren bunny ears for this photo.

We’ve all experienced it. Things are going well with the person we’re dating and then suddenly you realize that a lot of the effort to make it work is falling onto your shoulders. Sometimes people bare this because they feel afraid of being alone, and sometimes they bare it because they think they have a unique connection — what most people refer to as chemistry. When this happens, it can be hard to know the difference. To figure out how people can differentiate, we reached out to Susan Gadoua, a counselor with years of experience helping couples strengthen their relationships.

“Chemistry is about much more than the physical connection we have with another,” Gadoua said. “The sexual energy is strongest when the relationship is new [because] our brains are wired to be stimulated by novelty. But that chemistry does not sustain us in long-term relationships.”

Instead, Gadoua specifies that people should “look for other types of chemistry that are really forms of compatibility.” Compatibility can come in many forms, but Gadoua listed shared interests, values and goals as a few. She also mentioned shared or complementary temperaments—like one person being a planner while the other brings a sense of spontaneity to the relationship.

“These are the things that help couples go the distance” Gadoua said.

That said, if you have some degree of these qualities, how can you tell if you’re banking on them a little too much?

“All relationships take work, but there is a point at which, if it takes too much work, it may not be healthy,” Gadoua said. “The minute you think to yourself, 'He has a small drinking habit or workaholic tendencies, but he has so much potential,’ that's not good.”

Gadoua cautions people to be aware of whether they’re basing their relationship on what could be instead of reality. She described a dynamic that she refers to as “unconscious polarization,” wherein two people with opposite dynamics find themselves in a constant power struggle where they’re trying to get the other person to see things their way.

“The good news is that, with awareness, this dynamic can be intervened on,” Gadoua said. “Sometimes, it requires outside help so don't be afraid to ask a therapist, clergy person, coach or mediator for assistance… I always encourage people to trust their gut intuition, but it can be hard to hear your intuitive voice when a relationship is new and sexual attraction is at its peak. We also have oxytocin coursing through our veins which makes us see things (or not see things) from a different angle.”

Gadoua emphasized that it’s necessary to look past these initial feelings by “getting quiet and tuning in to the small voice that doesn't have an explanation for the ‘yes’ or the ‘no.’”

As for the person hoping to find chemistry, Gadoua believes that it is possible to build chemistry by taking care of the other person.

“My aunt always says each person give should give 110 percent to the relationship,” Gadoua said. “When both people feel loved by the other, that builds chemistry.”

Finally, if your biggest concern is finding “the one,” Gadoua offered an alternative place to focus on.

“If you're looking for someone who will be your best friend, your social partner, financial partner and the person you'll have wild sex with for years to come, you may have to readjust your expectations,” Gadoua said. “If, however, you are focused on becoming the person you hope to find out there, you will undoubtedly attract the right person.”

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