So I’ve been wondering for the last ten years on what that magical thing is that makes for a good relationship. Not the stuff that you need to keep a relationship healthy and growing- don’t worry, that post is coming- but what you need at the outset. I had a conversation with my Aunt Keri around the time of the Y2K silliness when she asked me what I thought the requirements were for a potential mate. I told her confidently that I wanted to meet someone that I was both attracted to and that I had a connection with. “I keep meeting
women girls that I think are hot but we don’t have much in common,” I said with profundity (thanks thesaurus.com). “Or I have a lot in common with a girl but she just ends up becoming a friend because there’s not much attraction, what gives!”
Now in my uh, wise old age, my perspective on what a relationship requires has evolved, if only slightly. The two qualities I started with more than a decade ago has only been added to by one, so fasten your seat belts please.
1. Attraction. Yeah you saw this one coming. Usually this is pretty immediate in a head turning, “damn he’s hot” kinda way. And it also sneaks up on people, like a feline on a hairball. This is where you wake up one day and realize that you’ve actually had a thing for the barista down the street all this time, or turn to a friend one evening and point at a girl you both know across the table and whisper, “dude, I think I’m kinda falling for Larissa.” Perhaps you say it without the dude part. Attraction by itself is great at first, but gets boring about as quick as looking at a picture of a beauty king or queen, and a date when only this quality is present has you looking for an escape hatch in about 2.1. Yep, been there, no bueno.
2. Compatibility. Aka stuff in common. You have to have some shared interests so that the things you do together are actually appealing to both parts of this couple equation, and so you can have conversations that get both of your juices flowing. If you realize one day that the person in the passenger seat of your car is rambling on about shiznit you could not be less interested in, or that you are driving toward an event that holds zero appeal for you, then there are problems. If that last “or” was an “and,” then there are lotsa problems, boredom being among them. If there is compatibility and it is the only quality of the three, it can definitely result in a friendship, though maybe not a great one. The most common example of this kind of relationship is work friends.
3. Chemistry. Okay, this one is kinda difficult to explain. You ever meet someone and things just flow? Conversation is nonstop, you are probably both smiling, and you don’t actually want to stop spending time with that person at the end of whatever it is you guys are doing. This is chemistry. And it doesn’t have to be romantic, in fact, it often isn’t. This is how great friendships and often best friendships are created. The best friends part usually happens when you mix this quality up with compatibility.
In my experience, chemistry is the rarest of the three qualities.
So what about when you meet someone and attraction and compatibility are both high on their respective meters (attractometers, now at amazon.com)? Results in fun times and decent convos with someone that is nice to look at, but not a lot of passion, and the sex is sorta boring. High attraction and high chemistry? Sparks baby. This one often looks like lighting a match as the initial contact is a burst of light, but it burns out pretty quick. Infatuations, one week affairs, and hot sex without much conversation are the most common results of a relationship with these two qualities.
What if there is attraction, compatibility and chemistry you ask? The world explodes. Well, yours does. If it is mutual then a relationship is born. And then the real work begins.
Thoughts? Do share.
Jeremi McManus is a Relationship Coach, Psychotherapist, and Couples Therapist who works with people who want more fulfilling and satisfying relationships. His own ups and downs in dating and relating were instrumental in leading him into this field. If you feel like you could use some perspective, he looks forward to hearing from you. Jeremi is a Licensed Psychotherapist and delighted to call San Francisco home.