It’s not enough to be partnered with a kind, stable, thoughtful, attractive, interesting, and fun person, is it? No. Mere decency, values, and character won’t cut it. You want to feel the feels. You’re craving “chemistry.”
How do I know this? I’m a dating coach. And I have these types of conversations frequently:
- Jen tells me about a date, saying, “I was so excited about him– he’s perfect on paper. He’s exactly what I want. But… he doesn’t give me butterflies. We’re not going out again.”
- John tells me about the woman he’s been dating for months. “She’s wonderful. I really like spending time with her. I know we could have a great life. My mother loves her…” “But?” I prompt. He sighs, “I just kind of want more passion. I want to see what else is out there.”
Both Jen and John are making the common mistake that destroys potentially amazing relationships. They both want to feel the intense, obsessive, “I can’t live without you” craving of early-stage romantic love. When that’s missing, and their relationship feels easy, reliable, and straightforward… they assume that something must be wrong.
However, in addition to being a dating coach, I’m also a marriage counselor. I know what it takes to create a happy, healthy long-term relationship. So I tell my Jen’s and John’s exactly what I’ll share with you now:
“Never confuse anxiety for love. Never prioritize chemistry over character. And never believe that a ‘chemistry feeling’ is a reliable source of information as to whether someone is going to be a good long-term partner for you.”
In fact, the exact opposite is often true: The people who are most likely to make you feel “chemistry” — an anxious churning in their presence, sleepless nights thinking of them, and feelings of euphoria when you’re around them — are often the ones who are the most emotionally (or literally) dangerous for you to get involved with.
For example: A mercurial, highly sexual, unpredictable woman will make your heart pound in a way that the loving, kind kindergarten teacher with a fondness for Dansco clogs will probably not. Likewise, a rakish, troubled bad-boy will light you on fire, in a way that the earnest CPA who cares enough to iron his shirt and show up on time won’t. But who do you want to try and build a life with?
As a marriage counselor I’ve had a front row seat for seeing what happens long term after people prioritize chemistry over character. It’s not pretty. Trust me: It’s terrible to realize that you confused excitement, passion, and anxiety for love, and then tried to build a life with a self-centered, impulsive person who made you feel agony and ecstasy… But who was never able to truly love you back.
I want to save you from this sad fate. You can certainly have a healthy, enduring relationship with someone you feel passionately about. But, if it’s going to work, the person you choose must also have substance and strong character.
To keep yourself on track as you date, remind yourself what true love actually looks like:
- True love shows you that your needs and feelings are important… instead of jerking you around emotionally.
- True love stays loyal, and committed to you… even during the low points of your partnership.
- True love is respectful, engaged, pleasant to be around, and a good friend to you… even when it isn’t getting its way.
- Most importantly, true love takes responsibility for behavior, and is willing to make changes… just because it’s important to you.
True and unwavering love is not showy. It’s not agonizing. It’s not crazy-making. It’s actually pretty easy. It’s reliable. It’s trustworthy. It’s often quietly pleasant. It can also be easy to brush aside, especially when you’re busy chasing sparkles.