Love Minus Chemistry.

Around Valentine's Day, a friend of mine linked to an article titled Love - Chemistry = Friendship.

Please read that article in full before returning to this space and reading the following.

If you know me personally (I'm worried that lots of my readership does, and I know that damages the authenticity and clarity of my work) then please understand that the following isn't about you. That's going to be hard to accept for some of you, because you'll recognize that you may or may not have played a role in the following stories from my life. But understand that there are at least five different stories, all involving different players, that are being drawn from to write the following, and your component might be less primary than you think.

Also, if you haven't yet, please read my introduction for first-time readers.

Now, back to the topic at hand.

Love - Chemistry = Friendship.

I have, more than once, encountered this exact equation. At times, it has been a mutual understanding. We were kindred spirits and just weren't passionate about one another. There was no chemistry lost in our relationships.

At other times it's been a one-way street. Someone has had both love and chemistry for me and I've had only love, but not attraction to them. It's also happened in reverse. There are people to whom I have been very attracted that weren't attracted to me (this has kept me out of trouble more than once, thankfully).

In addition, I've wound up in relationships with chemistry but no love, and those are completely unfulfilling.

If there is one thing I know about relationships (and judging from the stories you've read here you have likely gathered that I'm obviously not good at aquiring and maintaining successful ones--so take it with a grain of salt) it is this:

Without both facets of a relationship--love and chemsitry--things will eventually collapse.

I have instinctively avoided chemistry-less relationships througout my life. I was once approached by a close friend who expressed to me her care for me and that she felt that I would make a perfect partner for her. When it happened, it hurt. Because the last thing I wanted to do was hurt someone I cared for, and I cared for her deeply.

I remember sitting there, late at night, trying to find out how to say "I care for you too much to start this now". Because that's what it was. I cared too much for my friend to hurt her by misleading her into thinking I was giving her something that I didn't really have to give.

That's what made it so frustrating, because if chemistry could be generated spontaneously (see Dr. Warren's article) I would have been very tempted to generate it and jump willingly into a relationship with a person for whom I already had very deep feelings. But admiration does not equal attraction.

Pragmatic care and love, minus the chemistry that makes two people attracted to one another is doomed to failure. I could foresee in my future living an unfulfilled life by attempting to force myself to have something that cannot be forced, and I knew I would be selling myself (and the person with whom I was discussing the issue) short, and I wanted to betray my friendship to her least of all.

There is another equation that has come across my field of vision that I have little interest in: chemistry - love = 'friends with benefits'. The idea of essentially gaining the sexual satisfaction you crave by sleeping with an aquaintance--without all the hassles of maintaining a healthy long-term relationship.

It's a concept I was first told about several years ago, and it has been suggested to me since then. I find it abhorrent.

I think the main problem I have with it is that sexual satisfaction has always been firmly anchored to expressions of affection and love. I grew up in a household with two very loving parents, and as they served as my primary models as to what a successful relationship looks like I cannot help by always associate expressions of kindness and affection with any level physical intimacy.

You've seen my past writings where I've mused about my inability to be interested in actually sleeping with someone, even if I've proved to myself I'm capable of seducing them (components of those writings are non-fiction and other components are entirely made up) if I don't love them. It's just the way I am.

I think a large part of this is that "chemistry" is more generic than just "I like the way you look/smell/feel, let's shag". There is more to chemistry than sexuality--there is also chemistry based in having similar interests, intellects, and passions. I remember sitting with a girlfriend of mine to whom I was very attracted and being incredibly turned on (romantically, you perverts) when we discussed "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card. It was the first time I had had an intelligent and in-depth discussion of a work of science-fiction with a woman my age in probably half a decade, and I was smitted with the girl almost immediately.

It didn't hurt that I thought the girl was incredibly attractive and she had the largest, most intriguing eyes of anybody I've ever met, but physical attractiveness alone doesn't get me far enough to make me want to maintain a long-term relationship with someone--there must be more to chemistry than that.

It is important to recognize this second part of chemistry. That it is in fact more than just 'chemistry'. It's 'alignment.'

People are heading certain directions in their lives. They have goals, dreams, and desires. I think that in addition to love and physical chemistry, an alignment of their intellects and interests must be present. Sometimes this allignment will be where they travel in the same directions and sometimes it will be in an um-yang (what you know as a "ying-yang"--the balance symbol: q) where they compliment each other through their differences. Without these alignments, the relationship will fail.

I was once in such a relationship. We were physically attracted to one another, and we cared for each other deeply, but we suffered from a chronic misalignment problem. We had the alignment of bugger-all. Nothing. We were driven by different forces, interested in different things, strove for different reputations, and it made us feel as if the relationship was constantly coming apart at the seems.

It was a third component that everybody admits is important but nobody tries to factor in, because when you meet people you rarely find out much about their alignments until far far later into the relationship, and if you're physically attracted to them you ignore the warning signs and say "well, bugger it, I can always worry about alignment later!", because we're impatient, and we've got hormones, which is an accurately paired set of syllables if you ask me.

But I'm getting off topic. "Why am I bringing all this up now, anyway?" I'm sure some of my readership is wondering (The rest of them have probably already knocked off to get some pretzels and watch Tilt).

I'm not really sure. Mainly I suppose because these are some of the skeletons that have been near the front of my closet for years, and writing about them might enlighten others or help in some way to let other people think through their own experiences.

Partly because I don't think enough people break enough important topics into threes.

I think that admitting to that third component in relationships--which we are so willing to ignore, especially when we're lonely--is vital to the survival of any relationship in which we engage. If it isn't there things will eventually falter and fail.

So I suppose this is just a heartfelt suggestion: when you're dating, or seeking, or avoiding, or whatever it is you do (these days, I avoid) make sure you consider all three components.

Sorry if all that was awkward and forced. Knowing that my readership reads this heavily influences my writing style and makes me more guarded than I would otherwise choose to be.

Gratuitous link to something better: Lotta Players in the Game.

Monday, March 07, 2005


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