How important is good chemistry?

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How important is good chemistry?

Jun 07, 2010 |Candice Watters
Question

Three years ago, I fell madly in love with this lively, fascinating guy (plays in a band, popular, surprises you at work with chocolate, picks you wild flowers type of guy). We had similar thoughts and passions and were able to understand each other incredibly well. He could read me like no one else, inspired me, and made me think and laugh and cry. We had dynamic "chemistry" — the unexplainable connection that movies and songs are made of. I had never felt so drawn to someone before, and we shared close, deep (non-physical) times together.

When he dumped me, I felt my heart would never mend, and three years later, I still struggle with that relationship loss. I was hoping he would want me back some time later when another guy was interested in me. When he didn't come rushing after me (he eventually dropped out of college and joined a commune, making him an unmarriable companion for me) I threw my emotions aside and logically moved on to a stable, committed relationship with this new person.

Now, I have been dating this guy (pre-med, kind of nerdy, logical, strategic type of guy) for two years. He is completely opposite of the first guy. He is smart, consistent, predictable and incredibly faithful. He wants to honor me, provide for me and marry me. He has been very intentional with my parents and with his desire to love and cherish only me. I love him very much, but we do not have the same "chemistry" that I shared with the first person. We have problems and have to work through them. We disagree on things and have to compromise. There is no "magic," and I feel I could logically live without him if we broke up.

I just saw the first guy again this week and was reminded again how strong the chemistry is between us. I miss the life, excitement and passion of the first guy, but obviously he is not the right mate for me. I have a logical love for the second guy, but can I marry him knowing that we do not have a similar connection?

My mom thinks that I should not dismiss chemistry and should seriously consider not marrying the second guy because I do not have the same connection. I don't want to go through life thinking about what I might have had if I had waited it out for a better connection. But I also don't want to pass up a great guy who adores me and wants to marry me and make me happy.

I am just really confused. I hope this makes sense. I would greatly appreciate any light you might be able to shed on the matter. I would be happy to elaborate if you have any questions. Thank you so much for your time!

Answer

Your question is timely. I've heard the chemistry question no fewer than three times this week. All from women in your situation! The first met a man online, and though they were a great fit on paper, when they met in person, she felt zero chemistry. The second is dating a man she was set up with by her sister. Again, no chemistry. And now you.

The common thread in all three stories is that the man at issue is godly and has all the qualities the women are looking for in husbands.

The irony is that like you, all three women have had relationships in the past that did have chemistry, but that crashed and burned. From all I'm hearing, chemistry does not equal marriage. That's not to say marriages can't or don't have it. (On the contrary, the good ones do.) I think the problem, though, is that we look for chemistry prematurely, and we have unrealistic expectations of how far it can take us.

The way you describe your first relationships sounds like a description of a honeymoon season. You may not have been having sex, but it sounds like you were acting married. That's why the break up was so hard. It's more like a divorce than merely deciding to stop dating. Given his decisions and the fruit he's bearing, it sounds like a blessing that it didn't end in marriage. That's not to say moving on is easy — you know it's not — but that it's essential. Back to that in a minute.

The way you describe your second relationship sounds like a sensible, wise leading-up-to-marriage courtship. I wonder if you didn't have relationship one to compare it to if you'd already be married. But alas, you do.

And chemistry is a powerful force at play in your mind and heart. Chemistry is, I think, a polite way of saying sexual attraction. And biblically, that's something we're supposed to save for marriage. It's only recently in human history that we've put chemistry front-and-center.

Three times Song of Solomon urges, "Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires" (2:7, 3:5, 8:4).

That admonishment is there because God made us sexual beings who, when aroused, are wired to be sexually intimate. And the only proper context for that intimacy is marriage. I love the image J. Budziszewski used in a Boundless article of a man putting one foot to the floor on the accelerator, while using all his strength in the other to hold the brake down. That's what we do when we start acting married — encouraging the hormones to flow and the "chemistry" to ignite — before we are married. It's only after marriage that you can legitimately hit the accelerator and go all the way. Yet we torment ourselves by toying with it ahead of time.

And what's so troubling in all of this is that when premarital sexual activity is the norm, we think a man isn't marriage material if we don't feel like bedding him before the wedding. But that's not God's standard!

My suggestion is to step back from the relationship a bit (if only in your mind) to see if there is a friendship there. True friendship is rich soil for nurturing attraction. And attraction is ripe for fostering chemistry after the wedding.

Back to those three women: The first one gave the man she met online a second chance. They spent another weekend in the same city (with chaperones there to help break the ice) and she relaxed enough to be herself. Lo and behold, she found herself thinking, We could be friends. Now they are courting. And I do believe it's because, all along, he was a sound candidate for husband. And that friendship is the best place to start. She is growing toward him.

I would never advise you to move forward in marriage unless you want to marry him. However, I would caution you from letting him go simply because he doesn't measure up to the man you yourself said isn't a candidate for marriage. Don't let the enemy use a relationship that didn't bring God honor to undermine one that does (or has the potential to).

My advice is threefold. If your boyfriend and you aren't meeting with a mentor couple, now would be a great time to start. They can help you think through the soundness of your relationship, pray with you, ask questions that can help you get clarity about your future together and give you some perspective. Do you know a married couple (whose marriage you admire) you could meet with? Pray for this. Such a friendship can make a dramatic difference in the momentum of your relationship (it certainly did in Steve and mine!).

I would also advise you not to languish in this relationship. Set a reasonable timeline for deciding if you're going to move toward marriage. I think three months is plenty of time given that you've already been dating for two years. Your goal should be the good of your boyfriend. Such sacrificial love is a requirement of marriage. This will be good practice. The last thing you want to do is to defraud your current boyfriend the way your last boyfriend defrauded you!

Third, you must put the first man out of your mind. Whether you marry your current beau or not, remaining emotionally attached to your old boyfriend will continue to debilitate your relationships going forward. He has not asked for such a commitment from you, nor given you one in return. To give it to him will do you great harm. You must not dwell on him, but take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

It sounds like you have a great man in your life. Are you friends? That is foundational. Are you both committed to living for Christ? That is essential. Do you spur one-another on in your faith and service to God? Are you together looking toward a God-honoring, fruitful marriage? These are the first questions to answer. From there, you can let love grow. And as I've seen in the stories of others, chemistry may rightly follow.

I pray God will guide your steps as you ask Him for wisdom and seek Him in His word.

Please stay in touch.

Sincerely,
CANDICE WATTERS

Copyright 2010 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.

If you have a question you'd like us to consider for this column, please send it to editor@boundless.org. Please note that all questions we select for this column may be edited for clarity and privacy and become the property of Focus on the Family.

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