|Love and Chemistry
Many of my clients want to know: What is a safe surrender to love? They have been in love before, and have gotten hurt. While we all are aware of the joy and beauty of love, and the profound pleasure of being in love, most of us are also afraid of mistakes, of making a wrong decision.
We know, on an inner level, that living and loving by chemistry alone can be dangerous. Many of us equate good chemistry with true love, and bad chemistry with lack of love, yet we have trouble knowing which is which.
In all my years of counseling, I never found an adult client who didn't recognize chemistry; the feeling of being in love. Chemistry is the rush, the high that we experience when we get together with someone who mysteriously turns us on. Everyone I've talked to seems to know the difference between loving someone, in a familial, friendly, platonic or parental way, and being in love, which implies romantic, sexual, turned on love, sometimes even lust.
Chemistry is usually the first thing that must be present in order for a romantic relationship to exist. No one has the energy for the sometimes difficult journey of love without the excitement of physical response. The question is not whether chemistry exists, but whether it's the kind of chemistry that will produce a healthy relationship. Good chemistry can help your relationship sustain itself through the initial dating phase while you and your partner get to know more about each other. The excitement of it all can help you overcome your ambivalence about introducing your new romance to your friends, and help both of you to open up, to share your inner thoughts and even be more generous with your time and your possessions than you might otherwise be with this new person, who still somewhat of a stranger. Chemistry overpowers the strangeness of being new to each other, and makes you feel close right away. While this is often helpful, it has some pitfalls if you let your chemistry lead you without conscious thought.
Chemistry is powerful, but if you focus too heavily on whether or not you are excited about someone, you may discount the very real possibilities of the kind of love that grows slowly, such as a friendship that eventually becomes a lover relationship.
There are several myths about chemistry that might trip you on your way to a solid, lasting relationship:
• Chemistry Myth #1: Love happens instantly, you must be absolutely sure from the beginning, you’ll know when you find it, and "chemistry" is all you need. These ideas are heavily promoted in movies, TV, novels and plays. Such romantic falling in love can be great entertainment, but it usually doesn't work well in real life. You need a lot more than chemistry to create lasting love.
*Chemistry Myth #2: Physical lust is always the same as love. While love can include physical excitement, at other times purely physical and/or circumstantial attraction can exist that fades rather quickly, and leads nowhere. The more you get to know each other, the less exciting a purely physical attraction is; with love, the better you know each other, the more love grows.
*Chemistry Myth #3: You can't fall in love with someone you are not immediately excited about. Sometimes love grows slowly, as you get to know someone. Falling in love with the character, lovingness, personality, honor and strength of a person is quite different from falling in love with the outer person: physical appearance, beauty, style and dress.
*Chemistry Myth #4: You can't fall in love with an old friend. Sometimes you get to see an old friend in a new light, and suddenly, chemistry can happen. Suddenly, excitement, physical response and desire can grow where there used to be only friendship.
*Chemistry Myth #5: Relief is the same as love. When you're very lonely, or hurt, or grieving positive, caring attention from a lover can feel so good, and relieve your internal pressure so much, that you can confuse it with love. Although this kind of support can add to the depth of your love, this kind of neediness alone won't sustain a relationship over the long haul.
*Chemistry Myth #6: If I'm this excited, it must be love, and this person must be good for me. Be careful when you're turned on. It clouds your thinking. It is possible to get turned on to someone who is not good for you. Every client I've seen who's ever been in a violent, addictive, or destructive relationship tells me they were very excited, there was a lot of chemistry at the beginning. While chemistry is fun, and a powerful motivator, it is not enough to guarantee that the other person will be good for you.
Without judgment, unexamined natural attraction can lead to problems. Chemistry alone does not evaluate whether the attraction is sensible, it simply responds to certain signals. For these reasons, it's necessary to think clearly about your immediate sexual response, to make sure you're choosing partners with whom success is possible, and commitment worthwhile.
Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California, with over 30 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction (New Page); How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free (New Page); The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again (Wiley) and The Real 13th Step: Discovering Self-Confidence, Self-Reliance and Independence Beyond the Twelve Step Programs (New Page.) Her newest books are Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage and The Commuter Marriage. She publishes “Happiness Tips from Tina”, an e-mail newsletter, and the “Dr. Romance Blog” and has hosted “The Psyche Deli: delectable tidbits for the subconscious,” a weekly hour-long radio show. Online, she is “Dr. Romance” with columns at ThirdAge.com, Divorce360.com, Healthapalooza.com, and Yahoo!Personals, as well as a Redbook Love Network expert. Dr. Tessina guests frequently on radio, and such TV shows as “Oprah”, “Larry King Live” and ABC News. Follow her on www.twitter.com/tinatessina or www.facebook.com/tinatessina.
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