Monday, 19 November 2012

Auntie Seraphic & the Chemical Question

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

Hope you are well. I am happy to say I have been regularly reading your blog for some time now.

I'm sure this question has been asked numerous times, but I was wondering of the importance/necessity of the so-called chemistry in relationships.

See, the thing is I never really believed in this chemistry thing, or just assumed it would be there if liked a guy and that's it. However last year there was a guy, a bit older than me whom I really did not like or even trust at times (I had good reason); nevertheless[...]there was a lot of 'chemistry' between us.

This probably sounds weird; it however caused me some unhappiness and unfortunately circumstances were that I was in his company almost every day. I never understood why there was this thing between us and it greatly confused me as he was someone I never wanted to be with. I was repulsed by the thought of it. Happily this is no longer a problem as I rarely see him now but it still intrigues me.

[...]I've had a male 'friend' who very much likes me and we have been involved romantically but are now trying to be just friends. I really like him as a friend but even despite the romantic interaction we've had I don't want to be in a relationship with him and don't believe I've experienced the chemistry.

The confusing part for me is why did I have chemistry with a guy a didn't like at all and yet don't have with a guy that I like at least as a friend?

Anyway, I hope this makes some vague sense!

God Bless,
Chemical Question

Dear Chemical Question,

Thank you for your question, which is a brilliant subject for a blog post, by the way.

The short answer is that this kind of chemistry is irrational.

I am not sure why you did not believe in "this chemistry thing," when people talk and write about it all the time. Maybe it is because movies like Sleepless in Seattle strain credulity. However, as you have found out, there is something called "chemistry", which often takes the form of mutual sexual attraction.

Sexual attraction is not based on true knowledge of a person but what the presence of the person, whether in person, in the imagination or just in a photograph or a recording, does to your consciousness.

Many people can dupe themselves into believing that this sexual attraction is mutual, and are in danger of making fools of themselves. Others can dupe themselves into thinking a mutual sexual attraction is rational and/or good, when it simply isn't.

I suspect that this is a reason why Hollywood actors and actresses both marry and divorce each other so much. Casting directors see that they have "great chemistry" and so the actors and actresses work together and, hey presto, they fall in "love", only to divorce later because no marriage can survive on chemistry alone.

You probably didn't feel the crackle of chemistry between you and your friend because his presence just didn't inflame whatever it is in your imagination that makes you sexually attracted to men. And you probably felt chemistry with a guy you didn't even like or trust because his presence did inflame whatever it is in your imagination.

Maybe he seemed very masculine to you, or exotic, or sophisticated because he was older, or reminded you on a subconscious level of a man you had good reason to admire. I haven't the slightest idea; only you can figure it out, if anyone can. Hopefully it was not because you disliked him and found him untrustworthy.

This would be a problem, but not an unusual one. Lots of women find themselves falling for bad boys they don't trust and sticking around and being miserable all for the sake of the chemical kick the bad boys' brief smiles give them. (And bad boys may symbolically represent the courage and freedom from guilt girls wish they themselves had.)

That's not what I would call healthy, however. If you find yourself constantly sexually attracted to men you don't really like, it may be worth the money to talk to a therapist about it. Good for you, by the way, that you paid some attention to your rational thoughts about Mr Chemistry and are so honest with yourself now (at least) about him.

Incidentally, your letter reminded me of a time I was working in an awfully boring job, which had operators and line managers, and in the middle of a fun conversation I was having with a married line manager, there was a sudden spark of chemistry between us so obvious to both of us, I said "Must go!" and went. I never had a private conversation with him again. He was a very decent chap, I remember, and the point to this story is that reason and charity must always prevail over chemistry.

I hope this is helpful.

Grace and peace,

I see I have neglected to mention why chemistry is important in marriage. Chemistry is important in marriage--in Western marriages at very least--because both men and women feel ripped off if we don't start off our marriages with a great, exciting burst of flame that sets fire to the tinder and logs of our shared values and mature characters. (If there are no tinder and logs of shared values and mature characters, then the match of sexual attraction will just burn out, although not before burning your fingers and possibly setting fire to the curtains and leaving the house of your life a smouldering wreck.)

It may make perfect sense in India to say "You'll fall in love after you get married," but this seems to depend on family and social pressures to stay married that the West no longer has.

This is not to say that chemistry is always there in marriage. Sure it flames up now and again, but it's not the wonderful anguish crazy-in-love fiances and newlyweds experience. (And thank heavens for that.) And we must keep our priorities in order: chemistry is for marriage, not marriage for chemistry. Marriage is a way of life, not a feeling. But as marriage (early marriage, anyway, before the children arrive) boils down to sex and laundry, don't dismiss chemistry as some kind of frill.

Update: A Serious Single Catholic friend in Rome is looking for a Catholic housemate. Here is his Facebook ad. Let me know if you're going to Rome for at least a year and this looks like a good place for you. The caveat is that the household is so far of men. I can vouch for the advertiser as a very good egg indeed and a fascinating conversationalist.

I have a room available in a large flat near the Colosseum, well-connected to public transportation, supermarket on the ground floor of the building. Also has a large balcony and a roof terrace; the room has its own bathroom attached. 530 a month plus bills. Send me a PM if you are interested.

I don't actually know what a PM is, so just contact me and I'll put you in touch with my friend. Presumably the 530 is in Euros.


jamie said...

I believe in this case, a PM is a Private Message.

And just because this is a safe place to gush a little...I just went on my first date in about 6 years or so yesterday. (Those good Catholic men do, in fact, exist!!!!) As far as chemistry goes, I was actually quite annoyed at first when I realized he liked me. But I prayed a lot about it, and (eventually) became really open to just getting to know him, even though I didn't particularly see it going anywhere. And the more I get to know him, and like him, and appreciate the way he respects me, the more attracted I am to him. It's kind of blowing my mind a little bit right now, actually. :)

Lisa said...

I seem to often have chemistry with people who are wrong for me, and sometimes even dangerous to my spiritual welfare. Whereas when I met my husband he was obviously smitten with me, but I felt very little attraction. He seemed just a very sweet guy, but not very exciting. He was steadfast and polite, and didn't seem to realize my lack of enthusiasm (probably because I did like him as a friend, and was being very considerate of his feelings). So I decided to give him a chance. And what do you know, but chemistry did develop! And now we have been married eight years. : ). The moral of the story is that if a man does not feel that initial spark, the relationship will not work. But for women, the spark may come later. Or at least that is what I have concluded! I might be wrong, but I feel as if this is something true that our hyper-sexualized world prevents us from seeing.

Seraphic said...

@ Lisa, it is my belief that men are much more likely to win over a woman than a woman is likely to win over a man. Either he thinks she is attractive on a sexual level, or he doesn't. Whether or not he falls in love with her as well is a separate question. Whereas she is more likely to think "Eeek! I don't think so!!!" but later change her mind. However, there are no guarantees, and this cannot be forced.

@ Jamie, that's great! But I hope he doesn't read this blog. Retain a little mystery, girl!

Alisha said...

The tough thing is that if you have experienced serious chemistry, everything else pales in comparison. All of you who are not attracted to artists may count your blessings for they are a crazy group.
Meanwhile, I can't let a conversation about chemistry go by without this classic song from Guys & Dolls: