Dating is all about connecting with somebody, and some dates are naturally better than others. For instance, as much as you think you and a Tinder/Bumble/Hinge/insert-other-dating-site-or-app-here person connected online, connecting in person is a whole other story. In a word, it’s all about chemistry, the almost indescribable feeling you get when you and someone just click.
“Chemistry is hard to define and quantify, simply because it’s often subtle, intuitive, and may even run counter to what you think you should feel about the other person,” David Bennett, counselor and relationship expert with Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. Bennett says that many people enter a first date with someone who looks good on paper, wanting to feel chemistry, but leave feeling nothing; however, they may feel chemistry with people they never would have dreamed possible on paper.
“My experience is that if you don’t feel chemistry on a first date, it’s unlikely to develop after a second,” he says. “First impressions are the only impressions that matter.”
In terms of what chemistry is, aside from an innate feeling of connection, it is largely subconscious and emotional. “Chemistry is likely a chemical mix that includes dopamine, norepinephrine, and possibly lowered serotonin,” Bennett says. “This all creates a blissful, exciting time with that person, where time seems to stand still and the outside world disappears, with the strong desire to see them again.”
But Can Chemistry Increase Over Time?
Of course, you cannot force yourself to like someone, no matter how much you may have in common. If there is no spark, there’s no spark. “Do recognize that chemistry can’t be forced — it’s OK to not ‘feel that spark’ with someone who is logically perfect for you,” Bennett says. Furthermore, he adds that matching with people on the basis of shared values, like politics and religion, and even common interests, often disappoints daters because they have nothing to do with chemistry. “These are helpful for relationship success, but chemistry has to come first,” he says.
Some people believe that chemistry can increase over time. However, Bennett suggests looking back at your previous relationships and crushes to determine when you felt chemistry in the past — instantaneously or not. “Many clients have kept dating someone hoping the chemistry would develop, but what happens most of the time is that the spark never comes,” he says. “Over time, this builds resentment as their partners want intimacy, but without the spark, this becomes a chore or non-existent.”
How To Tell You're Actually Feeling Chemistry On A Date
OK, so it’s the night you are going on a first date with someone. You’re hopeful you two will connect and perhaps sometimes you confuse common-interest connections with chemistry. What’s the best way, then, to make sure what you’re feeling is chemistry and not just a feeling that’s clouded by common interests? Or, perhaps you’re not as excited about the date as you could be — another online date?! — and then you’re surprised when chemistry happens.
First and foremost, before you even go on your date, Bennett recommends not thinking about it as a date. “Many people tend to view dates as basically interviews, where each person auditions and interviews people for a long-term relationship,” he says. “Not only is this boring, but it turns a date into something sterile and boring, which kills chemistry.” Instead, he suggests viewing the first date as a time to hang out with a new person, and just have fun and see what happens. “If you do this, a first date is more likely to encourage chemistry,” he says.
"Chemistry requires rolling with your intuition, and this requires confidence in yourself and what you’re doing."
You also have to go into the first date with a good, positive mindset. “Be open to chemistry,” Bennett says. “Remember, chemistry doesn’t care how good or bad someone looks ‘on paper.’” He believes that one big way to determine chemistry is by the way a person carries themselves. “For example, smell plays a big role in eliciting chemistry, and women in particular are sensitive to smell based on recent research,” he says. Aside from presenting your best self, Bennett says being open to interaction will foster the right environment for chemistry.
Conversely, if you are not excited about the date, it’s best to change your attitude, Bennett says. “You may go into the date thinking the person is a total dud and just going because a friend set you up, so you pepper them with questions about politics or movie preferences,” he says. “But if you clear out that attitude, you may find that your date is the most charming, cute, and attractive person you’ve ever met.” He also says that if you’ve been having a lot of bad dates lately, you may want to readjust any initial negative thinking and open yourself up to embracing chemistry.
"Thinking about whether this person will maybe act a certain way in 10 years if you commit is bound to kill the chemistry in the moment."
“Chemistry requires ‘going with the flow’ and living in the moment to a degree,” Bennett says. “Thinking about whether this person will maybe act a certain way in 10 years if you commit is bound to kill the chemistry in the moment, and the same is true if you’re running every scenario through your head.”
All in all, Bennett says that, at the end of the day — or date — your intuition is the best judge of chemistry. “Don’t doubt yourself,” he says. “Chemistry requires rolling with your intuition, and this requires confidence in yourself and what you’re doing.” And practice makes perfect, of course, which is what dating is all about anyway — even if you don’t have chemistry with last night’s date, you may with tonight’s.