Why Chemistry Is A Must (He Can’t Just Check All The Boxes)

There’s no doubt that he’s good on paper. He has all the “right” qualities in spades. But what do you do if, despite the boxes he checks off, you aren’t all that attracted to him?

By Keelia Clarkson5 min read
Pexels/Oğuz Uğur

The guy you’ve been seeing checks off basically every item on your dating checklist. He’s thoughtful, sweet, intelligent, dependable, successful, trustworthy, kind, and faithful. A good guy, by all accounts. You enjoy spending time with him too. He’s a great companion and makes an effort to plan fun dates. You don’t have many complaints about him. There’s just one thing that seems to be missing…

You aren’t exactly crazy about him. Your stomach doesn’t do flips at the thought of seeing him. You don’t have an overwhelming desire to kiss him. You don’t have that “I just can’t get enough of him” feeling that your friends have talked about feeling with their boyfriends. You’ve never looked at him and felt a deep, immense, undeniable attraction, burning like a fire. You like him, but you’re just not head over heels for him. And as much as you hate to admit it, there’s not a lot of chemistry between you two. You’ve done your best to try to ignore it, but you can’t help but feel a little bothered by that, and even like you’re playing relationship with a guy who’d be better as a friend.

Still, after getting burned by a string of relationships where literally all you had was what you thought was chemistry with him (but not security, devotion, or a connection that went beyond the physical – you know, the things that make for a healthy, lasting relationship), you’ve been challenging yourself to focus on the things that should matter more in a relationship, things that can withstand the test of time, like similar values, loyalty, and stability. Don’t judge a book by its cover, you’ve been telling yourself on every new date with a guy you haven’t felt an immediate spark with.

And you really don’t want to fall into the trap of being so shallow that you let go of a really good guy. But you keep on wondering: Is this really what a relationship is supposed to feel like? Technically good, in the sense of checking off all the boxes and not making you go insane, but missing a certain umph? Is this what it means to mature and care about the “right” things in a guy, or are you setting yourself up for failure by denying the lack of chemistry in your relationship?

What Exactly Is Chemistry?

We’re willing to bet the first thing that comes to mind when you think of “chemistry” in the romantic sense of the word is physical attraction. And to be sure, chemistry definitely has a lot to do with being drawn to someone in this way. When you have unquestionable chemistry with someone, you’ll look for any excuse to touch them, to be close to them. Something as simple as the smallest brush of the hand is exciting.

But it’s important to note that that’s not all chemistry entails. It also describes a profound attraction to a man’s heart, soul, and mind and the connection you feel with him. You’re captivated by the way his mind works, by the vision he has for his life, by the kind of man he’s becoming, and by the way he cares for and loves you – so much that you want to kiss him, spend the rest of your days with him, and have a family with him. You simply can’t imagine life without him. 

It’s physical attraction, emotional chemistry, and intellectual chemistry combined into one relationship that makes things explosive.

So, yes, chemistry has to do with basic physical attraction, but there are also such things as emotional chemistry and intellectual chemistry, which can both make for an intense connection. It’s the three types of chemistry combined into one relationship that makes things explosive and sets the bond you have with him apart from every other relationship in your life.

How Important Is Chemistry in a Relationship?

By now, you’re probably wondering just how important is chemistry in a romantic relationship? Is it absolutely necessary to have it for a relationship to survive, or can you still have a good relationship, even if that fire isn’t burning…or smoldering in the slightest bit? Is there any way that a relationship without this kind of chemistry can work in the long run?

According to Jenny White, dating coach and the founder of, there’s no real love without chemistry: “Many of today’s relationship gurus insist that you don’t need to be attracted to your partner to flourish in a long-term relationship. I maintain that’s patently false, and there are a number of reasons why. … I can promise you many marriages today end this way because two people settled for each other and gave up on finding someone they’re attracted to because ‘time is running out, it just makes sense, and he/she is here and is willing, so why not?’ … This is a recipe for disaster, and you need to avoid it [at] all costs if you want your long-term relationship to be fulfilling on any mutual level.”

What she’s saying makes sense. Chemistry isn’t just the excitement you have about kissing him; it’s also the excitement you have about spending your life with him – which will ultimately make for a satisfying relationship that you genuinely want to be in. While having chemistry with someone doesn’t guarantee the relationship’s success, there’s something to be said for the science behind this enchanting feeling that we call chemistry.

Helen Fisher, Ph.D., author of Anatomy of Love and senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute, looked at the MRI scans of individuals who were deeply in love. When the subjects looked at pictures of their loved ones, the scans showed that the areas of the brain associated with motivation, reward, and dopamine production lit up. “When people say they have chemistry with someone, they’re being accurate,” Dr. Fisher said.

So, is chemistry by itself enough to keep a relationship from coming to an end? Definitely not. But it’s also not something to forget about entirely.

What Can Happen If You Don’t Have Chemistry?

So what if you don’t feel that kind of excitement for your guy? What if those areas of your brain don’t light up when you look at him, but he’s still really great in every other sense? Should you soldier on and stick with the guy who checks off every other box, or will the lack of attraction end up taking a toll on the relationship? What’s the worst that can happen if you don’t have chemistry?

“It’s a great way to ensure that your mate catches the wandering eye. It’s [a] great way to ensure your marriage is boring and the adventure dies out. It’s a great way to ensure that you’ll wake up each day and grow to hate the person more and more because there’s no love there to sustain it. … You only get one chance in life to live it well. And spending the rest of your life with someone who you don’t feel thrilled to be with is no walk in the park,” warns White.

While the absence of chemistry won’t necessarily lead to an explosively bad marriage, it might lead to a quietly depressing one.

Not being drawn to someone in this way doesn’t make them bad or worthless. But not sharing this special kind of connection can certainly create a marriage that lacks emotional investment, intensity, passion, fulfillment, and commitment. So, while the absence of chemistry won’t necessarily lead to an explosively bad marriage, it might lead to a quietly depressing one. How can we endure the rough times that are sure to come? How can we be excited about the next 50 years of our lives? How can we be all in if we feel, deep down, that we could go on without him?

Is It at All Possible To Grow in Chemistry?

By now we’ve established what chemistry is, why it’s important in romantic relationships, and what could happen if you pursue a relationship where it doesn’t exist. This all begs the question: Can chemistry develop? Is there a chance that you might not feel an initial spark with him, but chemistry can grow where there once was none? Well, it depends.

According to Susan Trombetti, matchmaker and CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking, chemistry isn’t necessarily instant, and it’s definitely possible for it to grow: “Realize chemistry takes time to develop. … It’s not an immediate rush. Always have at least two dates. So many people won’t have more than one when they say there was no chemistry.”

It’s not necessary for there to be a spark within moments of meeting him, as romantic as that sounds. There’s actually a good chance that, if you give it a little bit of time, it’s entirely possible to begin to feel more chemistry as you get to know him on a deeper level. “It’s important to give someone a chance as you build the relationship, even if you don’t feel that initial pang of chemistry. … The right relationship might take some time to warm up, but it’ll be worth the wait,” says Logan Ury, author of How to Not Die Alone and Hinge’s Director of Relationship Science.

Still, though, there are people with whom you just won’t have chemistry, no matter how much time you give it, and that’s okay. While it’s wise to manage your expectations of how chemistry should feel and how quickly it should develop, if you don’t feel excited to see him after a few dates, take that as a sign that the seeds of chemistry aren’t there for it to grow.

Closing Thoughts

It’s true that, to an extent, love is not just a feeling, but also a choice. Any man you choose, even if you have chemistry with him in spades, will be imperfect, difficult to love sometimes, and human. So while chemistry all on its own isn’t enough of a reason to marry someone, we’d advise against forcing a relationship where no chemistry at all is present – no matter how many boxes he checks off.

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