Chemistry - the controversial term

Many women don't like the word '"chemistry" when used in the context of dating. I publishe an article containing this comment from a man age 65: "The Internet is not for me when it comes to meeting women. I prefer to meet the person first to see if there may be chemistry between us."

An innocent enough statement, I thought. But, the word "chemistry" triggered strong responses from women.

Shirley said, "I find the word 'chemistry' loathsome, because it's adolescent and dishonest.

"Men have often used the expression 'chemistry' and I resent it. Somehow, they seem to think that they make all of the choices. Love, affection, good will, kindness, friendship, all those things are as important, and that romantic, superficial, instantaneous spark may occur in a different way now that we are seasoned adults."

Jennifer said, "Chemistry is a combination of physical and emotional/mental attraction between people. When you first meet someone, each person senses the physical aspect of the other, but the emotional/mental aspect isn't known yet.

"Some men make the mistake of relying solely on the physical attraction. Men who have never been married or who have had several failed relationships often do this. They reduce 'chemistry' to sex appeal alone. These men go from one short-term, disappointing relationship to another."

I agree with Jennifer. People who judge potential mates entirely on looks may be in for a surprise when that person's true character begins to surface. The person could be selfish, egotistical, superficial or inconsiderate. Those looks become a lot less important when significant flaws surface.

Lulu e-mailed, "I hate it when someone is looking for 'chemistry.' When a man says 'chemistry' it means only one thing. I've been on too many first dates that went nowhere because the man didn't feel 'chemistry.' His loss. I'm a good person.

"You can talk with someone for months on the Internet and on the phone and suddenly when you meet them in person that special chemistry you thought you had together vanishes."

Lulu is correct. When older singles tell me they have fallen in love with a person they found on the Internet, but haven't yet met in person (by my definition, loving an image), and they feel sexually attracted to them, I tell them it's impossible. Until you've met a person face-to-face, you do not love them. Perhaps you think you do, but you don't.

Edie said, "As a woman, I feel that chemistry is physical, emotion, etc. It's that woman 'thing' about connecting on many levels. Physical chemistry is important but not the end-all be-all."

Men rarely go into as much detail as women when defining "chemistry." I was seated in my deli with a buddy and two unmarried women. One of the women asked him what the word "chemistry" meant to him. Without hesitation, he answered, "It means you want to take someone to bed." The women's mouths dropped open.

"How can it be that simple?" One of them asked. He said, "Why make it more difficult?" He couldn't secure a date with either woman.

Not all men define "chemistry" so bluntly or narrowly. There are men who view "chemistry" as the entire package, wanting to be with a person because of common interests, backgrounds or goals. A feeling that they can easily converse and talk to a woman for hours.

But men also feel that physical attraction must be a part of that mix. Some, like my friend above, get the cart before the horse. They think chemistry comes before anything else.

Regardless of a person's definition of "chemistry," both sexes tend to agree that in the long run, without it, a relationship will lack spark.

"Chemistry is the 'word.' The guy may be rich, handsome, etc., but forget it if you don't click," said Kathleen.

Anne emailed, "Chemistry is essential for me, and a certain amount of intensity is also attractive."

Differences in the definition of the word "chemistry" remind us why middle-age and senior compatibility between women and men can be hard to corral.

Recent comments

Bernie, "You're a great spokesperson for our generation of 'retreads.'"

Response: Retreads? Hey Bernie, we're still on the original tires, which is why we've accumulated so much wisdom.

Susan: "It isn't only the widow/widower who needs to heal after the loss of a spouse, we all need to heal after we've been in a long-term relationship."

© 2010, Tom Blake

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Tom Blake is an expert on dating after 50. He has appeared twice on the "Today Show" and has written more than 500 columns on dating and relationships. His "Single Again" column appears in The Orange County Register in southern California, is read worldwide and is often featured on msn.com. He is a professional speaker. He spoke at the national AARP convention in San Diego in 2002, and in Chicago. His book, Middle Aged and Dating Again, is a humorous account of his first year of dating after his third divorce. His second book is Finding Love After 50: How to begin, where to go, what to do. His latest book is titled How 50 Couples Found Love after 50. To ask a question or receive Tom's free weekly column on middle-age dating and relationships by e-mail, click on www.findingloveafter50.com or E-Mail.

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