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Transforming Fear to Joy

Chemistry & Compatibility — What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Whether platonic or romantic, I have always felt chemistry and compatibility to be foundational pillars of a healthy intimate relationship. But what do we mean when we have chemistry with another person? Is it that felt experience of instant connection? What causes this close, easy, seemingly natural attraction between two people who, on the surface, can appear to be very different? And what makes us compatible with some people more so than others?

Some writers on the subject combine chemistry and compatibility treating them as if they were a single factor in determining friendship and romance.

Taken together, the core components of both friendship and romantic chemistry included non-judgment, similarity, mystery, attraction, mutual trust, and effortless communication.     Kelly Campbell, Ph.D.

No doubt the interpersonal qualities listed above are relationship builders, but the mystery of chemistry still remains unanswered. And where does love fit in?

In 1872, Charles Darwin studied universal facial expressions of emotion from which evolved a science of basic emotions now called affect theory. These “basic” emotions — anger, sadness, fear, excitement, enjoyment, surprise and disgust — are cross-culturally similar supporting the thesis that humans are more alike than not. What I found most interesting in this research is the complete absence of any mention of love. Apparently, love is not a basic emotion as per these social scientists.

On the other hand, psychotherapist, Philippa Perry, sees love as a combination of six different types of emotion. Not to be outdone, physicist, Jim Al-Khalili, says love is chemistry “… a powerful neurological condition like hunger or thirst, only more permanent.”

Is it any wonder chemistry, compatibility and love are so confusing and misunderstood in human society? So much so that according to Google, “What is love” was the most searched phrase in 2012. Could this be why many spend the first half of their lives desperately seeking true love by experimenting with serial monogamy? Fortunately, this age-old mystery does become more personally definable with emotional maturation and self-awareness.

In my own life I try to extend loving kindness to whoever crosses my path regardless of compatibility or chemistry. In such experiences, compatibility and chemistry can be completely lacking, which makes the offer of love more challenging. Regardless, love is a driving force on this planet. Arguably, what some call “the greatest emotion of all,” propels human evolution and our world forward beyond violence, poverty and greed.

I also have a clearer understanding of compatibility, more so than chemistry, and view it as represented through shared values. My core values of peace, love