Chemistry Vs. Compatibility: What’s More Important?
So your latest crush is an amazing kisser, but you had absolutely nothing to talk about over dinner. Or, you two have tons in common, but your first night getting physical was a total flop. Sure, everyone says great relationships are all about the total package—having a healthy balance of intense chemistry and comforting compatibility. But is a budding love affair doomed if you’ve got tons of one but not the other? According to these happy couples, absolutely not. Read on to learn which quality kept them together—and why you shouldn’t worry if you find yourself in a similar dating scenario.
“A bad first kiss didn’t mean we were doomed”
Lisa Price, 28, and Matt Price, 33; married 3 years
New York City
The compatibility factor: "Tremendously, ridiculously awesome," says Matt.
"We could talk about sports and had the same sense of humor." Lisa agrees: “ We never ran out of things to talk about,” she says. "On our first date, I was fantasizing about our wedding."
The chemistry factor: Hardly hot ‘n heavy. "At the end of our first date, he leaned in for a kiss but pulled away at the last moment, giving me an awkward peck on the side of my mouth,” Lisa recalls. “It was the worst kiss ever."
How they made it work: While Matt thought he’d blown it and was tempted to call it quits, he set pride aside and emailed for a second date—and was psyched when she said yes. Knowing she was still interested in spite of the snafu boosted Matt's confidence, and that’s all it took to guarantee a very lusty kiss #2. Both agree first dates are hardly a good litmus test of someone’s potential, plus, "there are so many ways to have chemistry besides a kiss,” points out Lisa. “The way Matt and I enjoyed every second together is another form of connecting, and that's ultimately the kind of chemistry that I always dreamed of."
“Chemistry brought our very different personalities together”
Brooke Herman, 26 and Larry Grodsky, 27; dating 2 years
New Milford, NJ
The compatibility factor: Next to non-existent. "I’m passionate; he’s very calm and methodical. He’s into rap; I like show tunes. He’s a partier, and I never stay out late," explains Brooke. Larry agrees, adding, "We didn't have much in common outside of the newspaper we both worked on."
The chemistry factor: While Brooke can’t explain why, "I felt it in my bones that we were meant to be together,” she says. “He’d put his arm around me, and it just worked. And when we finally kissed, I couldn’t believe how right it felt.”
How they made it work: Unfortunately, great chemistry can dissolve when you can't agree what to do on a Saturday night or even what album to play on the stereo. "It was hard the first few months," Brooke remembers. "We cared about each other but had different lives.” While many believe you shouldn’t have to change who you are for the one you love, Brooke and Larry found it essential. "I learned to enjoy baseball games, and he traded late nights out with his friends for cooking dinner at home,” says Brooke, adding that the process made her realize that deep down, “we’re actually very similar.” Time, in other words, allowed them to find common ground. "For most couples, everything seems perfect and easy in the beginning,” points out Larry. “But we had a rocky beginning that eventually became a relationship that really worked.”
“Our compatibility online led to a strong connection in person”
Georgi Bohrod, 60 and Rich Gordon, 60; dating 5 years
Santa Monica, CA
The compatibility factor: Georgi and Rich’s online profiles seemed tailor-made for each other. “I’d written a description practically down to every last detail, from a love of the Padres to fine dining. Rich fit every category,” says Georgi, who also fit Rich’s wish list to a tee. Says Rich of meeting Georgi, "It was like we knew each other in a past life.”
The chemistry factor: Ultimately, intense! Since they’d spent a month emailing and talking on the phone before meeting up, Rich was nervous that all of their mutual interests still wouldn't add up to good chemistry. "I’d been looking for love online for awhile and had experienced lots of false starts,” Rich explains. Georgi agrees, adding, “I think neither of us had great expectations,” so they were delighted when sparks flew during their first face-to-face date.
How they made it work: They strongly believe that their effort to build a strong foundation of compatibility via email and phone paved the way for a rock-solid relationship. “By chatting online we got to know each other’s sense of humor and values. Compatibility is everything from the music and food you like to the way you treat people. Over the long haul, it’s so important. If we’d met in person too soon, the physical attraction would have overwhelmed everything else,” says Rich, and he and Georgi wouldn’t have been able to forge as full a connection as quickly as they did.
“We were friends first; lovers second”
Mindi Dolf, 25, and Tom Edward, 26; dating 5 years
The compatibility factor: Mindi and Tom were so compatible as friends, it took them years to see each other as more. “We were both involved in the theatre and often found each other at the same parties and get-togethers,” Tom recalls. “ We certainly enjoyed each other's company, exchanging jokes. We cracked each other up.”
The chemistry factor: Not very strong. "At one point I started to get a glimmer of how wonderful this guy was and I thought, ‘I’d like to end up with someone like him someday,” admits Mindi. “I couldn’t imagine we would be a good couple.”
How they made it work: When Mindi needed a date for a sorority ball, she asked Tom—as a friend, of course. "But the dance floor does something to two people who’ve never held one another," Mindi says. “ Which song it was that sealed it is entirely our business, but rest assured, a common feeling passed between us.” That night, they kissed, then fell asleep—fully clothed—on Tom’s bed. Their relationship inched forward slowly, since Tom soon went to study abroad for a semester. But after exchanging daily emails and phone calls, both agree that they grew even closer in spite of the distance. When Tom returned, sparks naturally flew, proving that friendship can transform into love.
“Our intense connection overcame our differences”
Doreen Orion, 46, and Tim Justice, 48; married 5 years
The compatibility factor: Although Doreen and Tim are both psychiatrists, the couple's similarities end there. He loves the outdoors, she’s a couch potato. He’s a people person, she’s a self-described misanthrope. "I doubt you could meet a more disparate pair," says Doreen.
The chemistry factor: Electric. On their first date, the two had so much fun they had no idea eight hours had passed.So they continued the night with a few hours of “good old-fashioned necking” in the parking lot, says Tim. Although the two shared amazing physical chemistry, they still weren’t sure it would lead to anything more than a heavy make-out session. “Because of our differences, we never thought we'd end up seriously dating or married," explains Tim.
How they made it work: Given that Doreen and Tim had each been previously married to people whose personalities mirrored their own, they knew compatibility had its limitations. So, they decided to let chemistry be their guide—and found that their differences allowed them to maintain a healthy sense of autonomy. "It allowed us to have individual interests and not force each other along for the ride," says Tim. Plus, they found out that many of their “differences” complemented each other rather than clashed. “We each have different strengths and weaknesses,” says Doreen. “And it makes us stronger together than apart.”
So, what to conclude from these case histories? Whether you’ve got loads of chemistry or just some nice compatibility on the first date, there may be a wonderful romance and relationship in your future.
Lisa Cericola is a New York City-based writer who’s written for First For Women, Southern Living, and other publications.