Missing the Right Chemical Connection

Dear Dating Coach,

I am a 38 year old single man who has been in a relationship with a lovely 30 year old woman for the past year and am now at the point where I am struggling terribly to decide if I want things to move forward. Like with all of my previous girlfriends we get on well and generally don't argue a great deal. She's attractive and we share many similar ideals and values.

However, I'm in what feels like an impossible situation because on one hand I feel that I can't bear to lose her, yet on the other I feel somewhat unfulfilled and that there may be something missing. We can completely trust each other and the relationship is safe and stable, all of which are very important to me. But when I'm at home with her I feel quite content and happy to be with her yet when I'm at work or not with her, I seem to experience an increasing degree of intrusive thoughts about her not being "the right one" and my mind starts to question all over again.

I find myself fantasizing about being with someone whom I have greater chemistry with, on a mental and physical level. I also find myself feeling attracted to other women that I meet and speak to. I have been in this situation previously, wonder if I am picking the wrong type of woman, and realize that I just don't seem to have a good grasp on what to expect in terms of mental, physical and emotional chemistry. If you can spare some time, your help would be gratefully appreciated. --Missing the Love Connection

Dear Missing the Love Connection--

You raised a couple of points that I think are important to address in my attempt to help you understand what the real issues are here. The first is that you called your relationship "safe," and stated that it is much like your previous relationships. What this tells me is that you have a pattern of picking women who are safe and who share your ideals and values. You also stated that this is not the first time you have had this specific issue with a relationship and you wonder if you are picking the wrong kind of woman--a good insight by the way. You also reference more than once that you fear losing a great woman if you end the relationship. Lastly, you talk about a sense of something missing- and your gut seems to be saying that it's all about not having the right chemistry. When I put these together, the picture I see is of a relationship that offers friendship, comfort, and security, now and in the future. What I don't see is a relationship that has physical passion, intellectual challenge and the intensity and excitement that comes with these.

Strong and satisfying intimate relationships have a foundation of chemistry that includes some measure of physical, emotional and intellectual attraction. When one or two of them are strong, yet a third is missing, it leads to the kind of confusion that you are expressing. You care about this woman, and feel a strong affinity with her, yet you feel a longing for something she can't offer you. If you were to meet and begin a passionate physical relationship with a woman who you were unable to feel truly comfortable with, and who wanted different things than you want--over time that relationship would lead to a different kind of longing for you. Again, it would be about a missing component of that right chemistry.

The bottom line is that it appears you lean towards safe, and avoid getting involved with women who may be a greater challenge. This can have roots in your experiences growing up and/or with your own early entanglements. Pay attention to how you feel when you are in the presence of a woman you feel a strong physical attraction to. Note her other attributes and how she relates to you. Look for patterns, and take very small steps towards breaking them, by making small, but different choices the next time. Only through experiencing will you come to a better understanding of who you choose and why. Once you know this, you will be able to make the best choice for yourself and the woman you choose.

(from April 2009)

Want to read other columns on this subject?

"Chemistry and Online dating"
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"Attraction and chemistry"

"Too Ugly to Date?"


Toni Coleman, LCSW
Phone: 703-847-1768


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