Dear Quirkyalone: The Laws of Chemistry

“Dear Quirkyalone: Advice for QuirkyLiving” is a guest column by Lisa and Christina (crossposted at Quirkyalone). When you’re making up your own road map for (quirky)living, you need thoughtful advice. We’re here for you. Quirkyalone and Onely welcome your questions; send them on to onely AT

I have gone out on 4 dates with a guy.  We have a great time together, but I’m not feeling any chemistry.  Is chemistry always an instant feeling or can it come along later? –Aimee

Hi Aimee,

Thanks for your classic question. A key tenet of Quirkyalones (or Quirkytogethers!) is that we enjoy spending time on our own, and so we won’t commit to any romantic relationship unless our partner really makes us go, “Wow!”  Not as in, “Wow, I can’t believe how long his nose hair grows,” but rather, “Wow, how did I get so lucky to meet and connect with this person who makes me all tingly and goofy?”  For Quirkyalones, chemistry is a must–but what is it, and how do we recognize it?

Like all classic questions, this one is difficult and has no clear answer, except for maybe “It  all depends,” which I won’t say because that’s the world’s most annoying response (albeit always the truest). So let me break “It all depends” down into some arbitrary specifics for you. I believe that there are approximately three kinds of “chemistry”:

Type 1 Chemistry: Slam-click at first sight.

Type 2 Chemistry: Slam-click after a series of interactions, where you recognize attractive aspects of the person that were not apparent at first sight, and respond to them emotionally or physically.

Type 3 Chemistry: Intermittent giddy feeling that stems from recollections of and references to a long history together and which could not be provided by a recent love interest (think of a couple celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary walking on the beach hand in hand).  We will not discuss Type 3 in this post.

In your situation, it’s not a bad thing that you didn’t immediately feel the SLAM-CLICK of Type 1 Chemistry. However, I think that four dates is probably enough time to start SLAM-CLICKing in the style of Type 2, where you discover that your date has a great laugh and a fascinating knowledge of 18th century Czech watercolors, and you can barely keep your hands off him whenever he tells a Tuvia Beeri anecdote. If this doesn’t happen, then you might have made a new friend, but not a Chemical friend. If you really want to click with your date, but you don’t feel the Chemistry, try giving him chances to generate that connection. For example, if you admire artistic men but the last time he touched an easel was with fingerpaints, don’t just assume he can’t match your interest. Ask him to a paint-your-own-pottery studio and see how he engages with the project. He may surprise you!

I would be more concerned if you said you had instant chemistry from the very second you first bumped into each other at the gallery. This Type 1 Chemistry is fun, but you should take it with a grain of salt. Here’s why: it’s hard to tell the difference between a real connection and a connection manufactured by your brain’s subconscious reaction to the other person’s smell, look, voice, and mannerisms. For example, you exchange hellos with Steve and immediately like him. A lot. What are you basing your opinion on? Your subconscious brain carries a plethora of data it uses to make sense of the world, which it then feeds to your reasoning mind. To give a simplistic example: Steve’s nose might resemble the nose of a beloved aunt who died when you were four years old. Your subconscious remembers your aunt’s face and tells your thinking mind, “A nose like this once belonged to a nice person who gave me cookies,” but the message garbles in translation to your conscious, which hears, “Steve has a nice nose–I can’t wait to eat his cookies.” SLAM-CLICK. It’s a powerful illusion. Enjoy it, but don’t expect it to inevitably carry over into Type 2 Chemistry, which is what you want if you’re aiming for a long term relationship.

If any readers out there *are* feeling Type 1 Chemistry, don’t panic. It might be for real! Test it: Try to articulate why you are drawn to this person. List certain attributes that appeal to you, rather than “She makes me feel all giddy, full stop.” For example,  “She makes me feel giddy because she can untangle a Gordian knot,” bodes well. “She makes me feel giddy because of something about her,” might also bode well, but it could just as easily bode badly. It all depends.


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Onely is a blog that deconstructs stereotypes of singlehood. It's for singles who enjoy being single but remain open to a variety of romantic relationships, either for themselves or for others. Onely comprises two people: Lisa and Christina. Christina has an MA in English and an MFA in creative writing, but she still struggles with her participles and a tendency toward semicolon abuse. She has bravely persevered against these obstacles in her work as one-half of the Onely writing team. For most of her thirty-odd years she has been Quirkyalone, but she also has experience as a Quirkytogether, a Lonelyalone, and--most terrifying--a Lonelytogether. Currently she is contentedly single, balancing a left-brained day job that feeds her cat with right-brained writing projects that feed her soul. In Dear Quirkyalone, she hopes to share her lessons learned with other readers who want to understand and embrace Quirkyliving. The secret? Always listen to Lisa. Lisa has an MFA in creative writing and is about halfway through a doctoral program in Rhetoric and Composition. She loves writing about singles issues on Onely because it gives her a break from what she writes in “real life,” and she loves giving advice on QA because – as most academics do – she thinks she’s always right. Lisa owns a dog named Kitty, loves Judith Butler and Michel Foucault, and undertakes long road/camping trips as often as possible. She apologizes in advance for her language taking “academic” (not to be confused with “epic”) proportions, and advises readers first and foremost to always heed Christina’s advice.

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4 comments on “Dear Quirkyalone: The Laws of Chemistry
  1. I second everything Christina said! I’ll also add that I’ve heard of chemistry growing over longer periods of months or even–gasp–years. But it really all “depends” (haha) on how much time you’re willing to give it. If you like everything else about him and want to give it some time, then, you know, give it some time! There are no hard and fast rules about how long you should date until you’ve determined that “it” isn’t there. Of course, if he IS feeling a connection, there may come a point at which HE wants to either move forward or call it quits, in which case he may end up deciding for you.

  2. terryinaustin says:

    #1 Do not settle for anything less than the combo platter– Types 1 and 2 are the complementary physical and emotional chemistries needed for a full relationship. Absent either one, the relationship wil be vulnerable. Type 3 is not chemistry, yet moss growing can bind a couple.

    #2 Not everything has to either be a relationship immediately or be tossed into the dumpster. If you have a great time together, become friends. He may, probably will date other people. As his friend, you may hear details and a side of him that you might not otherwise know in a lifetime of marriage. And it is perfectly fine to be friends with several guys at once.

    I am a man who has been friends for years with a woman I chose not to date. Shortly after I said those easy words, she had the ill grace to actually and badly need a friend. Since then I have become part of her family, gone to weddings, gone to funerals, dated her beautiful and similarly insane friends, and she has explained so much about how women think and feel, all while watching her torment other men. The experience has made my life fuller and put me much closer to my goals.

  3. Onely says:

    Those are excellent points, thanks!

  4. Monica says:

    I have beeb single and celibate for a significant amount of time, waiting on that conneciton that is best defined, for me, as chemistry. Though I realize I am a hopeless romantic, and somewhat of a pessimist, my one optomism is that WHEN I meet the ONE, we will be drawn and bound tightly together with an unyeilding force of chemistry.

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What’s a quirkyalone?

A quirkyalone is a person who enjoys being single (or spending time alone) and so prefers to wait for the right person to come along rather than dating indiscriminately. Quirkyalones prefer to be single rather than settle.
Quirkyalones can also be married or in a committed relationship (quirkytogether). You can be a man or a woman, any age.
Quirkyalone is ultimately a philosophy about finding happiness within yourself whether you’re single or in a relationship.

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