See if these situations sound like you-or your friends:

Michael passed up a wonderful woman because he wasn't immediately attracted to her.  He always preferred dark, voluptuous beauties.  After a few more failed relationships, Michael's colleague announced his engagement to "the kindest and funniest woman" he ever met.  When the colleague showed everyone at work a photo of her, Michael felt as though someone had punched him in the stomach.  It was the same woman.

Megan ended a date early because the man didn't speak a great deal and couldn't spark her feelings. Two years later she ran into him at a party.  He was married and seemed like a very different person.  She overheard another guest say that the man was shy at first but opens up over time. Megan was kicking herself for passing up a good person and for being so inflexible.

These mistakes result from relying on chemistry too early in the dating process to select or disqualify potential partners. Chemistry is important, but first you need to understand it so you can use it wisely. Here is a quick question and answer guide.

1. What is "instant" chemistry?

Here is a recipe for "instant" chemistry.  But I don't advise you to use it.  The recipe could turn into an unsavory experience.

  • Two gallons of unhappiness, loneliness and the ticking of "biological clocks" before the first few dates
  • One gallon of an unhappy or harmful family history and poor relationship models
  • Half gallon of just coming off a bad experience of any kind-divorce, break up, family loss, financial, career or health difficulties and other tough times
  • Four cups of relying on your exact spices for what attracts you physically--and therefore sexually.

As you can see from this list, chemistry is often a mix of hormones, hopes, family history and timing...and you were going to rely on this brew to decide whether to rule the person in or out?


  • Give people at least second and third chances before you pass on them.
  • Be aware of what life and emotional circumstances you are bringing to the situation.
  • Postpone sex.  Passion and the accompanying sex hormones of arousal and attachment can land you in a soup that you can't get out of so easily.

2. Okay-but I find that instant chemistry happens for me when I feel comfortable with someone.  What's wrong with that?

Here's a surprise:  It's just as easy--and comforting--to fall in love with the right person as the wrong one. Why? We tend to feel emotionally comfortable with people whose personality and problems prompt us, consciously and unconsciously, to act in ways that reproduce how we acted in our family or how our parents acted toward each other. 

Your parents' relationship taught you important lessons about men, women, trust, anger, compromise, cooperation and over-accommodation.  You also had a family role of "emotional slots" such as caretaker, favorite, rebel or forgotten one. 

The sum total of your parents' lessons and your family role equals your comfort zone.  If you are lucky enough to come from a good family experience, then, yes, you can trust in the chemistry of comfort.  But, if these experiences were not so healthy, then you risk repeating them.


  • Be aware of your personal danger of falling for your comfort zone.
  • Date lots of different people. You will increase your chance of learning more about yourself, your needs and your assessment of others.
  • Date against your usual type of person-especially if your usual type has not yielded happiness.
  • Tolerate the initial discomfort of stepping outside your comfort zone.

3. Can I ever rely on chemistry?

Yes, but wait for it.  Healthy chemistry often comes as "that click in the gut, that hit in the head and heart" that says "this is right and good."  Here are some tips to allow healthy chemistry to flourish.


  • Give the relationship time.
  • Share common values.
  • Develop a friendship of respect and care
  • Make sure you like how you act and how your partner treats you.

4. Is there such a thing as "love at first sight?"


Surprisingly, yes! It's rare but possible. Here is a recipe for good love at first sight.

  • Three gallons of healthy family role models, messages and your emotional slot
  • Or Three gallons of your ability to forge new relationship models and values
  • High ability to read people
  • Flexibility in accepting different kinds of people
  • Shared values and goals
  • Good timing in both of your lives
  • Luck!