Do You Need a Spark to Start a Fire?

A graduate of my Dating Dementia class recently submitted a question and gave me permission to include it as one of my blog postings. I will put my comments here but I hope that others will click on the link below and add their own comments as well. It might help her or someone else who has struggled with this same concern.

A.T. wrote, “I had a blind date recently and there weren’t any ‘sparks.’ My inclination was to not pursue further yet he is a nice guy with other great qualities. If his values didn’t align with mine I would say it was a no brainer. But, his values DO align with mine so then what? Is it worth the time to get to know someone more if there are no sparks or fireworks? My therapist indicated that ‘healthy’ is likely to feel awkward and not-super-sexy (for lack of a better expression) to me at first because it’s so foreign from what I’ve been accustomed to in my past relationship. My therapist believes that a person can grow to become attracted to someone physically even if it is not apparent at the beginning. What are your thoughts on this?”

First off, let me say I like your therapist’s comments and I agree with the idea that attraction can happen even if it doesn’t arrive in a lightning bolt on the first date. You may remember these lyrics, I feel the earth move under my feet I feel the sky tumblin’ down, I feel my heart start to trembling whenever you’re around. We have grown to believe that nothing short of an earthquake should occur inside of us if it’s actually love.

Instant attractions, instant chemistry, sparks, fireworks, or even love at first sight are all ways to describe this thing we like to call love. This type of phenomenon tends to occur during what I have coined the “dating dementia” period—that moment of wild attraction that robs us of our senses, takes up a lot of our physical and mental energy, causes us to obsess about someone and can lead us to forget past relationship tsunamis. We have been writing about it for thousands of years so one would think there is something to be said for “falling in love.” Falling as in plunging, tumbling, or spiraling out of control seems to clearly reference this crazy time. Somehow it just seems more attractive when the image is connected with love than with falling off a rocky cliff into a raging sea below.

The fairy tale meeting we have come to believe in and even demand might be just that –a fairy tale. Happily ever afters that follow being swept off our feet don’t always materialize and when the good times vaporize a person is left feeling disillusioned, disappointed and hurt.

That instant attraction, that special chemistry that causes you to feel drawn to each other like magnets is just that –chemistry. Mother Nature’s designer love potion, specially formulated with the right mix of dopamine, testosterone, estrogen, and adrenaline to give that snap, crackle and pop experience called love. What we have come to expect is really Mother Nature’s way to move us quickly into a relationship to guarantee that our “special” DNA gets into the genetic pool before one person wakes up and notices that there isn’t enough glue to hold the relationship together for the long term. From an evolutionary perspective, this was very important. We needed to find someone who had the right outward characteristics that signified that a female had what it took to bear children and the male had the strength to protect his mate and their offspring; certainly not very romantic, but extremely practical for the times.

A genetic legacy is what is at stake but Mother Nature couldn’t care less if you are together in two or three years. Chemistry and real love are two different things. In fact, if we called the whole experience falling in lust, we might understand love in its truest sense of the word. True love is not a feeling like chemistry. Love is a decision that a couple needs to make each day despite life’s vicissitudes, where as chemistry is the flash in the pan that can quickly die out if not nurtured. When we love and experience being loved in return, we feel content, respected, understood, empathetic, accepted, supported, and a myriad other feelings.

If you are expecting your values and the sparks to align on that first date, you may continue to be disappointed or even distracted by the outward characteristics that nature has coded us to look for. It is a person’s character that will bring you either long-term contentment or pain. I say give this person a chance. You could discover a great deal about this man with some time and what you discover could be enough to light that fire you are longing for. If you end up realizing that you can never be more than friends, you have not lost anything but some time. The curious thing about people is that we tend to have friends who are like us in character. So, if this guy ends up just a friend, he could be the person to introduce you to someone who will not only have the same values but also that spark you are looking for.

Let me return to the second part of your comment, the part that suggests an unhealthy relationship past. Yes, this can be an issue. We tend to gravitate to people who seem the most familiar to us. If your relationship history included dysfunctional behaviors, in your first family or the one you married into, this can be your blue print for what relationships are supposed to look like. Healthy behaviors can appear foreign and therefore scary. But, you learned a great deal in the both the Dating Dementia class and the Self-Esteem class, about staying conscious when relating to others as a way to avoid rerunning old tapes. You may need to use that information as your road map and keep it close at hand as a quick reference until you can trust your own gut to safely guide you. Each person you meet is giving you a chance to teach them how to have a relationship with you. And as long as you take things slowly you can learn enough about each other to determine if this relationship has merit or if it needs to be the end of that story.

Do you recall the Choose Your Own Adventure books from your childhood? You can close the book here and call it end of story. But what if you decided to run through a few more pages of this story before closing the book on this guy? Maybe the adventure could lead you down a fruitful path one way or another.

One Response to Do You Need a Spark to Start a Fire?

  1. Thanks Margaret! I would assume at some point physical chemistry can and should develop for a romantic relationship to be sustainable. At least I think I would need that. Is that an appropriate expectation? And how much time do you invest in getting to know a person before it’s apparent that there just isn’t physical chemistry?

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