Fooled By False Chemistry?

Convinced your bond is the real deal? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t—learn how to tell with this smart advice.

By Cate Mitchell

ou think, This is it. For the past three weeks, you’ve been having amazing dates with someone who seemed to click with you instantly. You’ve never had this kind of intense connection before and are thinking, This must be what everyone means when they talk about amazing chemistry! But just as you thought you two were poised to take the next step, whump! your next date falls flat. Hoping it was just a freak occurrence, you try again. Still nothing. In short, that spark has just vanished as quickly as it had appeared.

What gives? It’s possible you were fooled by false chemistry—a buzz that seems to portend great things but often does little more than fizzle after the initial rush is gone. By
Your date makes you feel like the most fascinating person ever.
no means does it spell the end—it’s just that people tend to take certain signs too seriously sometimes, setting themselves up for disappointment. So, if you think that incredible rapport you’re feeling is due to one of the reasons below, make sure to take it with a grain of salt and adopt a “wait and see” attitude. That way, you’ll protect yourself from a major dating disappointment.

You and your date are on your best behavior
We’ve all been told to just “be ourselves” when embarking on a new romance, but for many daters, it’s difficult to let our less attractive sides show. “I find many people get so focused on finding a girlfriend or boyfriend that when they do finally meet someone, they become too accommodating in an effort to move things along quickly,” says Jon Finegold, a 35-year-old from Boston. “They adopt the interests of their partner and shut down their previous life.” Indeed, if you want a relationship that lasts, stripping away false veneers is essential, says Mira Kirshenbaum, author of Is He Mr. Right? “Not being your true self in a new relationship is a mistake people often make,” she says. “They’re afraid other people won’t like them if they don’t create a more charming, more interesting, more attractive but false self. But this can lead to romantic disaster. If you and that other person have chemistry, it would only be based on your not showing who you really are. And your connection may not survive once you two do show your true colors.”

Your date’s the exact opposite of your ex
Your old flame was quiet; your new sweetie is the life of the party. When you and your ex went out, you did all the planning, but thanks to your new flame, you’re no longer in the driver’s seat. Your ex was closed-minded, while this new person is up for anything. Sounds great, right? Wrong, says Kirshenbaum. “When this scenario happens, it gives you the illusion you have chemistry. You’re basically so swept up in finding that quality you lacked and craved in the past relationship that you mistake it for chemistry.” What to do? “Give yourself a good six months after your breakup before you start looking for a serious relationship,” says Helen Fisher, Ph.D., an anthropologist and author of Why We Love: The Nature of Chemistry and Romantic Love. “That way, you start that new relationship without all those feelings of being on the rebound.” Or, if you do end up dating sooner than that, keep an eye out for those aspects that are the polar opposite of your ex—and keep your enthusiasm in check until you’ve gotten a good taste of whether you’ll enjoy it once the novelty wears off.

Your date really, really digs you
Of course, everyone likes being liked. And sooner or later, you’re bound to go out with someone who thinks you’re totally amazing. If the feeling is mutual, congratulations! But if it isn’t, it can be all too easy to ignore that little voice saying, This person isn’t right for me when the person in question is so adoring. “You might feel warm and fuzzy at all the attention,” says Kirshenbaum. “The only problem is that the other's liking you is no sign at all that you're going to like the other back. When liking each other is a by-product of great chemistry, that's great. But it can't be a substitute for it.” Alison James, a 31-year-old New Yorker, cannot agree more, having once fallen for someone purely because he was so sweet on her. “Years ago, I met this guy and was convinced he was The One but it was really just how into me he was,” she recalls. “The funny thing is, since then I’ve had real chemistry with other people, and it made me realize that this connection was not really chemistry after all. I think the attention from him just gave me the confidence boost and self-esteem I needed. I wanted it to be mutual true love, but it just wasn’t.”

Your date’s a pro at playing the field
He brought you flowers on your first date, wines and dines you at the best restaurants in town, and always walks you to your door at the end of the night. Or she’s stunningly beautiful, flirts up a storm, and seems intrigued by every aspect of your life. In short, your date makes you feel like the most fascinating person ever. That may be true, but it may also mean he or she is a pro at making everyone feel this way. So, while you may be thinking your relationship is well on its way to getting serious, your date may be playing
It can be easy to ignore that little voice saying, This person isn’t right for me when that person adores you.
the field, in spite of every signal you’re getting to the contrary. “The human animal is very good at being deceptive, but very bad at picking up deception [in others],” explains Dr. Fisher. “When we’re in love, certain brain regions just shut down, causing you to overlook that person’s flaws or signs they’re not that into you.” Though it’s hard, when swept away, daters need to take a step back and evaluate dates for who they are and the values they uphold, not the superficial come-ons they employ.

You have incredibly similar interests
You both love Van Halen, peanut butter-and-banana sandwiches, and watching sunrises more than sunsets. Match made in heaven? Not necessarily. “Just because you’re good on paper and have similar interests, values, and backgrounds doesn’t mean you have real chemistry,” says Kirshenbaum. “Of course it’s nice to find someone with whom you’re compatible, but compatibility just doesn’t predict happy, long-lasting relationships.” We’re not saying compatibility is bad—it just may not be enough for the long haul if that’s all you’ve got in common. So ask yourself: If you two didn’t both love playing tennis, discussing politics, and watching HBO every Sunday, would your relationship stand? If so, then you may very well be soul mates. If not, then you may merely have a “good on paper” relationship verses the entire package. Proceed with caution and make sure you’re really into this person—not just the fact that your tastes and lifestyles are in sync. This could wind up being just a fantastic friendship rather than the life-long romantic partner you’re searching for—and will find.

Cate Mitchell is a New York City-based freelance writer.

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