I once dated a guy, I’ll call him Mark, who said that he chose to never fall in love.
“You choose that?” I asked. “But haven’t you ever met someone you couldn’t help but fall in love with?” I was asking, of course, because I was quickly falling for him and wanted to test the waters.
“I don’t permit myself,” Mark insisted. When he saw my incredulous expression, he explained. “I set up the relationship so it can’t happen. I make sure that I don’t see her often. I see other people. I fill my life with other things. I don’t allow enough time for love to grow.”
“Huh,” I said. I mulled it over. “But why do you do that?”
“Falling in love is time consuming and distracting. It steals energy from the things that are important to me. I don’t want to get trapped in all that drama.”
The romantic feelings I’d been having for Mark quickly vanished. I figured that this was his intention because he wasn’t interested in me. But I soon found out that it wasn’t quite so simple. We became good friends and have kept in touch for 20 years now. True to Mark’s goal, he’d never formed a romantic relationship with anyone else. I met women who dated him, and they confirmed it.
Mark was right. You can set up your interactions so there’s not enough time for romantic chemistry to develop. You can also make sure you only spend time with people you might want to fall in love with (for instance, brilliant, rich, and gorgeous, if those are the things you’re looking for.)
But what if you meet someone who has every external quality you’re looking for, and is crazy about you, but you don’t feel anything stronger than mild fondness in return? Can you manufacture romantic feelings?
It’s a dilemma.
I’ll meet a guy who’s smart, not bad looking, knows who Tolstoy is and can talk about literature. He might be a jazz musician, an artist, a writer, or scientist, with qualities I admire, like being kind-hearted and considerate. He might even make me laugh. Perfect.
But no chemistry.
So I go on one date with him and have fun.
Then I go on the next, and realize that holding his hand is not what I want to be doing.
I try the third date, waiting for chemistry to develop. It doesn’t have to be instant desire, but I have to be curious enough to want to see him again. To wonder what it would be like to know him better. I want to feel some excitement.
Am I asking too much?
Without curiosity and anticipation on my part, spending time with someone who is attracted to me becomes unbearable.
I begin to wonder what’s wrong with me. I mentally pick apart every interaction between us, looking for the clue to my complete lack of interest.
It’s inevitable that I stop seeing him. Or we begin an uncomfortable friendship, then I stop seeing him.
Attraction and chemistry is beyond our conscious control. We can do what my friend Mark does and prevent it from being born.
But how do we create it?
Any suggestions? Is it just luck?