Google Analytics Alternative

Love: Is It Math or Chemistry?

How great is the methodology of online dating? Tell a dating site computer the things you love, the things you hate, and what you enjoy doing, and it churns out a list of potential partners whose interests exactly match your own.

So — two people who love the same things will also love each other?  I’m not so sure. I can’t think of a single romance novel in which the heroine exclaims, “He’s just the man for me — we both like camping, antiques, and cats!”

It doesn’t happen that way in the movies, either.  When the hero realizes suddenly that he can’t live without the woman who’s about to marry his best friend it’s not because she shares his enthusiasm for chess.


Online dating sites can do many good things for us, but they can’t provide the one thing that makes the real difference – chemistry.  Without chemistry, a relationship can never be a romance.  Ask any happy couple why they’re happy. Some may indeed say, “Because we like to do the same things,” but you’re just as likely to hear, “We don’t know exactly; we’re just crazy about each other.”

The conviction that people with identical interests will be a good match is as old as matchmaking itself. But most of the time “you’re perfect for each other” won’t go beyond its mathematical formula (sports fan + pianist + attorney x 2 = bliss). The perfect date is often a perfect bust. He’s nice but he’s not for you.

If you’re an artist waiting for another artist, or a skier holding out for another ski enthusiast, you’re pursuing the wrong objective. The goal is not to find someone just like you, but to find someone who supports you in the pursuit of the things you love – someone who supports who you are. And although you may know nothing about physics, or football, or refurbishing old cars, you’ll want to support your partner’s self-expression as well.

PASHA and I put this principle to the test almost from the first moment we met. PASHA is foreign-born; I’m small-town America. He’s a scientist and I’m an artist. He loves eating in; I come alive in the ambiance of the local bistro. The films he loves feature spies, Mafiosi, and car chases, while I love costume epics. He thinks Shakespearean theatre is tedious; I weep for Ophelia. He’s a beach bum and I prefer mountain vacations. Who cares? The chemistry thing plunged us right away into a maelstrom from which I hope we’ll never emerge.


One way to express the way chemistry impels a romantic duo is the phrase “he completes me.” Each completion is unique. We’ve no idea how or why we can be overtaken by such a feeling. Sure, we can say with certainty that love flourishes with kindness, empathy, and generosity of spirit, but no one knows why that network of sensations we call chemistry can pick you up, spin you around, and plunge you violently and deliciously into what is arguably life’s best adventure.

Like the Article? Share It!Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone

'Love: Is It Math or Chemistry?' have 11 comments

  1. October 11, 2014 @ 7:59 am Sienna

    Arnie — Thanks for sharing your experience. I agree that matching interests are important, but some just seem more important than others. A meat-eater and a vegetarian might be able to work out a compromise, while people with different religions or different child-rearing techniques could have more trouble. The degree of commitment, as you say, is important. It’s no fun to be an enthusiastic, active supporter of your home team if your partner thinks sports are a bore.

  2. August 21, 2014 @ 9:38 am Arnie

    I agree in general with what you say, but I think you minimize too much the matching of interests. I have ended two relationships because women just didn’t get that some of my interests were too strong to pursue without an enthusiastic partner.

  3. July 31, 2014 @ 3:01 pm Sienna

    Barbara — Thanks for your thoughtful comment / question. Here’s what I think: It’s hard not to grieve for an “amazing” lost relationship, and it’s natural to feel disappointment when the vibes are not as intense with a new partner. If you decide to enjoy this new relationship for what it is for as long as it lasts, you’ll at least have companionship and affection. It’s not a question of “good enough.” It doesn’t have to be forever. If this person is pleasant to be around, it’s a connection, not a (full-fledged) commitment. And– sometimes things warm up with time.

  4. July 29, 2014 @ 1:13 pm Barbara

    Interesting conversation. I’m in a math relationship after coming off an amazing chemistry relationship. I am suspicious of the latter as I know that sooner or later the flame will die and something else has to be there when that happens. But if there’s no flame to begin with, is it good enough? I hate even asking the question. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have both? Sigh…

  5. May 23, 2013 @ 12:39 am Michelle

    So called chemistry got me into bed twice too often – two marriages later, I’m suspicious.

  6. July 29, 2012 @ 10:17 pm Brenda Gilbert

    I want to meet Mike!

  7. March 25, 2012 @ 7:14 pm Sienna

    This is an interesting addition to the conversation, Mike. I never met a man who didn’t look at the photo first and worry about the rest later. You will be a real prize for some lucky (tall) lady. Thanks for taking the time to post a comment.

  8. March 25, 2012 @ 6:36 pm Mike

    Chemistry is important, and too bad it cannot be measured. But common interests and beliefs are also important. I know what I like: tall, thin or fit women, who are educated. I also want to avoid conflicts over religion or politics. I’m 67 and 6’3″ with a lot of artistic interests, but also interested in politics. So if I find a woman 60-63, 5’9″ or above, who works out regularly, is fit or thin, has no real interest in religion and is liberal in her politics — I’m on her. Yes, I want to see her picture, but 5 out 10 it’ll be fine.

  9. February 22, 2012 @ 3:36 pm Pollyanna

    I’ve wasted plenty of time showing up for coffee dates with guys who were “perfect for me” but all I had to do was spend 30 seconds with them and I knew it wasn’t going to be a good match. I did meet one guy I had chemistry with, but he was going to be high maintenance and I didn’t agree to a second date. I wish chemistry and math worked together.

  10. February 19, 2012 @ 3:16 pm Party Girl

    the mathmatical formula is a good one, but in my case it would be like Mets fan + vegetarian + unemployed x 2 = OMGWTF

  11. February 19, 2012 @ 2:41 pm Percy

    I’ve had too much chemistry and not enough of the shared interests you dismiss so fast. My ex-wife didn’t like sports, camping, football, or even reading and I don’t like to shop. Great chemistry in bed, but that was all. Chemistry is crap.

Would you like to share your thoughts?

Your email address will not be published.