As the sexuality and intimacy expert on a popular TV show about relationships, I was often praised (or quite frankly, shamed) for whether or not our couples had chemistry. I fully accept the criticism. However, one thing I will always make clear is that chemistry cannot be predicted. The magic spark that we feel with someone often has no rhyme nor reason – chemistry happens in situations that surprise us, for example, with a person who isn’t always our expected “type.”
The desire for instant gratification (and in this case, chemistry) is heavily ingrained in our world today. We don’t always like to look deeper into someone. If there isn’t an immediate connection, we are quick to move on to the next person or potential relationship. Online dating can (doesn’t always, but can) lend itself to this. It can be fun, but it doesn’t guarantee long-term commitment. When you add in a chronic condition, you may feel like it’s more difficult to find a partner who will see past your imperfections from the start. It’s easy to argue to yourself that “he/she could never fall for someone like me.”
Is chemistry important? Yes, of course it is. But chemistry and connection can be developed over time. Character and personality can impact chemistry; think about how and when best friends fall in love. It isn’t immediate; rather, it is a gradual build of connection and attraction. Give your partner the chance to understand and appreciate that while your chronic illness is a big part of your life, it doesn’t define who you are.
When chemistry becomes physical
Many of us think that physical attraction and chemistry are the same thing. But they are quite different. There are plenty of attractive people who we aren’t physically attracted to. And even if we are physically attracted to someone, it doesn’t guarantee that there is enough there to make a relationship worthwhile.
I am also often asked whether or not good sex can sustain a relationship. The answer is no. It may be nice, but if there isn’t a deeper, emotional connection, the relationship probably has an expiration date (which is fine, as long as you are prepared for it).
If you are living with a chronic illness, you know first-hand that there are times when your sex life may not be what you or your partner want it to be. There has to be a deeper intimate connection between partners. Life throws us curves all the time; not all partners are capable of navigating those curves, regardless of how hot they are.
"Give your partner the chance to understand and appreciate that while your chronic illness is a big part of your life, it doesn't define who you are."
Other types of chemistry
Chemistry is definitely not limited to romantic partnerships. Think of how intimate your partnership with your care team is. That, too, is very much a relationship and chemistry can be equally as important with your providers as it is with a partner. You have to feel safe, comfortable, and believe that your team not only has your best interest at heart but is invested in you. And by that, I mean the holistic you. The belief that you are more than someone with a chronic illness. You are a sexual being, too. This is why, for many people, bedside manner (medically speaking) counts. Our comfort – and really, our health – depends on it.
But chemistry (in all of its incarnations) takes time and patience. As a patient, we have to give ourselves time and space with our illness; with relationships, we have to allow for connection to develop. Whether it is a partner or a provider, think about what timeframe works for you. How much are you willing to devote to someone (or to a team) that isn’t satisfying (or growing into something satisfying)? I cannot dictate what that time period is for you, but I do encourage you to define it for yourself.
I don’t think that you can force chemistry, but I do think that we should give someone more than five minutes to show us who they are. This swipe right/swipe left world works for instant physical encounters, but for relationships with legs (time wise) you need more than just a pretty face or hot body.