Relationship is a complex topic that has been much written about. We all yearn for the right recipe to find “the one”, our soulmates, our missing halves. Yet how many of us feel confident that we find satisfying answers from internet articles? Again, this article may still not be “the one” for you, haha. But I will try my best to source and consolidate the best knowledge online.
First, let’s get some clarity on the feelings we are seeking. The English vocabulary gives us a wide confusing range of terminologies: true love, soulmates, chemistry, compatibility, crush, infatuation, limerence etc.
Let’s not get too technical, but focus on the 2 main things: the short-term romantic delusion and that elusive one true feeling. As a somewhat logical person, I cringe at the latter. But for the sake of truth-seeking, let’s delve in to see what the experts have to say. For the sake of simplicity, we called short-term feelings as Crush and long-term ones as Love.
Crush versus Love
Short-term feelings such as crush or infatuation are often characterized by having butterflies in the stomach, occurring early in the relationship when two people are not yet familiar with each other and fueled mostly by sexual drives and hormones. In general, it has all the emotional up-and-down of a typical teenage fantasy.
Meanwhile, Love relies more on compatibility than chemistry. It is characterized by trust, comfort and having common values. It is about “still water runs deep”, happening over a long period of time. Having compatibility often means having much similarity, which may seem boring at first.
Chemistry versus Compatibility
Chemistry refers to the sparks between two people. It is about energy and excitement. Chemistry can come from compatible sense of humor, physical attraction and even situations. We all know that famous tip of taking your crush to ride roller coaster because apparently the rising heartbeats may be mis-attributed to attraction towards you.
Overall, chemistry is caused by differences, which can make someone appear mysterious and awe-inspiring. A well-educated woman from a conservative upper-class family may feel very attracted to a brute yet athletic plumber for example. An introverted and anxious person may be mesmerized by someone with a more outgoing and confident personality.
If you want to explore further, there is Sternberg’s triangular theory of love which proposes 3 main components of love: intimacy, passion, and commitment. Having all 3 results in true love, while a combination of any two gives rise to other kinds of relationships.
Passion combined with intimacy but no commitment results in romantic love. Intimacy and commitment with no passion, like the case of most long-term marriage, is companionate love. Lastly, having passion and commitment but no intimacy is fatuous.
Signs of long-lasting relationships
Compatibility is actually the cornerstone of stable relationships. Most couples may start out with more passion, which is eventually replaced by intimacy and compatibility in various value and lifestyle factors. A couple also adapt and become more alike, as research has shown. But ultimately, having similar religious, political or philosophical backgrounds are important compatibility factors which are harder to change.
Psychologist John Gottman studied thousands of couples for four decades to determine what separates long-term couples from short-term ones. An important discovery is that the more physiologically aroused a couple (heart rates, sweating…) the more likely they will break up.
On a day-to-day basis, Dr. Gottman took note of the reciprocal responses between partners. These responses, or “biddings” are crucial for the couples to maintain their long-term intimacy. If a partner does a bidding related to his interest, like talking about his soccer game, the other partner has the choice of displaying interests or turning away. The more supportive and attentive the interactions are, the more likely the relationship will last.
Read more : Master of Love
Dr. Gottman’s finding, to a certain degree, confirms the importance of compatibility in relationships. Couples who come together because of passion with little similarity in values may lie to themselves and over-exaggerate their compatibility. But their heart rates don’t lie. Unconsciously, they are in the fight-or-flight mode because they are too different at the core.
I guess the main takeaway is that it is prudent to take a step back and ask yourself, if you truly feel comfortable around your partner. Putting aside desirable but superficial factors such as look, income or status, deep down below, do you respect who they are and what they value? Do you truly believe in the same things in life as them? A few decades down the road, when they become wrinkled all over, do you still want to hold their hand and listen to their stories?