“CHEMISTRY” IN RELATIONSHIPS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My mother was a psychologist with a private practice. She saw lots of relationships up close and personal. She always wondered how people seemed to be able to find others who satisfied their unconscious needs. The Ying to their Yang.

“How,” she would ask, “Does the sadist find the masochist?”

You need one of each for a relationship to work. No one wears signs advertising their dominatrix tendencies. How does the person who likes to wear diapers or fluffy animal suits, find like-minded people? Today the answer is online, but before the internet, people still managed to find one another. We are all like puzzle pieces. There are a few other pieces that fit neatly into our piece. But only a few. How do we find those needles in the haystack of humanity?

For example, everyone knows someone who always seems to end up with a similar ‘type’, usually one that is not good for them. There’s the woman who finds men who treat her badly, cheat on her, or abandon her. How does she know who is going to fit that pattern from an initial, often neutral social contact? When we first meet someone, we can’t really know them. So — what propels our choices?

My mother believed we all put out ‘vibes’ or signals on a subtle, primitive, even physiological level. Dogs can hear and smell things humans can’t. Mom believed that the unconscious ‘senses’ things of which the conscious brain is unaware. Maybe it’s pheromones. Maybe it’s micro facial movements.

I’m a perfect example of this unconscious level of communication. When I was young, I was attractive but very guarded about relationships with men. I was superficially outgoing, intelligent, and funny, but I was very closed off emotionally. Men sensed that and stayed away. I could go to dances, looking great, and never get asked to dance. It was as if I’d created an invisible protective shield around myself. I ended up marrying an abusive, controlling, manic-depressive. I stayed with him for 25 years.

Decades, and years of therapy later, I started dating again, after my divorce. I had conquered my inner demons and was open to a healthy relationship. I had no trouble finding men who were interested in me this time around, even in my late 40’s. I ended up in a wonderful marriage to a kind, caring, delightful man.

Something had happened to me on a deep, emotional, and unconscious level. Yet it made a palpable difference in my real world relationship experiences. How was that change so effectively communicated to the outside world? My outward personality hadn’t changed much. To meet me, you weren’t hit in the head with my inner transformation. My friends still recognized me as the same person I had always been – at least on the surface.

I’m not a psychologist and I don’t have any answers. I find it fascinating that who we are on a psychological level manages to get projected to other people. Haven’t you met someone and immediately had a strong reaction to them, either positive or negative? I met a woman at a book club meeting. I knew we were going to be friends. Years later we are still best friends, yet we hardly talked at that first meeting.

We call this ‘chemistry’. We say we are ‘drawn’ to someone. I don’t know how to explain it, but three cheers for whatever it is!

15 thoughts on ““CHEMISTRY” IN RELATIONSHIPS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

    • We seem to emit signals that other humans can intercept and interpret on a subliminal level. My parents were therapists before gays ever came out of the closet. They asked their gay patients how they knew who it was safe to approach. They said that you can just talk to people and send out signals. Only the like minded people will pick up your signals. Everyone else will just think you’re being friendly, not flirting. So I think many of us send out clear signals that we are taken and are off limits!

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  1. Pingback: copied: | My little simple thought

  2. “When I was young, I was attractive but very guarded about relationships with men. I was superficially outgoing, intelligent, and funny, but I was very closed off emotionally. Men sensed that and stayed away. I could go to dances, looking great, and never get asked to dance. It was as if I’d created an invisible protective shield around myself.” These lines made me think about myself too, I was a kind of similar girl.

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  3. Sometimes we just get lucky, Ellin. Looking at the divorce statistics – a lot of people weren’t so lucky. You have to have that chemistry for it to work.
    Leslie

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    • I think chemistry plays more of a part when people are first getting together. There are so many other factors that have to be present for a relationship to work over the years. But you do need that special something that draws you to your mate and makes you think he’s the most wonderful person in the world. If you don’t have that, most people won’t stick it out through the ups and downs everyone goes through in long term relationships.

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      • We all send out invisible but real vibes about ourselves. How we stand, hold our arms across our body (the ultimate “keep away” sign), the tilt of our head or our mouth–people respond to the positive and the negative. Don’t forget, we didn’t always have language. Most animals use body language to communicate, we just take it a step further.

        I remember many years ago, I was in the local library at a book sale, and a man near my own age struck up a casual conversation about this book or that one, and suddenly we were heading toward the door together, still talking, and ended up having coffee in a restaurant across the street.

        I think we both surfaced at the same time: he grinned and said, ruefully, “well, this has been wonderful, but…” and I smiled back, and watched as he paid the bill, left the tip, and left. There was a mind meld going on there I never forgot; I like to think he didnt either.

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        • I often strike up conversations with strangers and sometimes, they are quite the best part of my day. But I guess at this age, no one is thinking about “doing” anything. Twenty years ago? Maybe. Now? I don’t think so.

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        • You’re right about animals communicating with body language. That;s how we communicate with our pets as well. I love your story about meeting someone at a book sale and having that instant “connection”. Those are some of the wonderful moments in life.

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      • I think you need that chemistry to make sex work. If you DON’T have, even if everything else works, that particular magic needs that special something. Hormones? Pheromones? Even the great apes are very particular about sex. You can’t just put a male and a female together and expect something to happen. Some of the zoos that specialize in dealing with apes have had a terrible time finding a proper match. Sometimes, things can get pretty loopy if the sex hormone works, but sadly, nothing else does!

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        • We are definately not the only species who communicate through body language and inter personal chemistry. Other species do too.
          Sex is where we tend to think about chemistry most. But the subtle cues that lead to sexual attraction, also lead to other types of relationships, like friendships or avoidance. Some people are just toxic together. The wrong kind of sparks fly. “He rubs me the wrong way” kind of vibes can also be very powerful. I guess that’s the opposite of sexual attraction.

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