spark/chemistry/magic = looks?

I recently broke up with a woman who kept explaining to me as we dated (over a period of months) that she had concerns about our “chemistry”–I frequently asserted my strong feeling that we had great chemistry, but she wasn’t quite so sure, and eventually she broke up with me, saying that the spark she needed just wasn’t there for her, finally.

OK. We’ve stayed friends and she has (sometimes painfully, for me) shared her experiences on the dating scene with me, and all she talks about is guys who are “cute,” guys who “turn her on,” who “make her panties damp,” (she’s dating on-line, and screening by brief descriptions but mainly by photos). It occurs to me that despite all the talk on these dating sites about people’s interests, natures, hobbies, it’s all about the physical appearance, and that was whast my ex- was trying (nicely) to convey to me–but rather than assert, “Listen, I’m much hotter than you are [and she was–she’s totally gorgeous], so see ya” she felt better about herself to say “There’s a certain chemistry that’s always been lacking between us…” I think I’ve figured out that that means she never found me all that attractive, and tried get around that and failed, because we always had a great time, had fun in bed (she raved about that part), great conversations–and I don’t think she would argue with any of that. I think that was all positive, but the negative (“When you walk into the room, I want my heart to do flip-flops, and that isn’t happening”) was purely and simply physical attraction.

I’ve been there. I’ve been out with women who simply didn’t cut it for me, just on a physical basis–too fat for me, too old for me, too ugly for me–and sometimes I liked their personalities enough (or was horny enough) to try dating them, often congratulating myself (prematurely) on my centeredness in not over-valuing physical appearance, but it always ended the same way: I would break up with such women after a few weeks or months beause the physical attraction wasn’t there. And the signs would be the same as I now observe with my ex-GF: I wouldn’t be eager to meet their friends and family, I would delay them meeting mine as long as possible, I would make noises about having my personal space, I would sincerely request that they NOT give me presents, make a big fuss about my birthday–all clear signs (in retrospect) that I just wasn’t into them, yet I know that if they were better looking, I would have done none of these things. I would have felt that we had a future, and I would have been eager to meet each other’s friends and family, exchange presents regularly, required much less personal space, etc.

And like my ex-, I was uncomfortable telling these women that I needed someone better-looking than they were, and that maybe I could find a better-looking GF if I tried, so I would break up with meaningless cliches: “this isn’t working out for me,” “something isn’t right.” But is all this BS just a smokescreen for “good looks”? In my case, I think it is, and I’m beginning to think that it’s also so with my ex (with several of my exes, in fact–I tend to date women who are above my own level of hotness) and I’m wasting time trying to improve the chemistry, find out what she means by “that spark” and try to create it. If the whole thing comes down to how good-looking I am, well, there’s not much room to change that, is there?

There’s also the whole “bad boy” thing here too–I got all bent out of shape about this one, trying to figure out what she meant by “I like bad boys,” because she certainly didn’t mean what I took that to mean–a guy who’d mistreat her, stand her up sometime, keep her waiting, assert how little he cared about upsetting her, etc. I now think that what that means is that she might be able to tolerate more self-centered behavior in a man, and even be turned on by it–but only if he was sufficiently good-looking to warrant such devotion on her part. IOW, she wasn’t complaining that I was too considerate of her, I think, as much as she preferred (and even encouraged) LESS considerate behavior if I were only better looking, but merely caring about her less wouldn’t have done a thing for her. Again, it was all about the looks, and I was overthinking when I tried to decode her desire for a “bad boy,” for someone with “chemistry,” for that “special spark that made her heart do flip-flops.” Looks certainly play a bigger role for me when I’m deciding to go out with someone than I’m willing to divulge in my own verbal assesment of a relationship, and certainly to that woman’s face. I wonder if my ex- was saying to her girlfriends at the same time she was complaining about our lack of “chemistry,” “Hey, you know what? He just isn’t good looking enough for me.”

Nope - I think you’ve missed the mark (well, at least as far as I’m concerned).

I’ve dated guys that are hotter than me, and dated guys that are less hot than me. Some of the hunk-iest guys have no chemistry at all. They just don’t float my boat.

Maybe for you it boils down to prettness or thinness or whatever, but that’s certainly not it for everyone.

I’m actually quite used to it going the other way: guys who are described as “hot” are just those that they have good chemistry with.

BigT, I’m not actually arguing that A causes B or that B causes A, just that A and B are essentially the same thing, but A sounds very shallow and superficial, while B sounds mysterious and unknowable, so people (including me) try to explain their reason as B when B, for all intents and purposes, IS A.

My husband isn’t the hunkiest man in the room (well, maybe if it were a room filled with my brothers, dad and my cousins…), but he’s still handsome in his own way. I wasn’t initially physically attracted to my husband, but as I got to know him (and convinced him to take care of his unibrow), he’s gotten sexier and sexier. I love him and my heart does more flip-flops for him now than it did almost three years ago when I first met him.

Sometimes, when you give it a try and are open, it happens. Sometimes it doesn’t.

**Ruber **- I think you got it but you didn’t get it.

One big red flag was that when she told you she was worried about chemistry - you tried to convince her otherwise.

Compatability and chemistry are in fact too different things - and I think the 2 of you had the first, not the second.

Are looks a part of it? Hell yes. But not how you would think. It may sound cliche, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It’s not about what the person looks like as much as what you feel when you look at that person. If it conjures up good feelings and emotions and desires, then there’s beauty. If it conjures up regrets or disappointments or stress, that’s ugliness.

Here’s my unsolicited advice: cut off the relationship with your ex.

Dude, it’s toxic. I don’t care what rationalizations you may have. It’s toxic and it’s hurting you. It’s not a matter of maturity or openness or whatever to maintain the relationship. It’s a matter of maturity to realize you shouldn’t.

This, at least for me.

I’ve had fabulous chemistry with guys who are absolutely not hot in any conventional sense, and some who were probably even objectively ugly to other people. I’ve also met plenty of arguably “hot” guys with whom I’ve had no chemistry.

Maybe your ex meant it differently, there’s no way for me to know, but I don’t think most women (or men) only mean looks when they say chemistry - they’re two different things.

It all comes down to fitness to reproduce.

With her, unfortunately, you’re not.

This- when she kept telling you this, she was telling you that she’d eventually dump you. You can’t convince someone to be attracted to you. Listen to a woman’s concerns instead of trying to change her mind about it. I don’t really see how the sex could have been good, or even possible, if she wasn’t physically attracted to you… that’s just ‘ew’ to me.

I do agree with the poster above who said that now her husband makes her heart flipflop- I have found that when someone is right for you, they just get better and better looking to you.

Sorry to hear this is still giving you trouble, PRR. I’m still (still!) getting over my heartache as well, and I think I can identify with the thoughts you are having because I’ve gone through a variation of them as well. Hang in there!

Chemistry is about much more than looks- indeed, if the chemistry is there that person will being to look more physically attractive to me. Part of chemistry is compatible humor and good intellectual rapport. These things will attract me to someone just as fast as their looks will. Of course, there is a limit to these things. The wittiest man in the world will probably never seem attractive to me if he weighs 400 lbs. But an average looking guy can become a dashing hunk pretty easy if the chemistry is there.

For me, part of chemistry is challenge. Some part of me needs a man who challenges me, who seems stronger than me in some way- and not just physically. I think this is the origin of the “bad boy” thing. It’s not that you want to be treated poorly. It’s that you need the excitement of it not quite being a sure thing. You need that ability to be overwhelmed. You want to have to try, and when you are trying and succeeding, it makes you feel like you are on top of your game. For better or for worse, I find that excitement irresistible.

Good luck dealing with all this. My personal saying is “If you aren’t getting what you want, it’s because you have something that you need to learn before you could put that thing to good use.”

It seems like you are doing what I did for quite a while…trying to figure out what it is that you were missing. In my case, I actually did have some painful truths to confront, and that ended up making me extremely negative about myself and relationships for quite a while. After quite a bit of raving and ranting, I eventually bored all my friends to death and got bored of it myself. I had to actually accept these truths, figure out what I can and can’t do about them, and start doing what it takes to be emotionally ready when love does come knocking. I don’t think I’ve quite got it all figured out, but I’m on the way. So, I guess what I am saying is that these thoughts you are having are probably a part of learning, and you’ll get through them, so try not to get to self-critical or bitter.

And, in my admittedly limited experience, I’m disagreeing. I’m saying that I know of quite ugly guys that are described as hot by certain women, and it’s because they have “chemistry”. To them, hotness is not really physical.

I’ve experienced it, too. Have you not met someone who wasn’t conventionally attractive, but, for some reason, you enjoyed being around them more than those who were? That’s the feeling she is saying was missing.

Finally, let me say this: the last thing you need to hear from an ex is who she finds attractive. And you need to let her know this. Tell her that, if she wants to remain friends, she can’t really talk about that stuff. It’s the basic rule of staying friends with exes.

Third or fourth this. Sure there are a few guys I might see across the room who make me lose my train of thought, but a bad joke or finding out they’re gay can pretty much change my point of view. Just like someone being fantastically charming can alter my perception of them, even physically.

I do think that some women downplay the importance of physical attraction and sexual compatibility and it hurts them later on (someone mentioned Beauty and the Beast in another thread, and I think that is a myth that sticks with some women – that if they are decent and good they’ll look past looks. Or maybe just stick with an abusive brute, depends on how you look at it!). They think it’s shallow, or even sinful, so they sacrifice it for a few years of a perfect-on-paper marriage. But again, this isn’t a case of generally accepted good looks. It’s attraction. There’s a reason women don’t grade guys’ looks on a scale 1-10 (well, maybe a few reasons) – I can’t imagine any of those numbers meaning the same thing to two women.

Yup. To the rest of the world, I suppose my husband is pretty ordinary-looking. I can’t say for sure, though, because I really can’t conceive of him that way; to me, he’s literally the hottest guy on the planet. Javier Bardem and Taye Diggs are up there, but he’s tops. I do have a vague, half-formed memory of seeing him in person for the first time and thinking he looked fairly average, but I just can’t picture him as such anymore. When I look at him, I see total sexiness. I know, logically, that he’s probably not objectively that hot, but that’s how I see him.

So if that’s what you mean by “hot” - “hot to me” - then I might agree that that’s roughly equal to “chemistry”. There are plenty of handsome guys (and ugly ones) who aren’t “hot” to me, and plenty of all-lookin’-kinds of guys who are.

Seriously, man. Been and done. She may be doing it completely innocently, or she may be trying, consciously or sub-, to rouse your jealousy and interest because she likes the attention and likes to feel attractive, even though she’s not attracted to you. Either way, if she were a real friend, she wouldn’t want to say something that would hurt you. You’ve got to tell her she’s got to cut that shit out.

Do you tend to overthink all your relationships? Chill.

I’ve had ridiculous crushes on guys that have made my friends furrow their collective brows (not that they were hideous, just not “hot” enough for my friends to understand why I was crushing on them). My friends have done the same thing (fallen for guys that I did not consider attractive).

It’s all relative. One of the most popular guys in my MA program was a guy that I would not have slept with in a million years. He was good looking enough, but I did not feel even the tiniest spark of attraction towards him. His popularity always mystified me.

spark/chemistry/magic is that something beyond simple good looks that makes someone attractive to you. Think about people you just naturally get along with really well. More than just get along. There is something about the relationship where you just seem to be totally in synch with each other. There are never any uncomfortable pauses. With other relationships, the person is nice and may be attractive. But the interaction is barely more than you might have with a pleasent stranger.

Well, chemistry is partially about looks, yes, but not in the simple “handsome=spark” sort of arithmetic you’re envisioning. It’s a weird amalgam of looks and pheromones and personality that there’s not really any particular rhyme or reason to.

When I first met my husband, I instinctively liked him before he ever opened his mouth. It wasn’t because he was so heart-stoppingly handsome–he was and is pretty average-looking. (In fact, he looks a bit like the guy who played the Penguin in the old Batman tv series.) But he does it for me in a way nobody else ever has. I can’t say why, exactly. He just does. And for what it’s worth, as utterly average-looking as I am, he seems to feel the same way about me.

My Mom said the same thing about seeing my Dad across a room and that was it. Very romantic.

I agree with others that say chemistry is more than just looks. It can be attitude, sexual behavior, even the way you brush your teeth or stand. I’m not saying you should change any of those (unless they’re rude or offensive maybe), but each person just has certain things they like or dislike and it’s not logical.

I’m trying to figure out how to say this without coming across as hostile or needlessly cruel, PRR.

One basic element of whether or not there is spark is if there is respect. That is, no one finds a person they hold in contempt to be hot. At least, IME, no woman does.

Any decent human being would refrain from bragging about her sexual exploits to a man she knows is attracted to her when she does not feel that attraction in return. It’s despicable. Yet, not only do you tolerate it, you actively seek it out. What does it say about you that you’re willing to trade a wet dick for emotional torture? What does it say when you’re not even getting the wet dick anymore?

She doesn’t have chemistry with “bad boys” because they’re more physically attractive. She has chemistry with them because they will not put up with her shit. They are powerful, and she respects them for that. It may not lead directly to a satisfying relationship, but it’s not going to happen without it.

Dump the bitch now, PRR, and go do something that makes you powerful in yourself and earns you the respect you need. You deserve it.