What's The Difference Between Chemistry And Compatibility?

"Chemistry is showing affection; a connection is developing an attachment."— Debbie Pfisterer

Love & Relationships

"Chemistry is showing affection; a connection is developing an attachment."— Debbie Pfisterer

Aight. So, if you're someone who skims articles in order to get the overall gist, the quote that you just read pretty much sums up what I'm about to share. For the most part, if you want to know the difference between having chemistry with someone vs. knowing that there is a surefire connection, chemistry is what starts a bond while compatibility is what establishes it and keeps it going.

Well, if that basically explains everything, why do I feel it's necessary to go even deeper? Mostly it's because, it's been my experience and observation that, a lot of us have been so used to defining how deep and real our feelings are for someone by our initial attraction to them that we don't even recognize that we should scratch beneath the surface; that there is so much more that comes with being into someone than attraction, lust or even being sexually in sync.

Believe me, I'm sharing this thanks to hindsight wisdom. Hmph. I don't know about you, but back in the day, there were some men that I had some pretty amazing chemistry with who you couldn't pay me to stand behind them in a grocery store line, let alone entertain connecting with them now. I'd venture to say that I would've never slept with them at all if I had known the real difference between chemistry and compatibility at the time. But when you know better, you do better. And that is why, these days, I find chemistry to be the icing on a "relationship cake", but compatibility to be what matters most of all.

Chemistry Vs. Compatibility

Chemistry: the interaction of one personality with another; sympathetic understanding; rapport; any or all of the elements that make up something


A while back, I penned a piece on here entitled "My Eureka Moment For Why I'm Not Into 'Nice Guys'". While my interaction with a few different men brought me to that particular a-ha moment, in the context of this piece, there's one guy, in particular, who immediately comes to mind. Have you ever known a man who you wish that you were into? He's a wonderful human being, he's totally into you and, to a certain degree, you like him. But still, something is…off. Something just doesn't seem to click. That's how I felt about a guy—I'll call him Robert.

Robert was one of the men in my life who would give me the world; I know that because he told me so. Many times over. But whenever people who knew how he felt about me would say that I was turning him down because "I didn't know what's good for me", my response would be, "I'd marry Robert tomorrow if I never had to sleep with him. Like, ever." It wasn't even that Robert isn't a handsome guy. It's just…he's not my type and there wasn't any chemistry. From the very first time that I met him, there were no sparks, my heart didn't jump and I didn't wonder what it would be like to kiss him, or anything else for that matter. He was cool, but I didn't feel any real rapport. And so, even though he had a crush for many years, all I have ever seen him as is a friend. No matter how much I tried, that never has and never will change. Why is that?

There's a Harvard study on lust, attraction and companionship that says, the reason why some of the people immediately get "friend zoned" by us is because, when there is an attraction to someone, the natural sex hormones estrogen and testosterone tend to kick in. Then, if we engage that individual, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin increases within us as well. All of this is a part of the reason why we see certain people and giggle, blush and/or fantasize. When that doesn't transpire, while an attachment can still happen, it's more like one that we would have with our family, not a significant other. Still, chemistry is about more than mere lust. It's also about being drawn to another individual as they are being drawn to you.

So, what are the indications that you actually do have strong chemistry with another person? Aside from physical attraction, chemistry is about how you and someone else interact with one another—you tend to banter well with each other; you have a lot of "You too?" moments; you share similar values; you also have similar senses of humor—all in all, you "get" each other in a way that you both feel and others can clearly sense.

If I were to bring in analogy, it's like, if I were to make some chocolate chip cookies, chemistry would be the mixing of all the right ingredients. In theory, thanks to chemistry, a great "love cookie" should come from it. But there are some things that compatibility offers that not enough chemistry in the world can provide—mainly maturity, responsibility, intent and time.

Compatibility: capable of existing or living together in harmony; able to exist together with something else; consistent; congruous


Harmony. Existing together. Consistency. I was just watching a rerun of A Different World a couple of days ago. It was the episode where Whitley recently started seeing senatorial candidate Byron Douglas III, she wanted closure with Dwayne and so she called him over to her place. Then she ended up sleeping with him.

Even all these years later, there are debates about that Bermuda love triangle. While I'm personally glad that Dwayne and Whitley finally got their stuff together (because, for one thing, if you have to convince yourself to be with someone, like Whitley attempted to do with Byron, they are not the one), we've even had articles on the site where writers have voiced other perspectives (see "Dwayne & Whitley Were Never Relationship Goals"). Shoot, I even find it hilarious how one writer penned a piece, a decade ago, inquiring if Dwayne and Whitley are even legally married (because, if you recall, Dwayne crashed Whitley's wedding to Byron so, clearly they had no marriage license…hmm).

OK, but I'm getting a bit off track here. The reason why I'm even bringing them up is because, in the episode that I just referred to, after sex, Dwayne said (paraphrasing), "Come on, Whitley. We never had problems in the bedroom. It's the other rooms that we couldn't seem to handle." That—that right there? That is the difference between chemistry and compatibility.

Not knowing or accepting this fact is what tends to get a lot of us into trouble. We think that just because we've got chemistry with someone that it automatically means we're compatible with them. But the raw truth of the matter is that's simply not the case; not even close. If you are not co-existing in a state of harmony and—please don't underestimate—consistency, there can be all of the chemistry in the world but compatibility is severely lacking.

When you're compatible with someone, things are stable, healthy and balanced. You trust each other completely. You desire the same things in a relationship. Drama is at a minimum. Physical intimacy is not the sole driving force. You communicate and compromise well together. You enjoy being together, but you also know how to be apart. Loving one another is important but liking one another is pivotal too. You're headed in the same life direction. You both want a future with one another.

All in all, if chemistry is about the ingredients that go into a love cookie, compatibility would be like the stove that brings everything together. A stove heats things up to show what they are really made of. A stove takes time. A stove turns the ingredients of something into what we want the ingredients to ultimately become.

As I was reading another writer's take on chemistry vs. compatibility, I internally chuckled when he wrote, "Compatibility is a natural alignment of lifestyle choices and values between two people. A priest and a stripper have a major incompatibility and I doubt many end up dating each other. That's compatibility." In theory, he's right but the main bottom line is, before you decide to transition from chemistry to compatibility, you need to be honest with yourself and one another about if you can live in harmony with one another's lifestyle, values and principles. If you can, you are probably compatible. If you can't, don't stress yourself out by trying to turn chemistry into compatibility. Make sense?

Bottom line—chemistry is important. If it wasn't, I'd be in a sexless marriage with Robert right about now. But don't make life-altering decisions based on chemistry alone. See where compatibility fits in. If it's lacking, please don't settle. If you've got both, after some premarital counseling, send me a wedding invite because when you've got both, you've got something truly special. An entire love cookie, if you will. Beautiful. Awesome. Delicious.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

Is Your Relationship Complicated? Simplify It With These Questions

Should You Take A Break? Or Break Up For Good?

7 Reasons Not To Settle In A Relationship

The Signs Of A Truly Intimate Relationship

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This article is in partnership with Xfinity.

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