Relationships: Chemistry and Compromise (Is There Room For Everyone? Part III)

Section 1: CHEMISTRY

Organic chemistry: The thing that everyone desires in matters of lust and love and the class everyone despises in college.

I was 16 when I had my first “official” boyfriend and it was also the first time I learned that great relationships require more than just chemistry. Well, there were three guys who wanted to date me, but I was nervous at the thought of heartbreak. In an attempt to protect me from heartbreak and teen pregnancy (I am assuming here), older women at church kept telling that “boys only wanted one thing–sex.” So, I was determined to be very careful with whom I gave my love to since I didn’t want the big bad boys to crush my heart and innocence!

Anyway, I remember being confused about which of the boys I wanted to date. I figured I should go for the one that would most likely be my husband some where down the line. I know, very naive and silly. The only problem was I couldn’t see far enough into the future to figure out which one would last that long! I had different kinds of chemistry with each one and needed advice from someone that I thought had a great marriage. So, I sought advice from one of my mentors.

Me: “I am so confused. I like them all for different reasons and I think I have a lot of chemistry with at least two… but it’s different with each one.”

Mentor: “Listen girl, don’t be confused and swept away by having chemistry with someone. Do you think that you are only going to have chemistry with one person in your lifetime? We are human! You are going to have chemistry with a lot of different people in this world– even when you are married– but don’t confuse having chemistry with meaning you are supposed to date that person, never-mind spend the rest of your life with them.  A great relationship needs to have strong organic chemistry, but it must be built on much more than that. And listen, since you are such a gorgeous girl with an amazing personality, a lot of men might likely want to have a relationship with you throughout your life. Don’t be fooled…You might feel chemistry with them, but chemistry is biological and real love and true commitment is something much deeper than chemistry.”

Ha! Well, I picked the guy I thought would be the best choice for me and it last 6 months! He was a certified player. Let’s just say I learned a lot after that and really internalized what my mentor said. Through experience, I later would come to understand exactly what true love and commitment really is and also what it is not. I would also come to realize that possible lifetime relationships could have “worked” with a lot of people, but there is a noticeable difference you find the one that works on more levels than just organic chemistry.

From dating to flirting, marriage, divorce, cheating, and everything in between, it is safe to say that “chemistry” lies at the center of it all. It is important, but it is not everything. In my opinion, there are five different kinds of chemistry: physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual. To some degree, a great relationship will have at least 3 or more and relationships with more “issues” will likely have fewer. I am aware that I am making a huge generalization here, but for the most part I think it is true.

Sometimes, however, once someone discovers they have “chemistry” with another person they are tempted to jump into a relationship without first considering all the other factors that make a person a good life partner. It is easy to become overly excited– or overly desperate (we have all been there)– in love and wrongfully allow “good chemistry” to make us…

  • believe the relationship is “meant to be” causing us to put large amounts of energy into something that we should not be in to begin with.
  • try to force the person to change the negative aspects of their personality into what we desire since the chemistry “is so strong it must be meant to be.”
  • sit in silence and unhappiness about ways we are treated because we don’t want to lose that “great chemistry.”

All of the above are things NOT to do simply because you feel you have “good chemistry” with another person.

Good organic chemistry is lovely and necessary, but it should not translate into anyone being in a relationship that causes them to compromise their happiness, morals, or character. So in terms of “chemistry,” there is NOT room in your heart for everyone you have “chemistry” with. 

In my opinion and experience, in order to have a great relationship one must really consider more than chemistry as important. Choosing a life partner should include more “life” related things like how the person fits into your life purpose(s), what individual goals you each have, whether you are both confident and clear on/in your own identity, both of your work ethics and resiliency, and how flexible you both are to compromising as each individual person grows and changes.

Section 2: COMPROMISE

Is there room for the both of us [to be happy long-term]?

I will be the first to admit that sometimes relationships are not honeymoon phases and rose petals. If you have ever been in any kind of romantic relationship, then you know that from time to time relationships can feel like there is not enough room for both of you to be happy. Arguments, drama, misunderstandings, apologies, compromises, limited schedules, hectic jobs, and other responsibilities can make it seems like in order for one person to be happy the other needs to be unhappy. This is not true, but it can definitely feel like that sometimes. Momentarily, it feels like it is the end of the world, but typically a few good conversations yield a great compromise that makes both people walk away feeling like there is room for both of their feelings and voices to be heard.

In even the best relationships, there will never be good times all the time! I think in some weird way a good partner helps us grow, so reasonable friction is good– enough for iron to sharpen iron, but not enough for two sticks to start a fire and burn down the whole house every other week! For me, the important part was/is to never allow “there will never be good times all the time” to act as an excuse to tolerate someone’s nonsense.

There is a definitive line between understanding that no relationship is perfect and settling for foolishness. Sometimes that line is very obvious as in cases of physical and verbal abuse or clear incompatibility. In other situations, the line is blurry and can only be considered on a case by case basis. If you are questioning whether you are in the right relationship, you definitely should discuss your thoughts with someone that you can be completely honest and open with (and who has a great long-term relationship). Maybe they can help you figure out if it is time to move on, if there are some steps you might take to repair or improve the relationship, or if maybe you are just overreacting or manifesting other issues and insecurities.

Creating room in a relationship for both people to feel loved, be happy, and to have space to grow requires both people to be willing to make that a priority! And on that note, let’s just point out that the “room” in the relationship should be an equal amount for both parties. It should look and sound something like this:

“I lay down some of my baggage to make room to love you more, and you lay down an equal amount of yours to make room for me. We may not lay down the same baggage, but we are going to lay down equal amounts so that the other person has an equal chance to experience the love God created for them to receive.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a warped definition of love that the other person created for me. Please, love me the way God loves me and love me the way I need to be loved in order to become the best possible version of myself. That’s another problem: sometimes we want to love people they way we want to love them or the way we are used to loving other people (even exes). Leave it up to us and we will try to play God in people’s life and love them how we think they need to be loved, not the way God intended for them to be loved. But, I digress.

The key to creating room for people to experience the greatest love they ever will in their lifetime is quite simple yet challenging to apply. The key is to compromise in order to maintain a harmonious balance– meaning both people have equal chance to be happy in the relationship– but never compromise yourself, your character, your long-term happiness, or mostly importantly, your purpose. Love and relationships should be about two people deciding to share their love with each other and, maybe eventually, their life together (if they so chose). Making room for two people to co-exist in love together is not easy, but it also shouldn’t be overwhelming challenging.

In my opinion, healthy relationships are those that require two whole people. I can say from my experience– both personal and observed– it takes two emotionally and mentally whole individuals in order to have a great relationship. Of course, initially you may not be completely there yet, but both people must accept and be actively working on bettering themselves in order to be the best people that they can for each other and the world. Without each person being mostly whole within themselves, it makes everything in the relationship that much more complicated.

Unfortunately, sometimes we find ourselves in the rut of a series of bad compromises. I have been there and done that so I bare no judgement. However, after compromising your preferences and happiness enough times, your heart will begin telling you that it’s had enough! At that point you are faced with having to make the necessary decision to (1) come back into balance as a couple, (2) to end the relationship, or (3) to stay in a dissatisfying relationship with irreconcilable issues and unhappiness (the ultimate compromise).

I have been in all three positions: the one making the decision to leave, the one being left, and the one wanting to leave but being too weak to to follow through (until all the issues back me into a corner and I had no choice but to say goodbye). The good news is that there is a fourth position to be in: a relationship with great chemistry with someone else who knows how to make room for you and themselves without compromising the internal happiness of either party. If you have found that person, you know exactly how refreshing and awesome it feels! If you haven’t yet, trust me it is possible. So in terms of compromise in a relationship, there IS room for everyone (everyone here = only the two of you) if both people are equally committed to making equal room for each other. 

Note: This is Part III and the final post (for now) in a series around a critical question: Is There Room for Everyone? I invite you to read Part I on Race and Racial Identity and Part II on Success and Competition.

Would you like me to continue this series? What other topics would you like me to write about?

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Photo Credit: Petteri Sulonen

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