eHarmony Blog | Trusted Dating Site for Like-Minded Singles
eHarmony experts’ take on dating, relationships and the science of love. Their vision is to create more love & happiness in the world by helping people experience happiness beyond what they thought possible, in all of their relationships.
You want to look your best when you’re dating new people. For most of us, that means dropping a few pounds. In your head, you just have to buckle down on your calorie count for a few weeks or months, and you’ll look great in your tightest jeans or fitted leather jacket. And then you’ll finally feel ready to date .
So you put off posting your profile. Maybe you succeed in losing a couple of pounds, but then life gets in the way. Maybe you regain some weight. Maybe you don’t lose as much as you’d hoped. Whatever the case, your weight can become a convenient and never-ending excuse for keeping you at home.
Here’s an idea: Sto p waiting. Put yourself out there in the perfectly imperfect body you have.
It’s no secret that two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. In other words, most people aren’t walking around rocking a doctor’s office-worthy Body Mass Index. That means they probably don’t expect yours to be, too.
Don’t get me wrong. Physical attraction is a critical component of dating. But it’s usually a combination of many things, including how someone takes care of themselves, dresses themselves and carries themselves in the world.
The good news is that plenty of people will love your curvy body just as it is. And they’re more than happy to meet you and your Dad Bod. People tend to be more forgiving about your weight than you might think.
Unless someone is looking for a very specific body type – and they often will clearly say they’re looking for someone who is slender or thin – they don’t let someone’s few extra pounds stand in the way of finding true love. They’re looking to meet a fun, attractive and nice person.
Here are some tips about how to feel good dating in the body you’re in:
Buy clothes that flatter your current size.
Find jeans, sweaters, dresses and jackets that you feel good in. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money because you plan to buy smaller sizes in the future, you can always find quality clothes on the cheap at discount stores, eBay or by finding online sales. The point is to wear clothes that help you feel good about your appearance so you can radiate confidence on your dates.
Post accurate photos.
Take some beautiful pictures of yourself at the size you are. Most people don’t mind your extra weight. What they do mind is false advertising on your online dating profile. They rightfully feel deceived when a person who is significantly heavier – or shorter, taller or older – shows up on a date, instead of the person they thought they were meeting.
Talk about yourself in a loving way.
You can influence how people see you by how you describe yourself. You also shape how you feel about yourself. If you’re asked to describe yourself, you can write about how much you love your “soft, curvy” body. Avoid loaded words like “fat” or “overweight.” Say you’re a “bigger guy who loves enveloping his sweetheart in a bear hug.” Find the positive message.
Show your date you live a healthy lifestyle.
Are you making your health a priority? Are you following a weight loss plan? You can easily communicate that to your matches. Send a photo of yourself on your Sunday morning hike. Share the fact that you’re spending your afternoon making healthy meals for the week.
Many people are looking for partners who will support their own health goals. Make it clear that eating well and exercising are important to you. And don’t forget to walk your talk on actual dates. That means skipping the nachos and margaritas and making healthy choices.
The bottom line:
We’re all human and trying to live the best lives we can in a world with constant temptation. Don’t let a little extra padding prevent you from finding a sweetheart now.
Dating can be exciting, exhilarating, and, naturally, nerve-wracking! While there are many things you can do to relieve stress, one aspect that you may not have considered is how creating a mindset of mindfulness may help to navigate the difficulties that all of us inevitably encounter along the way.
Eharmony partnered with Stop, Breathe & Think, a program designed to promote emotional wellness through guided meditations and mindfulness exercises, to see how members who used the program fared in their use of eharmony compared to those who did not. For this analysis, we looked at a subset of 311 eharmony members who have also used the Stop, Breathe & Think program, and compared them to a group of 311 members who did not used Stop, Breathe & Think but were of a similar age, gender, location and had signed up for eharmony during the same time period.
The differences were pretty dramatic — in a good way for those practicing mindfulness! First, we found that Stop, Breathe & Think users were logging into eharmony 81% more often, suggesting that users who are engaged in mindful meditation are more active and getting more done.
Viewing eHarmony Matches
Are there differences in how users review their matches? We found that Stop, Breathe & Think users browse 92% more of their matches’ profiles than non-Stop, Breathe & Think users. Additionally, Stop, Breathe, & Think users are viewed by their matches 53% more often.
Communicating with eHarmony Matches
We found differences in how many matches users are viewing, but how about communication? We found that Stop, Breathe & Think users are also more active in using eHarmony’s communication system compared to non-Stop, Breathe & Think users. Stop, Breathe & Think users send 215% more close-ended questions to their matches, and they are engaged in open communication with 137% more of their eHarmony matches. Most importantly, Stop, Breathe & Think users were more likely to be successful in their communication with their matches, with 85% more matches in two-way communication compared to non-Stop, Breathe & Think users.
Overall, we found that Stop, Breathe & Think users were more engaged in their eHarmony experience, logging in more often, viewing more of their matches, and ultimately communicating with more of their matches compared to users who did not use Stop, Breathe & Think. This suggests that using tools of mindful awareness are absolutely beneficial in online dating success. While dating may be stressful at times, developing skills to center and ground yourself may help to be more productive in the eHarmony experience and feel better during the process.
To try Stop, Breathe & Think’s kindness boosting mindfulness and meditation activities free for a whole month, click here and use the code EHARMONY.
Dear Sara: When I’m dating, I really struggle with how to answer questions about my (lack of) relationship history. Within a few dates, the question about past relationships inevitably comes up, and I never know how to answer this. I want to be honest, but as someone in my 30s with little relationship history, I know that isn’t the norm. I’ve had experiences where the tone of the date has changed after disclosing that I’ve been single for most of my life. A lot of men seem to see this as a red flag. Do you have any tips for how to handle this topic when it comes up on a date? – M
Dear M: I always hated this question too. I had been relationship-free for about eight years before I met my husband, so when this question came up on dates I … hedged.
I know, I know! It shouldn’t have to be this way! In a perfect world, I would have simply offered up the hard numbers, and none of my dates would have blinked. In a perfect world, we would all recognize that the person who rushes to the nearest warm body after each breakup should not be considered more “qualified” for a relationship than the one who knows how to walk away from (or never start) something that isn’t working.
What can I say? I didn’t want to deal with all that baggage. I didn’t want to explain myself—at least not on the first or second date. And quite frankly, I didn’t want to immediately dive into a topic that was sensitive for me. So instead, I’d wryly say something like, “Oh, it’s been awhile,” and then make some kind of arched-eyebrow comment like, “but you know I’m enjoying life.” (A little gentle sarcasm can go a long way. It’s a way of saying, “I know we’re both too cool and smart to make each other justify our relationship resumes.” Who’s going to argue with that?)
Then I’d ask my date a question, any question. Sometimes it was marginally related to the topic (“What do you usually do on weekends?”). Sometimes it was in a completely different ballpark (“Have you ever eaten here before? What’s good? I’m thinking about the vodka penne.”)
In other words, I did a basic redirect—something you can watch politicians do nearly any night of the week if you flip on a cable news channel. (“Governor, why did you steal money from the teachers’ pension fund?” “That’s a great question, but you know the real issue people care about is jobs.”)
Hopefully, your dates won’t go all Anderson Cooper on you and demand an answer. If they do, that will tell you something. A crooked politician is duty-bound to answer journalistic questions. A person on a date is not. You don’t have to tell your date everything immediately. You’re allowed to avoid topics that are sensitive to you. You don’t have to divulge your deepest insecurities until that person proves worthy of your trust.
A conversation, especially one on a date, should be a dance, not an interrogation. You ask each other questions because you’re interested in getting to know each other. You delve into the topics that interest the two of you and leave aside the ones that don’t. For example, imagine you’ve just asked someone if they have any exciting travel plans coming up, and they say no, they’re sticking close to home because they’ve got some projects they’re working on. How would you respond? Would you say, “Why aren’t you going anywhere? Don’t you like to travel? Are you afraid of new places?” Or would you just ask them about their home-improvement projects? People who are good at conversation—and dating—know how to listen to one another and move with the flow. If your date can’t or won’t do this, I’d say it’s no great loss.
Sure, if things go well you’ll eventually want to divulge your dating history. Hopefully, your new love will have the maturity to respect that, even if your years alone weren’t exactly your choice, you did at various points in your life make the decision not to be in the wrong relationship. The right guy won’t find this off-putting. He’ll feel very lucky that you had the good sense to wait.
Someone telling you that he or she is looking for a relationship isn’t the same thing as really and truly wanting one. Anyone can utter the right words, but words often aren’t matched by behavior. At the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter what your date says about wanting a relationship; what matters is their behavior. If the relationship is going to work, that individual is going to keep their word about plans, be honest with you, and make an ongoing commitment to spend time with you. First, let’s review what it means if someone says they want a relationship but they aren’t actually looking for one.
Two possible scenarios:
A. Your date consciously knows that they don’t want a relationship, but they say they do anyway.
These individuals who are aware of the fact that they don’t truly want a committed relationship but say so anyway are lying. They lie because they want to feel “normal” and they feel like having a relationship is what everyone is supposed to do; they need attention or don’t like to be alone; or they are narcissists who like to see how many conquests they can charm and ensnare.
B. Your date is not self-aware and is not consciously aware of the fact that they say they want a relationship but don’t truly want one.
Men and women in this scenario are out of touch with their feelings. They are in denial of their true thoughts and feelings, and they have beliefs about relationships they aren’t even aware of. These men and women go through the motions and try to date, but they get in relationships and later realize that they are with the wrong type of person; they feel bored or resentful; and they feel misunderstood. Sadly, these men and women don’t have enough self-awareness to know how hesitant they actually are about settling down and committing. They go through the motions, feeling unhappy and unsatisfied, but don’t know why.
The signs that someone doesn’t actually want a committed relationship: Please note that I will use male and female examples of these behaviors interchangeably because both men and women are guilty of similar unhealthy relationship behaviors.
He says he will call on a certain day but the call never comes when promised.
This behavior is one of the most telling signs that you have met someone who either doesn’t want a committed relationship with anyone or doesn’t want one with you. Which case applies to your situation doesn’t matter because, either way, you’re not going to have a successful relationship with this person. (Reality check: time to set your sights on someone else). If someone has met you and feels like you might be good relationship material, he ought to seize that opportunity by reaching out to you and keeping promises about contacting you when he said he would.
She resists kissing or other physical play.
Perhaps the woman you are seeing acts like she likes you and says all the right things, but if she resists touching you or having any kind of physical contact with you, she probably isn’t interested in having an actual relationship with you.
He seems to prefer hanging out with his group of friends rather than hanging out alone with you.
When a man is ready to have a relationship, he will also be willing to give up a part of his previous social life with his friends. Caveat: I am not suggesting that a person should stop seeing their friends when they find a relationship, but I am saying that a relationship isn’t usually going to work if the person you want to settle down with prefers to spend Saturday nights with their friends and then have a mimosa-filled brunch the next morning with the same group.
She acts nervous or hesitates when you talk about future things you could do together.
Too much talk early in dating about the future – “We have to do this together; we have to do that” – isn’t healthy because you shouldn’t force a relationship, but some future talk is natural. In the first few weeks of dating, it’s perfectly normal to suggest one or two things you would like to do together in the future. But if you suggest something and they look nervous or hesitate, it’s a sign that this person feels anxious about the idea of you expecting things from them. Be careful, because these men and women often feel nervous and conflicted about settling down, and they often have a dysfunctional default pattern where they feel trapped easily.
How to tell the difference between someone who wants a relationship and someone who doesn’t
Someone who wants a relationship is straightforward about wanting to get to know you; he calls when he says he will; she makes plans and keeps them; he introduces you to family or good friends; and she is physically affectionate. Someone who doesn’t truly want a relationship gets nervous when talking about the future; they say one thing but then do something that contradicts that; they put off making plans; they resist spending alone time where the two of you could be physically affectionate; and they either have a past relationship that still haunts them or they aren’t sure they really want to settle down at this point in their life.
As you get to know someone, trust your instincts and you will see the signs about whether your date wants a relationship or doesn’t as long as you pay close attention to the behavior – not their words.
Anyone in a relationship knows (or should know) that romance and romantic gestures are key to keeping their partners feeling connected and happy. In the spirit of Romance Awareness month, I asked the all-knowing research scientists at eharmony to look into the importance of being romantic. Who cares about romantic gestures the most?
The team pulled data from over 2 million eharmony members to get the story.
The number one surprise for me: men and women both value romance equally in their relationships. Men actually slightly outranked women. On a scale of 1-7 — men actually ranked it at a 5.67, and women ranked it at 5.63.
Which age groups place the most importance on romance? I assumed this would skew younger. Surprised again. It is actually 45-54 year olds who place the most importance on romance in their relationships. Maybe because with age comes wisdom.
Does education have anything to do with how romantic a person is? Overall, the importance seemed to decrease as education level increased. Those with a Doctorate degree placed the least importance on romance.
So which state can boast the most romantic folks?
Florida pulled rank as the most romantic, followed by runners up Georgia and New Jersey. The least romantic state? South Dakota.
If you are a person who highly values romance in a relationship, according to Beber and his team, you are also likely going to be more agreeable, more altruistic, more adventurous, and have greater confidence in your appearance. Nothing wrong with any of that!
When it comes to romantic gestures, more than half of both men and women felt red roses hit the mark. And 61% of men admitted that if their partner wrote a poem for them, they would “swoon.” We must have many romantics on the site, because only 13% of guys overall said the thought of a personalized poem would have them cringing.
Age does play a factor here:
eHarmony members aged 65 years old and older were most likely to say that they would swoon if someone wrote them a poem (60%) whereas 25-39 year olds were least likely (54%), with the other age groups falling in between (18-24 year olds: 55%,40-64 year olds: 56%).
25-39 year olds were most likely to say that they would cringe is someone wrote them a poem (15%) while 40-64 year olds and members aged 65 years or older were the least likely (8%), (18-24 year olds: 14%).
40-64 year olds were the most likely to say that they would tear up if someone wrote them a poem (35%), while 25-39 year olds were least likely (28%), (18-24 year olds: 29%, 65 years or older: 31%).
A small group of members from all age groups said that they would run away if someone wrote them a poem (18-24 year olds: 2%, 24-39 year olds: 3%, 40-64 year olds: 1%, 65 years or older: 1%).
Meanwhile, it seems candlelit dinners are possibly the best option when it comes to romantic gestures — an overwhelming 85% of men and 88% of women say they would truly appreciate it if their partner took the time to create that atmosphere.
So, in the age of emojis and quick texts, how does the old school idea of a love letter factor in? Charmed, I’m sure. Most women (82%) and men (72%) liked the idea of receiving a love letter.
Finally, how do good old “terms of endearment” factor into this romantic equation? Most of us find them both adorable and reassuring.
Men (45%) were more likely than women (39%) to say that terms of endearment are reassuring.
Women (47%) were more likely than men (35%) to say that terms of endearment are adorable.
Men (18%) were more likely than women (13%) to say that terms of endearment are only appropriate in private.
The bottom line: take the time to honor your partner with romantic gestures often. Whether it is a compliment, a home-cooked meal, or a sweet note, a little love and thoughtfulness will go a long way.
When you hear the word “attractive,” the first thing that probably comes to mind is physical attractiveness. While how a person looks is important to some, it is not the most important characteristics for many others. Having counseled countless couples and single men and women over the years, I have created a list of characteristics that make a person appealing and attractive to others. While you certainly will have at least one or two, the goal is to have many characteristics that make you appealing as a potential partner. If you don’t have some of these characteristics now, you can set a goal to change that. The more attractive characteristics you have, the more likely you will be to find a dating partner who is attractive overall – not because of the way they look.
The good listener. One of the things we all love to talk most about is…ourselves! Who doesn’t love to spend time with a good listener? Good listeners are human gems, making you feel important and cared about. If you are a good listener, this trait alone will make you extremely appealing to others. You should take pride in that and trust that you have at least one trait that makes you an appealing date.
Openness to try new experiences. When you start dating someone, you quickly see that this individual has a whole set of family, friends, and coworkers. You also realize that this individual has their own set of behaviors, interests, and hobbies that they have spent a life cultivating. If you are someone who is flexible and open to trying new things, remember that this is a huge plus. After all, there are many men and women who don’t want to date to begin with because they say dating feels like an obligation or takes too much work. If you’re someone who is open to new experiences, you actually enjoy the ride just as much as your enjoy arriving at the destination. Flexibility and openness marks an extremely attractive personality trait which you should pride yourself in if this describes you.
A sense of humor that makes people laugh out loud. Simply put, there are all kinds of funny. Still, some people are simply funnier than others. Some men and women have a sense of humor that is so quirky, quick or clever that you can’t help but laugh out loud at some of the things they say. If you have the kind of humor that makes people truly laugh, you ought to know that you bring with you one of the most attractive characteristics any man or woman could have.
Thoughtful, warm physical affection. To begin, I’m not talking about touch that is necessarily sexual. I’m talking about the way you touch a person when you’re walking down the street, having dinner with them, or sitting on the couch while watching a movie. A good friend of mine loves when her husband gently rubs his fingernails up and down her forearm slowly. That type of affection – and the willingness to make another person feel good and to connect physically with them in a nonsexual way – is a crowd-pleaser for many. Sure, some people don’t like to be touched a lot, but most people do. If you’re a very physically affectionate person, you should wear this badge proudly and know that many men or women will want to keep dating you because that characteristic makes them feel good and tended to emotionally and physically.
The gift of self-awareness and self-reflection. I always say, like singer Vanessa Williams, I had to save the best for last. Hands down, I’ve found that this is the characteristic that men and women value the most in their partner after many years together. In the beginning, someone may hook you by their appearance, their professional success, or their charm, but those aren’t the factors that keep a couple glued together years later. Long-term couples come face to face with resentments and challenges, but it helps if the person you’re with can take responsibility for their issues or things they’ve done that have hurt you. While immature or insecure men and women get defensive, flip the problem onto their partner, or blame the other person, men and women who self-reflect and have self-awareness will actually hear what you say, sincerely apologize when they’ve hurt you, and learn their lesson. If you are self-aware and can admit your weakness to your date and apologize meaningfully when you’re wrong, you ought to know that this characteristic makes you light years more attractive as a potential partner than, say, half the dating pool.
A final reminder: If you have some of these characteristics, that speaks well for your prospects to attract a good partner. But if you don’t have one or more of these characteristics, work on the ones you want to gain. We are all works in progress, and it is always good to set goals to improve your personality and behavior so that you become the best possible version of yourself.
If you’re not thrilled about your dating prospects lately, it’s easy to blame everyone and everything else: You’re not meeting enough people. Or the people you’re meeting are liars, losers, and flakes. Or perhaps you’re disgusted with the state of modern dating. Or maybe it’s the Internet’s fault.
The good news is that you might be playing a bigger role in your lack of success than you think. It’s good news because that means you can adjust your approach and get better results.
Check out these classic mistakes:
1) You don’t post attractive photos
You know that posting a collection of flattering photos is critical to piquing your match’s interest. Make sure the pics are recent and regularly updated. Include snaps from your summer barbecues and winter ski trips. Show off the tomatoes in your garden. Ask a friend to take some or hire a professional photographer. You won’t look desperate. You’ll look like you give a damn and are taking dating seriously.
2) You take too long to respond to texts or emails
You don’t have to respond to every communication immediately. But if you take a day to return a text, your match is likely to put you in the “not serious” category. Worse, you lose important momentum. If texting feels like a chore, it’s probably a sign you’re not really interested in someone. Cut bait and move on.
3) You don’t show enough interest
Be careful about taking “being hard to get” too far. It’s a fact of dating that we’re attracted to people who like us. So let your feelings flow. Tell your match what you like about them. Say if you had a great time and want to get together again. Schedule dates in advance. Show enthusiasm. Make someone excited about the prospect of getting to know you.
4) You’re not ready to date
Sometimes people need a push to get back on the dating scene after a breakup or divorce. But if you’re checking your ex’s social media feed in the bathroom during a date, you’re not going to have the emotional bandwidth to welcome another person into your life.
5) You look for your date’s flaws
If you look hard enough, you can find out what’s wrong with anyone. Are you baiting your dates with questions that reveal qualities that are unattractive to you? For example, if you suspect that your match isn’t very athletic, it’s not helpful to ask him about his weekly exercise routine. Ask him what physical activities he enjoys in general rather than expose his daily slothfulness. Give people a chance to shine and feel good with you.
6) You believe there’s something wrong with you
If you listen to the tapes in your head telling you that you’re not lovable, you’ll radiate that energy in a date. Answer back: “I hear you, but I’m not listening to you right now.” Deflate the power of shame by reminding yourself of all your positive qualities before you meet someone. Find your confidence.
7) You assume it won’t work out
You tell yourself “You won’t like her” or “He’ll break your heart” as you walk into a date. Welcome to your self-fulfilling prophecy!
8) You’re not available
You don’t have time to schedule your annual doctor’s physical exam, let alone a Wednesday evening first date and a Saturday afternoon second date. Perhaps you’re juggling work travel, a child custody schedule, and a family emergency. Or you’re recovering from an illness. Sometimes life makes it difficult to make dating a priority. Rather than fit in a date with someone every few months, take a break until your life calms down.
9) You’re not making it a priority
You complain that dating shouldn’t be a job. Yet the task of finding a person with whom to share your life and heart should be one of the most important goals in your life. Give it the time and attention it deserves. Send the emails. Answer the texts. Go on the dates. Give yourself a real shot at finding love. It’s kind of a big deal.
Insecurity is an interesting personality trait when it comes to dating. Perhaps you’d imagine that a therapist like myself would say that insecurity is a trait that repels men and women alike – that it will prevent anyone from being attracted to you or wanting to start a relationship with you. The (paradoxical) truth is that insecurity actually has two different effects depending on the type of person you’re dating. In a nutshell, if you’re insecure, psychologically healthy men or women will avoid dating you, while psychologically unhealthy men or women will be attracted and want to date you. But how do relationships work out when you’re insecure and you start a relationship anyhow? Without sugar-coating it, those relationships always end.
You don’t want to end up with someone who is attracted to you if you have significant emotional insecurities. Why? Because they can see your insecurities and they also know that your insecurities mean that you are, to some degree, psychologically unhealthy. Men or women who are attracted to individuals who have clear insecurities are “turned on” or attracted based on unhealthy psychological drives.
An example of an insecure person
I will paint a quick portrait of someone who has insecurities that will attract the wrong kinds of partners. Alison is a woman who always ends up falling for men who have some sort of significant emotional insecurities. Why would Alison like men who are emotionally broken in some way? Alison must be motivated by any of the following factors: she needs to have the control and power in a relationship, and she believes that broken-winged birds will be more likely to do what she says; she needs to be a savior and she loves playing the rescuer role; she is codependent and believes that someone emotionally broken will be less likely to leave her; or she secretly has anger or disrespect for men, and finding broken men allows her to be sadistic and to play him like a fiddle. (Note that I could just as easily switch the pronouns because men and women have insecurities to similar degrees.)
Why would someone want to be with someone who has significant insecurities?
If you are struggling with major emotional insecurities, you have to be careful because the people who are attracted to you are probably attracted to you for the wrong reasons. They want to save you; they want power over you; they are codependent; or they want someone broken because they believe someone broken would be less likely to leave them down the road.
How to break free from your insecurities
In a word: therapy! Therapy is the most effective way to deal with your insecurities. Go for either a few sessions or stay in it for a year or two. That may sound annoying, unnecessary, or expensive, but think of therapy as the best insurance policy you could buy to ensure your chances of finding a relationship that actually works. Remember, if you don’t have insurance that will cover psychotherapy or you don’t have the money to pay out-of-pocket, there are many low-cost therapy providers who will base your fee on your income. In Los Angeles, for example, I recently connected a young man in his 20s to a therapist who charges only $30 per session. Do an exhaustive search to find a therapist if you have insecurities that bring down your mood and inevitably end up messing up your romantic relationships.
Read, read, read about how to get over insecurities.
Scour a local bookstore or search online for relationship advice, much like the advice that you are reading right now. The more you educate yourself about emotional insecurities – where they come from and how to recover from them – the faster you will boost your self-esteem.
Remember the basics of self-care
Ultimately, finding a good relationship isn’t rocket science. Protect your emotions and self-esteem by only keeping people in your life – friends or dates – who make you feel wanted and good about yourself. Treat your body well by exercising. When you’re feeling down or frustrated, write in a journal or, heck, use a piece of scratch paper that you throw away later. Call your friends or family members and ask for their advice about how to get over your insecurities. Finally, every time you say something negative to yourself about your personality, body, or chance of finding love in the future, start using a mantra to counter those negative thoughts. Say to yourself “I’m worth it;” “I would date myself;” “I will find love as long as I keep being nicer to myself and those around me;” and “No one is perfect, but I know I have some good attributes that someone is going to find valuable.”
Several years ago, I was in a situation that felt meant to be. After abruptly abandoning the online dating account I’d opened in the wake of a breakup, I was invited to dinner with a couple I knew. Little did I know, it was a set-up.
Dinner ended up being at the home of a single, male friend of theirs, someone they thought I would like. I liked him a lot. Still, as he cooked for us, easily making a pan sauce and artfully pouring wine, there was something I couldn’t put my finger on—he seemed familiar.
Later in the evening, it hit me: he was one of the matches I’d had before I’d closed down my account, not feeling quite ready to start dating again. When I logged in to confirm my suspicions, there he was. It seemed that if we didn’t meet online, we were destined to meet somehow.
That night, after dinner, we all went to a poetry reading at a local coffee shop. I was so busy talking with him that I didn’t pay much attention to the poetry. He was smart and interesting and he never broke eye contact. I loved the attention.
That night, before we went our separate ways, he said: “Could I take you on a date?” In a world of ambiguous “Want to hang out sometime?” questions, my go-to response was usually: “You mean like a date?” but this time I just said, “I’d like that.”
We set up a dinner date and our mutual friends were overjoyed. I chose a restaurant I love and drove myself there. I’ll never forget the pep talk I gave myself, sitting in the parking lot before going in. I was nervous. My hands were shaking, and my stomach seemed to be missing. “If you ever want to get married, you have to do things like this, Cara,” I told myself. “It’ll be better once you get inside.”
But it wasn’t.
Although we had a really stimulating conversation, and even laughed a lot, I couldn’t get rid of the tight feeling in my stomach.
That feeling didn’t go away over the course of several more dates—all of them planned by him and just the sorts of things that I wanted to do on dates. It was like he was reading my mind. We went out to eat, to a play I’d been eyeing, and we headed downtown with our cameras for an afternoon of photography. Still, something just didn’t feel right.
I tried to figure it out when we were apart. He was attractive and kind, brilliant and interested in the same things I was. He wanted the same things out of a relationship. On paper, we were absolutely perfect for each other, startlingly so. What could be missing?
I finally confessed my feelings to him over burritos, one afternoon. “We’ve been out quite a few times now and I like you so much,” I said. “But I just can’t relax around you.”
“I know,” he said. “I feel that way, too.”
I was surprised, I’d thought I was the only one, that I just needed to pull it together.
“After our dates, I’m so tired, like I’m trying to make it work,” he said.
We had both been holding on, knowing that we seemed to be such a perfect match—but deep down we knew it wasn’t meant to be.
“Do you want to keep trying?” he asked.
“You know, I think that what we’re missing is either there, or it’s not,” I said.
Many years after that fateful burrito, I know what was missing from our fledgling romance: chemistry.
Although it has many definitions, for me it’s that certain something about another person that makes me want to keep talking to them long after everyone else has left. It’s that feeling that you’ve known each other forever, even if it’s been five minutes. It’s the magnetic quality that some people just have between them.
While this is important in romantic relationships, I think it’s just as crucial in friendships. The friends that stay in my life are usually the ones I’d like to have along on a desert island, or in line at Disneyland. We both think the other person is really cool, and we almost can’t help spending time together. We are at ease in each other’s presence.
In friendship, as well as romance, I’ve tried to will chemistry into being (always unsuccessfully). I’ve learned that I’m just not going to mesh well with everyone, however hard I try.
I still think that relationship from my past was meant to be. Through our conversations and interactions, I learned so much about myself. I learned that I would rather be alone than with someone who wasn’t the right fit—and I learned that if I was feeling something, chances were, the other person was feeling something similar, too.
Now, I’m much less quick to jump into things just because they look good on paper, and I’m willing to give things that don’t seem as promising a try, if chemistry—that elusive ingredient—is undeniable.
Cara Strickland writes about food and drink, mental health, faith and being single from her home in the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys hot tea, good wine, and deep conversations. She will always want to play with your dog. Connect with her on Twitter @anxiouscook or at www.carastrickland.com.