love chemistryDating in midlife brings a whole new meaning to chemistry and attraction. When you were in your teens, you were probably drawn to your boyfriend because of raging hormones. Looks were very important and chemistry was king. When dating over 50, you need to course correct. We’re older, our muscles aren’t what they used to be, and we’re simply not as youthful. Guys are balder, and many have a spare tire. It’s just a fact. Don’t get me wrong; I think midlife women and men are beautiful, but we are not the same as we were in our teens and twenties. And thus, attraction is based on different criteria.

Do men and women have different standards for chemistry and compatibility?

In my experience, women will most likely give men a chance (or two or three), unless they are totally repulsed on a first date. The majority of women in my dating coaching practice are interested in emotional/intellectual compatibility first, and physical compatibility, or chemistry, second.

The men I’ve polled usually judge a woman by how physically attracted they feel on the first date. As Patti Stanger has said on The Millionaire Matchmaker, ‘The penis does the picking.” If they feel chemistry, there’s a second date. No chemistry? Next!

In online dating, a woman’s profile picture is the first and most important way to get a man’s attention. Men seem to place much more emphasis on her looks than her profile essay. Women will most likely be interested in what’s behind that face. Is there substance? Does he have good values? Does he seem emotionally available? A nice face is appealing, but a nice guy is more important for the long haul.

Defining Compatibility

This is about common values and life goals, whether you feel comfortable with each other, have fun together, share common experiences, and pretty much “get” each other. Compatibility is essential for a relationship to last.

Defining Chemistry

Chemistry is more of a Gestalt thing, especially in midlife. For women, chemistry usually involves an attraction to the whole person. Does this man turn me on intellectually? Do we laugh together? Do I enjoy his touch? Do I feel sexual tension and desire when I’m with him? Chemistry is also essential for a relationship to last. Without chemistry and attraction, you have a nice friendship. Nothing more.

A story of compatibility over chemistry

Lori met Harvey through an online dating site. He was overweight and not her physical type. He dressed poorly, but she loved many of his qualities. He was smart, successful, grounded, and kind. He treated her with tremendous respect, always driving over an hour to meet her. And he had nice eyes.

Lori wasn’t attracted to Harvey when they first met, but he’s growing on her. She is used to dating men who treat her poorly. Her previous boyfriends didn’t go out of their way to date her. She was always driving to them. Paying for them. Cooking for them. (Notice a pattern?) I coached Lori to honor herself first and stop letting men treat her poorly. She needed to recognize narcissistic men and not go anywhere near them. She had to stop doing so much for men and lean back more. She had to learn to receive from them.

I told her that the best way to know if a man is interested in her is for her to do nothing. I coached her to date men who seek her out. Harvey is a guy who is pursuing her, and it feels good to be chased and desired.

It’s too early to know where this relationship will go, but suffice it to say that Lori is happy. She and Harvey have fun together. They have great conversations. There is some physical chemistry. And it’s growing over time.

If it were the other way around, how many men would give an overweight, semi-attractive woman a chance? Would they stay long enough to see if the attraction grew? What do you think? Chemistry or compatibility? Men vs. women? Please share your thoughts.

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