There is a man on your mind. You work with him, or you see him at church, or he is your neighbor. When you stop to chat, it’s obvious that the two of you enjoy mutual chemistry. But for some reason, he never takes things further. You wish he would ask for your number or suggest getting coffee, but he hasn’t yet. So what should you do? Step up and ask him out yourself? Or wait and do nothing, while a potentially great opportunity for romance passes you by?
This is a frustrating scenario that many single women know well. You could probably have dinner with a couple of girlfriends and discuss all the possible angles of this situation for hours, decoding the secret meaning behind his “see you later” when you ran into him at the gym this morning. As any man will tell you, though, it’s not really that complicated.
How Chemistry Can Fool Us
While feeling chemistry is a big deal to many women—signaling the beginning of a relationship, we hope—most men have a more practical take. That rush of attraction is powerful in the moment, but men see it for what it is: sexual desire. It’s a mating signal. And not necessarily a mate-for-life signal, either, just a you-and-I-could-make-beautiful-children-together signal.
When a woman says she feels chemistry with a man, she usually means that she feels an emotional connection as well. For her, that rush of adrenaline is all tangled up with feelings that resemble love.
Here are examples of how some of my female clients responded to the intense rush of the mating signal, getting into entanglements they since regret:
- “I know it’s wrong [to date a married man] but we have this incredible chemistry. Sometimes I don’t believe it can be completely wrong, otherwise, I wouldn’t feel this way.”
- “He’s moved on and has a new girlfriend, but I did let him stay over last week. I hate that I let him treat me like this, but I haven’t met anyone else I feel this connection with.”
- “I got tired of waiting so I just asked him if he had feelings for me. Now he avoids me in class. I’m in such pain. I know he feels what I feel. I don’t see why he’s playing this game.”
When we see a woman spiraling out of control over a man, she almost always justifies her damaging behavior by saying that her connection to him “feels so intense.” She is putting her trust in a feeling of intense sexual attraction as if it must automatically lead to true, lasting love. Logically, we understand that true emotional connection takes time to build; plus, it takes time to really assess another person’s character and values. But this friend is under the influence of dopamine and other chemicals in the brain that has triggered a mating instinct. In many ways, she is struggling with a very powerful addiction.
Does her target (her man) feel the same way? Probably not. Men can feel the chemistry and enjoy it for what it is, in the here and now. A happily married man can have crush-like feelings around a co-worker without wanting to have an affair. A single man can feel chemistry with a woman who is much older or younger than he feels is appropriate to date, or who is simply isn’t his usual “type.” It’s fun and harmless and isn’t always a reaction we can control.
What we CAN control, however, is our response to romantic chemistry. And that leads us back to the original question: Should you pursue a man you have intense feelings for? When you understand that men don’t necessarily experience “love” every time they feel that rush, you are better able to see things from his perspective. Sure, he enjoys exchanging good vibes with you. It feels great. But if he saw you as The One, he’d let you know. He wouldn’t risk missing out on a good thing. If he’s not moving things forward, you have your answer: he doesn’t want to. And that understanding gives YOU the freedom to move on and find the man who does.