Here, being “attracted” means that you enjoy spending time with the other and look forward to it. There may be a certain mannerism that you like-the way he or she smiles, the tone of voice, the facial expressions. This is psychological attraction but it shades into the physical. You may find the other person to be handsome, beautiful, or sexy.
This does not mean that sexual attraction is the only form of chemistry. Indeed, many people have strong companionships where they enjoy being with each other even though there is not necessarily a sexual component to their relationship. While sexual attraction tends to bring people together it does not necessarily hold a relationship together. In fact, relationships based primarily on sexual attraction tend to be short-lived.
It can provide a way of expressing unity with the other. Indeed, the sex can provide a vitalizing and unifying aspect of a relationship. Social psychologist Erich Fromm succinctly expressed this in his classic work, The Sane Society. “Erotic love,” said Fromm, “begins with separateness and ends with oneness.” Such sexual relating is giving as well as receiving. It vacillates between self-gratification and gratification of the other. This kind of sex is not to be confused with the purely self-interested desire for sexual stimulation. The latter could equally be fulfilled through masturbation. On the other hand, unifying sexual activity, where there is both giving and receiving, can promote highly functionally compatible relationships. It is this form of sexual relating that can be properly called “making love” because it is an expression of love and solidarity with the other (see also my post on “How Good are You at Loving?”).
As you can see, figuring out how compatible you are with your significant other is a complex question. Nevertheless, using the standards I have provided here, you can come to a clearer understanding about how compatible you are. Accordingly, utilizing these standards, you are invited to take the below compatibility inventory.
RANKING KEY: 0 = Incompatible | 1 = Weak | 2 = Average | 3 = Strong | 4 = Very Strong
- Do you and your significant other share basic values? _____ (enter ranking)
- Do you and your significant other complement each other intellectually? ______
- Do you share interests? ______
- Are your temperaments compatible? ______
- Do you relate to each other authentically? ______
- Are you attracted to each other? ______
For example, if your give standards 1-6 the following rankings respectively, 2, 4, 3, 1, 4, 3, then your overall total would be 17 (2+4+3+1+4+3 = 17) and your Final Average would be 2.83 (17 / 6 = 2.83). This would put your functional compatibility ratio in the high average range.
Sexual activity can play an important role in marriages and partnerships, however
Two people who are ego-centered are not likely to get along. An ego-centered person is one who believes that what he or she wants, desires, prefers, values, or believes is good, right, and true; and therefore, that others should share the same subjective states as he or she does. If one individual is ego-centered while the other is not, there is a greater chance that the relationship will last but it is not likely to be a very functional relationship. This is because, sooner or later, even very tolerant people tend to become wary of constantly appeasing a self-centered person. In some cases, this tolerance can turn to the dysfunction of mindlessly adopting the values, preferences, and beliefs of the ego-centered mate as a coping mechanism. This, however, is the height of dysfunction.
There is no formula for such “chemistry” but it is no myth that the lack of such chemistry is a strong indicator that the relationship will not be a very functionally compatible one
Somewhere in the middle lies the Aristotelian mean, which is the province of an authentic relationship. In this sort of relationship the parties do not wear masks that hide their true thoughts or feelings. They feel comfortable disclosing to one another and are disposed to discreetly and considerately level with one another. Thus, expressing one’s dissatisfaction with the other’s words or deeds does not need to include finger-pointing, blaming, reprimanding, degrading, or punishing. Such ease of constructive communication is a core component of highly functionally compatible relationships. It is never perfect, but it avoids the extremes of dysfunctional, incompatible relationships.