Here is what happened to one woman who allowed herself to believe too naively and completely in the power of chemistry and acted impulsively on that belief. Maria, age 32, was born and raised in a foreign country. After graduating from college with honors, she came to the United States to pursue graduate studies in the medical sciences.
The daughter of two successful professionals, she had always been bright and successful academically, though
she tended to be modest and downplayed her talents and accomplishments.
The Background: Maria and John
Shortly after she completed her doctorate, Maria broke off a three-year relationship with John, a man she described as intelligent, pleasant, and easy to be with, but notably lacking in passion and motivation. He had basically
lived off of Maria for most of their time together, making several false starts to pursue some sort of career, but never staying with any one of them for longer than a few months.
Occasionally, he would clean the apartment or make a meal, but in general, Maria had no idea how John spent his time. Meanwhile, she worked pretty much seven days a week, as do most doctoral students.
The breakup was easier than Maria expected, She anticipated a good deal of resistance, particularly since John had no visible means of support and, as far as she knew, had nowhere to go. But when she sat down with him and had
the heart-to-heart talk she’d rehearsed in her mind a hundred times, he essentially said, “Okay” went into the bedroom to fill his duffel bag with clothes, and left.
Two days later, John called to say he would be back over the weekend to pick up the remainder of his things. When he showed up, he acted as if everything was just fine. He smiled and even gave Maria a little hug. Baffled and curious about where John had gone when he left, she asked him. She was stunned to hear that he was “crashing’ in the apartment of his former girlfriend.
John’s cavalier attitude knocked the wind out of Maria’s sails. She had put a great deal of effort into the relationship, and expected him to value it as well even be devastated at the loss of her companionship. His reaction, instead, led
her to conclude that she meant very little to him.
She distracted herself by finishing her dissertation and then applied for and won a postdoctoral research fellowship. She redecorated her apartment, spent some time reconnecting with female friends, and planned an extended trip abroad to visit her family.
A New Dating Technique
When she returned from her trip, Maria came to terms with the breakup and decided it was time to begin dating again. A friend told her about a new dating technique that she’d tried several times.
How Does Speed Dating Rotation Work
Speed dating involved about a dozen single men and women pairing off sequentially for five minutes, after which a buzzer would go off and it was time to meet a new partner. At the end of an hour, participants would indicate which (if any) of the twelve singles they’d be interested in dating. They were then free to pursue or not pursue any
“chemistry” they’d discovered through the speed-dating,
Despite the fact that Maria was skeptical of speed-dating, she decided to keep an open mind. She was intrigued when her friend explained that research showed people could tell if they were truly meant for one another within a few
minutes of the meeting.
Maria’s friend insisted that she could always tell if she was interested in a man (and vice versa) pretty quickly. In part, she saw speed-dating as a way for her and the men she met to decide quickly if they wanted to date. On another level, she confessed that she believed she could meet her soul mate this way.
Deep down, she held on to the romantic notion that she and her soul mate would recognize each other instantaneously when they met.
Looking back on the three years she felt she’d wasted with John, Maria concluded that she had nothing to lose by going along with her friend. She told herself it might even be fun.
When the fateful evening arrived, Maria’s friend helped her pick out what clothes to wear. She also advised Maria to put on just a little extra makeup. Then she shared some of the strategies she developed in the course of speed dating several times before.
She explained that it was important to ask open-ended questions and to express interest in each man she met: “This book I read said that all men basically want to talk about themselves. So if you want to attract a man, act like you’re really interested in everything he has to say?
Maria and Mitchell
A dark, handsome man of Mediterranean descent, Mitchell was the fifth man that Maria met during her one and only speed-dating experience. She felt instantly attracted to Mitchell, much more so than to the other
men she’d met, and the attraction seemed to be mutual.
Another reason she liked Mitchell was that they seemed to get comfortable talking to each other about themselves almost instantly and without effort. She had followed her friend’s advice and expressed interest in what the men she met had to say, but she felt that Mitchell was equally interested in what she had to say. Maria was highly educated, and she felt that men were sometimes intimidated by her. But not Mitchell.
After the speed-dating event, Maria and Mitchell both indicated that they wanted to see each other again. They went out for coffee the next night and ended up talking into the wee hours. Maria learned that Mitchell had dropped
out of college, worked for a real-estate firm selling commercial leases, and was taking college courses at night. His long-term goal was to get a degree in accounting and become a certified public accountant.
In comparison to John, Maria found Mitchell’s ambition refreshing and attractive. “We became an item very quickly” said Maria. “On our second date, he told me that he loved me and that we were meant to be together. And then he
said he wanted me to be the mother of his children! He was very passionate!” Maria naturally felt flattered by the intensity of Mitchell’s feelings; she was definitely attracted to him.
However, when he started talking about having children on their second date, her initial reaction was to put on the brakes. After all, she reasoned, they hardly knew each other. Her friend, however, was very
excited for her.
She told Maria that this was what falling in love was all about and that it could be that she and Mitchell found their respective soul mates.
Barely three months after meeting Mitchell, Maria was pregnant. To her surprise and chagrin, the initial reaction from Mitchell-the man who’d said on their second date that he wanted Maria to be the mother of his children-was
not what she expected.
Though he didn’t say it directly, she felt that his body language revealed some ambivalence. The pregnancy moved ahead without incident, and Maria gave birth to a healthy, beautiful girl they named Isabel.
Maria and Mitchell were married a month after Isabel’s birth.
Was It All Too Fast?
A year later, Maria was in therapy, feeling depressed and complaining of anxiety attacks, Professionally, she was as successful as ever. She had been one of fifty applicants accepted for a position in the medical research division of a major corporation.
On the one hand, her work, which she found both challenging and rewarding, made Maria feel that she was helping to make the world a better place for her daughter. On the other hand, the pressures on a new researcher in the competitive health-care industry were significant.
Maria was expected not only to pursue original research but also, much like an academic researcher, to publish and present papers at professional conferences. Maria’s depression and bouts with anxiety began soon after she, Mitchell and Isabel moved and she began her new job.
She felt ambivalent about leaving Isabel every day for fairly long hours at the lab. Mitchell, meanwhile, decided
he didn’t want to pursue either real-estate or public accounting after all, and that in any case finishing college would take too long.
Mitchell Starting His Own Business
Instead, he said he wanted to build a business of his own, selling items over the Internet. He wasn’t yet
sure what he wanted to sell, but he had busied himself reading books about how to start an online business and how to create and maintain a Website.
Maria initially took comfort in the idea that Mitchell would be at home with Isabel, but then one day he told her that he wanted to be able to focus on his business more instead of being tied down by a one-year-old child’s constant
needs and demands.
Part Time Nanny
So they hired a part-time nanny, who came to the house every morning for five hours after Maria left for work, allowing Mitchell to close the door to his home office and pursue his business. This added expense made money tight, increasing the level of tension between Maria and Mitchell.
They had rarely argued before, but since the nanny arrived, the frequency of little spats between them picked up noticeably. The stress that finally sent Maria over the edge-and that triggered her first anxiety attack—was a two-week visit from her mother, which ended in open conflict between her mother and Mitchell.
Maria’s mother let it be known that as far as she was concerned, Mitchell was little more than a lazy dreamer,
content to be supported by his wife, Maria explained that she didn’t think that was true of Mitchell, but as an outside observer, her therapist was not convinced that her mother was entirely wrong.
It seemed to the therapist that Maria might be one of those women who end up getting into relationships
with what I call “beach boys’’ a type of man I’ll describe later.
What ended up happening to Maria’s marriage (they divorced) is less important right now than the fact that a key factor that contributed to her unhappy situation was her decision to place all her chips on a five-minute encounter.
True enough, there was some chemistry between Maria and Mitchell. But did this chemistry mean that they had instantaneously discovered their soul mates?