How important do you think chemistry is when it comes to choosing a marriage partner? What about emotional intimacy? Do we need to get deeply attached to a person before we can know if we should marry them? How can we know, before getting engaged, if we’re capable of experiencing great emotional intimacy in marriage if we shouldn’t get too emotionally attached during courtship? All important questions! First of all let’s define what we mean by chemistry, intimacy and attachment.
- Thrill when you get to see the person (“The voice of my beloved! Behold, he comes, leaping over the mountains, bounding over the hills.” Song of Solomon 2:8).
- Experience of finding them and their conversation captivating (“You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace.” Song of Solomon 4:9).
- Lack of ability to see flaws in the person (“You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.” Song of Solomon 4:7)
- Desire for physical closeness. (“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine;” Song of Solomon 1:2)
- Longing to spend time with the person (“Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away”, Song of Solomon 2:10”)
- Feeling of romance associated with your time together (“For your love is better than wine; your anointing oils are fragrant; your name is oil poured out;” Song of Solomon 1:2-3”).
You can have most of the above without being emotionally attached and without having had a single deep, intimate conversation. In fact you could feel such chemistry within minutes of meeting a person. Conversely, chemistry may not be present at all at the beginning and can grow out of nothing. A woman can end up feeling strong chemistry with someone she was not initially physically attracted to. Furthermore chemistry is something that can completely disappear.
Emotional intimacy is something that comes with time. It is cultivated through many things such as:
- Increasing trust and vulnerability.
- Sharing of our deepest hopes, dreams, thoughts, emotions and insecurities.
- Increasing levels of physical intimacy from holding hands to sexual intercourse.
- High quantities of communication.
Emotional and physical intimacy can:
- Awaken chemistry/attraction.
- Increase feelings of romantic love.
- Increase our levels of emotional attachment.
Emotional attachment is the bond that occurs between two people that makes it difficult for them to be apart and creates deep pain if broken. It’s that:
- Feeling of being lovesick (“Sustain me with raisins; refresh me with apples, for I am sick with love”. Song of Solomon 2:5).
- Need to keep up communication and anxiety when the person has not got in contact for a while (“On my bed by night I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him, but found him not. I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares; I will seek him whom my soul loves.” Song of Solomon 3:1-2).
- Feeling of ownership/belonging (“My beloved is mine, and I am his” Song of Solomon 2:16)
- Experience of anguish if the person goes off with someone else (“for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.” Song of Solomon 8:6).
Increased emotional and/or physical intimacy leads to increased emotional attachment, which in turn will increase feelings of chemistry.
So are chemistry, intimacy and attachment important?
A thriving, happily married couple will experience chemistry/attraction, emotional and physical intimacy, and emotional attachment in their marriage. So yes they are important! But how important are they during a courtship?
1) Chemistry/attraction during courtship…
For a woman it seems that chemistry is not incredibly important at the beginning of a courtship since it can grow from nothing. Many women fear that if it’s not there it will never be there. Moreover, without initial feelings of desire, attraction and thrill, many women can’t be bothered to get to know a man and miss out on a great catch. I know countless women who did not feel initial chemistry and are now greatly attracted to their husbands. However, if a woman has spent a considerable amount of time getting to know a man and there is still NO excitement to see the person or NO thrill experienced when the person makes contact it could be a justifiable reason to call things off.
2) Intimacy and attachment during courtship…
The Shullimite women of Song of Solomon, three times adjures women to “not let love stir up or awaken before it pleases”. After all
love is strong as death…Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it” (Song of Solomon 8:6-7)
But when does it please to stir up love? Well I can tell you when I think it certainly does not please. It does not please with a man who:
- Has many characteristics you don’t respect, is immature and irresponsible.
- Has completely different goals, vision, values and theological beliefs to you.
- Is only a cultural Christian and does not actually personally know Jesus.
- Is charming but manipulative, deceitful and untrustworthy.
- Is not sure if he wants to marry you or you are not sure you want to marry him.
Only time, prayer, the scriptures and wise counsel will help you to figure out if it really does please to let love awaken or stir (‘Is he a good match for you‘ will help). Before a man has proposed you cannot be sure if his intentions to marry you are true and so before engagement it would be wise to guard your heart (See ‘7 reasons to guard your heart‘). Before betrothal it would also seem unwise and even potentially cruel and dangerous to be involved in activities that purposefully cultivate DEEP emotional intimacy or DEEP physical intimacy and unavoidably lead to DEEP emotional attachment. Why? Because we are hugely risking hurting ourselves and the man pursuing us if we don’t end up getting married. We are being unloving to them because we are purposefully doing things that could lead to them being greatly harmed. We are being unloving to our future husband (if we are to marry someone else) because we are purposefully behaving in a way that will lead to us carrying scars and emotional baggage into our future marriage. But if emotional and physical intimacy are very important in a marriage don’t we want to know before accepting a proposal if we are capable of having emotional and physical intimacy in marriage. I would answer yes! In my opinion however we don’t need to try to cultivate intimacy to know if it will be there in a marriage. The very process of figuring out if we should marry a person will unavoidably offer the potential for a level of emotional intimacy to be cultivated even if we’re trying to avoid it! Spending time together and having conversations about things such as past relationship history, roles in marriage and life dreams are necessary before getting engaged. If you have asked hundreds of essential questions over a period of time and you feel no emotional intimacy at all you will know there is an issue there. However, you don’t need to seek out emotional intimacy to know if it’s there. You don’t have to spend thousands of hours having emotionally intimate and vulnerable conversations or spend most of your waking hours with a person to know if you have the potential for great emotional intimacy within a marriage. What about physical intimacy? Until the 20th century it was not normal for Christian men and women to treat each other physically as more than brothers and sisters before betrothal. With the advent of the boyfriend/girlfriend relationship this changed. It is my understanding that scripture teaches we should treat each other as biological brothers and sisters in all purity before betrothal (see ‘A culture of stirred up love‘ and 1 Timothy 5:1). But then how can we know if we will enjoy physical intimacy in marriage if we’ve not even had any romantic touch? This is an important question! I challenge you to find one woman who is attracted to a man, deeply respects him and wants to marry him but does not enjoy their first romantic touch. I have met many women who have had no romantic touch before engagement and I have never heard one of them sharing that they did not enjoy it when it finally came! But what about sexual intimacy (including passionate kissing)? It’s the experience of many women, and the Bible’s teaching that God designed us to enjoy sexual intimacy with a man we are attracted to who has committed to us for life and that we don’t need to test this out before choosing to marry someone. I am not saying sexual physical intimacy will come completely naturally to all and it is something to work on (as is emotional intimacy) but that the context and security of marriage is the best place for physical intimacy to flourish and grow!
Chemistry, intimacy and attachment are important in a marriage. Chemistry can grow from nothing so is not that important at the beginning of getting to know a man and thus we should not overlook good candidates who we feel no instant chemistry towards. If after considerable time we still feel no desire/excitement to spend time with the person, it might be wise to call things off. Deep emotional and/or physical intimacy leads to deep emotional attachment, which will inevitably lead to heartbreak and scars if things don’t work out. Thus if we care about the person we are courting and care about our own hearts we will want to minimize the levels of intimacy (to limit the depth of emotional attachment) before engagement and marriage. Further reading:
- ‘A culture of stirred up love‘ looks at how we can navigate the courtship process without letting love get too stirred up.
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