And then it all came crashing down. On Chemistry, Age Difference, Lifestyle Choices and more.

To recap: I started dating a younger man (Mr. Energy) and had a blissful first 5 weeks while red flags were appearing. Three weeks later, we were DUNZO. Since then (3 weeks ago) I have tried to make sense of the rollercoaster ride in order to learn from it because really, the more I date, the less I know (thanks Adele, I shall page homage to you at karaoke one day).

Mr. Energy had me challenging beliefs I’ve held for years about life and love. This post is intended to fuel discussion and thought around what is critical for a relationship to really work in the long term, while trying not to reveal too many personal details. In fact I’m looking for you to teach me based on your experience. But I have a sneaky suspicion there are no sweeping rules. It most likely varies person to person, situation to situation. Here goes…

Is instant chemistry essential?

After my four year relationship I thought passion and chemistry were key and so I set out to find the instant click above all else. And chemistry I found! Since then I’ve had a couple passionate but very short lived relationships and unfortunately I only seem to feel instant chemistry for radically different from me, bad boy types.

Mr. Energy and I openly questioned whether we had more than just chemistry. I thought we had an intellectual connection and my feelings were real. But I wonder if I was trying to force us to be more, instead of just viewing him as a fun and temporary boy toy (I would have benefitted more in that case, if you know what I mean…this will be its own post one day).

What is instant chemistry really? Wanting what you can’t have and the challenge factor? Someone who knows how to look at you and touch you? An intangible matching of your energy? Purely superficial as it relates to face, body, clothing and how someone carries them self? Or a real meeting of two souls at the right time in life?

And is instant chemistry different than chemistry that grows over time? More importantly, CAN CHEMISTRY GROW OVER TIME?

With respect to long term relationships, my mom always says “Don’t go after the passion because it is fleeting – go for someone who is your best friend and who will treat you right”. Cue eyeroll that is slowly shifting into a shrug of defeat.

I want to feel like this again. But have it be real.

I still believe I can find the elusive combination of “passion and best friends” but I’m starting to think that instant chemistry isn’t as important as I once thought it was. That lust is blinding and it doesn’t seem to be real. What do you think?

Is age just a number?

After dating a couple of 35 year old men, I swore I wouldn’t date over 30 again. I found them to be quite jaded about life and less hopeful for the future. There was a desperate quality that was really off putting.

Yet there are likely tons of happy and hopeful, well adjusted men in their mid thirties who just haven’t met the right person yet (while others don’t ever want to and that’s cool). There are tons of benefits to dating an older man, including a better sense of who they are and where they are going.

Likewise, I then started dating this 21 year old who was full of life, playful and not desperate at all. Yet I also found him to be rather selfish, unstable and not ready for the real deal. That doesn’t mean a 35 year old man couldn’t act the same way. It also doesn’t mean all 21 year olds are selfish and not ready for a relationship (in fact, many of them end up marrying their high school sweethearts).

While it is tempting to define rules to make dating more efficient and safeguard against making the same mistakes twice, I have come to the conclusion that where someone is in life, along with their essence, is just loosely related to birth date. And the older you get, the less age difference seems to matter.

  • Do I think it is easier to date someone my own age? Yes. Sometimes.
  • Can I blame this latest relationship failure on the age difference? Maybe. Only time will tell.
  • Will I turn down younger and older men in the future based solely on their birth date? No, as long as I can approach it with an open mind, without expecting disappointing stereotypes I’ve experienced to re-manifest.

In your experience, does age matter?

Purpose driven vs. Pleasure driven: Do life philosophies have to be the same?

I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that I believe we were all put on this earth for a particular purpose and that the fun of life is following the clues to figure it out.

On the other hand, Mr. Energy believes we exist simply to experience all that life has to offer and to have fun (purpose is not required and irrelevant). Work is just a necessity to survive, created by society and government. Freedom and instant gratification are highly valued.

Neither view is right or wrong. I can see his point and even think I could benefit from pairing up with someone like that, to balance me out. However, the motivating forces that drove our actions were coming from completely different places and we didn’t see eye to eye on many things. In the end, it seemed to be a really important difference.

The Party Boy vs. the Good Girl: Does sharing a similar lifestyle matter?

Related to the above, the lifestyle I lead is very straight – drugs have always scared me, partly due to my sometimes lack of self control (fear of addiction) and need to be in control. So I’ve avoided them up until now. I must admit I have felt like a social pariah/alien due to this choice but am trying to embrace it.

HE made me question my beliefs as he passionately advocated on behalf of his choices. Do I believe drugs are not for me because I’ve been taught to think that way? What are my real arguments? I couldn’t come up with many concrete reasons. I’ve just always been this way.

I know plenty of women and men who don’t smoke and marry a smoker, who don’t do drugs and marry someone who does and their relationships work. It doesn’t feel like a lifestyle difference should make or break a couple, although it does come down to what your personal deal breakers are and whether this difference is balanced out by everything else that is “right” in the relationship.

While lifestyle choices seemed to catalyze the demise of Mr. Energy and I, I’m not convinced it was the ultimate nail in the coffin. Regardless, it got me clearer on what I can and cannot accept relating to drug use, much of which is rooted behind the motivation of use and real character traits revealed.

Hey Justin and Selena - talk to me in 5 years.

Differences can be great, but which aspects of character, values and lifestyle need to be similar?
In your experience, have lifestyle differences or similarities had any impact?

The Bottom Line:

I tried to be open-minded and flexible with this relationship (tried being the operative word) as I don’t want to be judged for my age, life outlook or lifestyle choices. I felt really guilty feeling as if I couldn’t accept him for who he was. But I also felt like I saw his “underneath”, beyond the age and choices.

For now, I’m going to focus on myself and try to be a stronger happier person, operate more on gut feeling (rather than analytics) and trust that all my flaws and positives will someday be valued and enough.

Not just enough, but completely right. And that we will both JUST KNOW.

Never forget dear reader that you are worthy. We all have flaws but you deserve a genuine connection so hold out for it. Not all of us meet our ever-lasting love by age 25.

Stay tuned for a quick and dirty list of 11+ things I learned from this break up (yes there is more to say!) and please leave your thoughts on this topic in the comments!

8 Responses to And then it all came crashing down. On Chemistry, Age Difference, Lifestyle Choices and more.

  1. Eric says:

    I think some letting go of a little control is in order. Maybe not to the extent of drug experimentation, but like you said do some stuff that scares you. Personally, I did something terrifying and asked a random girl for their number. It was fun.

    Age only matters if you let it. I’d say the relationship affinity correlates to age more in women than in men. I am finding a lot of girls around 30 are doing the last call panic trying to find someone. Still fun though, having some good dates.

    • Vanessa says:

      Hey Eric! Thanks for sharing – yes it is my goal to do more things that scare me that go against my natural instinct to avoid them. I don’t want to turn into the last call women! As long as you are having fun dating, stay in the game. When you stop having fun and turn cynical, pull yourself out until you rebound. At least that is what I’m trying

  2. Angela C. says:

    On the topic of “purpose driven vs. pleasure driven”… I think there are some things that really need to be shared such as life values. My husband’s and my Christian values brought us much shared peace while grieving the loss of his mom. I imagine it will be helpful as well when we have kids. You need to be on the same page about stuff like that if you plan on being in it for the long haul with someone. Life has so many ups and downs and you have to be able to bond during crises.
    On the topic of chemistry… I think you have to be attracted to whoever you ultimately end up with! The initial butterflies do fade a bit over time but that attraction will certainly help!!
    Regarding age… my husband is 8 years younger than me. I think age can make a difference but it really just depends on the person. My husband is very mature (moreso than me in my opinion) 🙂 and we are a great fit despite the age difference.
    This is all just from my experience!

    • Vanessa says:

      Hey Angela – omg your response is so helpful. 8 years is kinda big I’m not going to lie. How did you meet? Were you tempted to discount him based on age right away? I’m so happy to hear you are working out and the spark is still in your “lasting” relationship.

      The values thing is important, but there is a gray line sometimes with values i.e. I value a drug free life (for now lol) but there are so many examples where that misaligned value doesn’t get in the way. Perhaps the whole indifferent vs. passionate view towards a belief/value. Valuing honesty in a person (honest with themself and othes) is more of an internal quality that is harder to change. Whereas smoking and drugs are values but maybe more temporary with more ability to change. They do tend to change with age/maturity but of course not for everyone. And you can never expect that the change will occur.

  3. Will says:


    Lifestyle choices, missions, visions, expectations, and value systems all play an essential role in a relationship. I’ve been married for 8 years and have been with my wife for 10. Yes, we are different people and have our individuals quirks, passions, and interests, but we also share/have the same views on life’s journey. And, that has been one of the greatest reasons for our success as a couple.

    Prior to my wife, I had only dated 1 other woman who valued an education as much as I do. Prior to my wife, I had only dated 1 other woman who valued the same things that I do. We were young, in the beginning of our college years. We didn’t make it. But, it did leave a impression on me.

    Being with her taught me how to value myself as well as how to value and appreciate the strengths and intellectual brilliance of a partner. In addition, I learned how to expect the best in someone. So, when I met my wife, I knew how to recognize that she was good for me.

    Over the years, my wife has inspired me and encouraged me to be my best. Just watching her fearlessly follow her passions and go for her dreams has been a blessing. She loves without games and ultimatums and together we have a built a life based on mutual respect and a passion for enjoying what this world has to offer.

  4. Vanessa says:

    Hey Will,
    thanks for sharing – I hadn’t known about your personal life before. You forgot to mention in your original comment that your wife is 8 years younger. It really does seem like age is the lesser of all evils.

    I think it speaks volumes to your character to have such positive things to say about your first partner, in terms of recognizing what you learned, the preparation and sense of gratitude, even though you are no longer together.

    I hope to find the type of relationship you describe, or moreso have it find me, granted it does take work to maintain.

  5. Gina says:

    Sorry it’s taken me so long to comment on this post; I usually go through my Google reader at the end of the week when work is slow!

    Anyway, I don’t know if I’d say INSTANT chemistry is essential, just chemistry in general. The difference between Chance and the three guys I dated before him is I had/still have chemistry with Chance–something I never had with the other guys. You could also say our chemistry was instant because I felt a connection with him right away when we started messaging, throughout the entire week we texted back and forth, right up to our first date.

    I also believe that chemistry can grow over time. Chance and I have pointed out how our love for each other grows more and more each day. And from my personal standpoint, when I first met Chance, I thought, “Wow, I really like this guy and definitely feel a connection with him.” Nowadays I think, “I am crazy in love with this guy and truly believe he’s the one for me.”

    In my experience, age doesn’t matter: it depends on the person. I’ve dated younger guys who were like babies. But I’ve also dated older guys who were just as immature as the younger ones. Chance is two years older than I am and is pretty mature for his age because of life experiences he has had to make him that way.

    You don’t have to have everything in common with a significant other; Chance and I are like night and day when it comes to our interests (him:computers, me: all things art-related). But I do think that sharing similar spiritual philosophies and lifestyle choices are important. If you like to go out all the time and your significant other likes to stay in all the time, how is that going to work out in the long run?

    I hope all of this helps with whatever answers you’re looking for. 🙂

    • Vanessa says:

      Hey Gina, thanks so much for the thoughtful response. I am so happy for you by the way. I know when i read yours and Bri’s story it seemed pretty instant in terms of the connection of obvious chemistry.

      I sometimes have a hard time letting chemistry free but also distinguishing between superficial physical chemistry and chemistry that is more deeply rooted.

      Agreed that age alone didn’t kill mr. energy and i or in other words, that i should avoid all younger dudes based on this experience.

      Im still torn on the lifestyle front. I dont want it to matter and it may not matter much for everyone but i do think it matters to a degree. especially life philosophy. can’t wait to catch up on your blog when i get back!

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