Chemistry is the initial and sometimes subsequent attraction that people have when they meet. It is the physical reaction that many refer to and reference when they say things such as \u2018my heart beats faster when you are near\u2019 or \u2018I held my breath the first time I saw you\u2019 or even the often used phrase of \u2018getting a queasy stomach or butterflies\u2019 every time they see their love interest. While chemistry is easy to gauge and measure, compatibility is not. According to Benjamin Zulu, a leading counselling therapist in the country, compatibility is how well you fit together as a couple and how well your aspirations in life align. Chemistry is physical and mental. It is the reason someone who is slightly handsome seems irresistibly handsome after a while. Compatibility goes beyond that. Nowadays, people are so focused on how well they fit physically that they forget that they need to be compatible if they are to have a long relation- ship. While chemistry requires nothing more than biology from the participants, compatibility requires that the people involved know each other and engage with each other. Is the potential partner intelligent outside the bed- room? Can we converse about world politics? What do they love to do? Is it something that I enjoy or could learn to enjoy or is it some- thing I am fundamentally against? How do they handle their money? Are they savers or spenders and what would that look like if we were to start a family? Are our spiritual goals aligned? These questions are important. This is why dating is an important prerequisite for any relationship. It is a chance to ferret out people you can align with and pick them while you drop those that you could possibly never align with. We live in a free world, you are free to pick the one who meets your needs best and ferret out those who do not. That is what dating should be about,\u201d Zulu further explains. Central values and compatibility While some of these things might seem trivial in the heat of initial chemistry, their importance will be felt later on in the relationship, he says. He gives the example of religious and spiritual incompatibility where partners have largely differing views on reli- gion. What happens when they have children? Will they fight over which religion to teach the children? What values will they impart in them? What happens when say, one person is in trouble and they are praying, but their partner is not because they differ in religion or completely do not believe in any deity? Invariably, some needs will not be met, which will breed dissatisfaction and resentment, which will then either break the relationship or make everyone involved miserable. Zulu reiterates the importance of knowing yourself so that one knows what is central to their relationship and what is peripheral. One can compromise on peripheral things such as which neighbourhood to raise children in, but it is harder to compromise on central matters such as religion as they are at the core of who you are as a person. The more values and beliefs you have in common, the more com- patible you are. Kabii Thuo, a psychologist in Nairobi agrees with this. \u201cYou cannot know what you bring to a relationship or what you need from a partner if you do not know yourself. Self-awareness is important as it will help you know what you can stand and what you cannot. When you are self-aware, you will know when you are betraying yourself to fit into a relationship and will know when the relationship is right for you. It is hard to judge compatibility if you are not sure of who you are. You will either fit with everyone, morphing into the different people your partners need or reject everyone,\u201d Thuo explains. Self-awareness and youthKen Munyua, a relationship expert and therapist emphasises the importance of establishing compatibility early on in the re- lationship as incompatibility is what causes fights later on, when the veneer of chemistry dullens. He talks about how most relation- ships during the initial stages may seem to be high in compatibility and chemistry, as chemistry tends to interfere with logic and one agrees to everything including things they do not want to do or they do not believe in. He advises couples to ensure they are level headed even in high chemistry situations in order not to get into a toxic set-up where despite goal incongruence and incompatibility, one comes back only to leave again a short while later. He, however, warns against demonising chemistry as it is an important ingredient for a relationship to flourish. \u201cIn most incompatible relationships, they tend to have great sex as it is normally the only thing that is working. Reconciliatory sex is sweeter as there are heightened emotions from multiple unresolved issues. This is one trap that people should be careful to avoid. Value your self-respect and dignity more. Leave if the only thing working in your relationship is physical. This is why it is important to get into relationships when you are a bit older and more mature as you know exactly what you want and can ask for it and have the maturity and strength to leave. When you are young, you barely know who you are or what you want. Do not also wait for too long such that you are in a rush to get married and settle down. You will not be centred enough to spot incompatibility due to societal pressure to get into any relationship and may end up in an incompatible union which may break down later,\u201d Zulu advises.