You've met someone. You are immediately filled with a physical attraction that cannot be denied. Those sex-drive feelings are starting to kick in, you lock eyes, and it's all over. You know you are going to invite this person home, have sex, and sleep together.
The lovemaking is amazing, from the first date on. Your love-at-first-sight has proven that the physical attraction is real. In fact, your body reinforces this at every intimate encounter with full sexual arousal. Ultimately, your new lover moves in, and the physical intimacy continues as the fever-pitch lovemaking continues.
After about three months, little things begin to pop up that gnaw at you. Maybe it's too much drinking and nights out; maybe it's sloppiness or not pitching in on cleaning and cooking; maybe it's moodiness or criticism; it could even be a bad temper that is beginning to show up. Whatever the issues, the lust and sexual arousal are beginning to wear off, and you get a sense that this new relationship may not be for the long haul. In short, the strong attachment and the sexual chemistry you initially felt are on a decline. Ultimately, you decide to split.
If this is the first time you have had such an experience, you are now a wiser person, for sure. There is a big difference between lust and a relationship that is long-lasting and a process of getting to know one another over a course of time. In this lesson, though, and so that you don't make the same mistake with another person in the future, it's probably a good idea to unpack exactly what sexual chemistry is, how it comes about, why people are susceptible to it, and what you can do to be smarter when that kind of sexual attraction happens.
The simplest definition of sexual chemistry is an immediate and strong attraction to another person, upon first meeting them. That attraction is primarily a sexual desire and is totally physical.
Sexual chemistry involves the physical release of the hormones estrogen and testosterone, as well as that "feel good" love hormone, dopamine. And some "sister" substances, such as oxytocin (also known as the cuddle hormone) and norepinephrine can increase that intense sexual chemistry during sex. These are all biological brain responses to a sexual attraction you feel toward another person associated with lust, not necessarily love.
Here's a prime example: you are sitting at a bar or at a party. All of a sudden you lock eyes with someone, there are flutters in your belly, and you feel immediately drawn to this person. You start talking and the intense sexual chemistry heats up further. Science kicks in with the brain release of those chemicals, and we can't control what is going on in our brains - they just respond to the signals they receive. You are ready to go to bed.
Does sexual chemistry also apply to those in long-term relationships? Of course. There are plenty of couples with such a relationship who continue to have that sexual attraction over the long haul. Their sexual desire does not wane; it just becomes a part of their overall relationship.
You are a sexual being. How you express and fulfill your sexual desire is a personal matter. You may enjoy the single life and therefore look for short-term hookups with people you are attracted to; you may want multiple partners because you like the variety and you can have sexual chemistry with all of them at the same time; you may prefer longer-term relationships with a single partner with whom you currently have sexual chemistry, and you want it to last with that person. No matter what your preferences may be, there are reasons why that sexual chemistry kicks in.
Yes, there are those hormones. But before those substances actually kick in full force, you feel drawn to someone for a reason. it can be one of several things:
Notice that the initial attraction is physical. Why? Because not one word has been uttered between the two of you yet.
Now suppose that person comes over to you (or vice versa, if you're not shy), and a conversation begins. Your eyes lock, you share a laugh or two, you begin to use flirty body language, and those chemicals are kicking in. There's a sexual attraction forming, and the conversation becomes more intimate. Is it love at first sight? No, but it is lust at first sight, and it may or may not progress into a relationship. That depends on the motivations both of you have to interact this way. You might be ready to begin a relationship; the other person may only be looking for a short hookup. Either way, this attraction is purely physical at this point.
This is where biology and psychology meet up. Most psychologists agree that sexual chemistry has at least some roots in a person's experiences from childhood. While they may not be sexual in nature, they translate to that later on in life. Here are a few examples:
Relationships with others may only be with one cultural or ethnic group. Children are imprinted by their family with the belief that only others of this "appropriate" group are worthy of any type of love relationship as they become teens and adults. And so, they may only experience sexual chemistry with members of that group.
One family dynamic that impacts later physical connections and intimacy is an unaffectionate relationship between parent and child. This can cause children to look for that love as adults, and they often confuse intense sexual chemistry with love, falling into relationships based only upon sex. This can lead to lots of short-term partners, none of which lead to the level of serious and deeper love or a partner for life.
The drive for conquest can also be in play. Children who grow up in a family where competition and winning are highly valued. This can translate into that same behavior in their adult relationship-seeking. They can look for one temporary attachment after another, seek the "win," and experience intense sexual chemistry as they pursue each conquest. They are really not looking for a life partner, and, as soon as the conquest is achieved, they move on to the next short relationship. Obviously, long-term relationships are not a goal here, whether the person consciously realizes this or not. They may think they are looking for stronger intimacy, but in the process, the person tires of that relationship, loses feelings of being connected, and looks to end the relationship and move on.
These and more "imprinting" that occur in the past will influence not only who a person is drawn to but the feelings they develop related to intimacy, choice of partners, level of sexual chemistry and attachment, and ultimately the type of relationship that will develop.
These psychological factors can make certain people more susceptible to intense sexual chemistry in specific situations - the physical characteristics, the need for affection, and the desire to conquer are just a few. And there are other emotions. But once triggered, they give rise to the biological functions that brains produce.
Other psychological factors can also come into play - jealousy, irrational behaviors, moodiness, and such that can impact feelings of intimacy and attachment and reduce any sexual chemistry that partners may have.
There are a lot of research studies on the topic of love and lust. And while they all focus on the substances within our brains that are released and contribute to sexual chemistry, some studies also focus on the regions of the brain that are suppressed by these substances - critical thinking, social judgment, rationality. This means that someone who is experiencing sexual chemistry is not paying attention to other factors in relationship growth - dating, working on the development of a genuine feeling for one another, going beyond just the sensation of sex, and providing support for each other in all aspects of their life.
If two people have been pursuing a relationship, the chemistry is certainly there at an intense level in the beginning. It's the newness of everything as two people explore the sensation of sex with each other. Over time, that intense sexual chemistry can wane, and other factors kick in that promote longer-term relationships and even marriage - extensive dating, exploration of a deeper feeling for each other, introductions to family members, and becoming aware of one another's interests and values to see if there is compatibility beyond the initial sensation that sexual chemistry gives.
So here is what sexual chemistry is: It is a strong feeling of physical and emotional attraction that comes on quickly as the body and mind respond to that attraction. It is primarily physical, although psychological triggers from past experiences can come into play. Body chemistry is definitely in play. Often, those who are hit with this chemistry stop thinking logically because of this feeling of total euphoria.
And here is what sexual chemistry is not: It is not the basis for relationships that last permanently. It's the science of biology. It is based on sex alone. You can sleep with someone and have that amazing sex, but that activity will not support a partnership and the emotional health such a partnership requires. And this goes for all types of partnerships - men and women, women with women, men with men, and other LGBTQ+ partnerships.
Partnership health requires work. And it requires maturity on the part of both partners to hear what the other is communicating, to take it to heart, and to determine to keep that communication going. Commitment to keeping that sexual chemistry alive is far more than just reading an article on erogenous zones of the body or new positions to try. Maintaining health in sexual attraction can mean some behaviors outside of the room in which the majority of your sex happens. Here are a few behaviors that may serve continued chemistry, whether in a partnership, marriage, or any other type of connected relationship.
This is an emotional need that both genders have, whether in heterosexual or same-sex relationships. A hug, handholding, a kiss, or other physical gestures are a sign of affection and attraction and can keep some of that chemistry on an even road, rather than just the hills and valleys that it often takes.
This means that partners are ready for intimacy and can engage in it more often and for longer periods of time. Studies show that exercise does enhance libido.
Quality time can improve chemistry because it allows couples to connect mentally and emotionally. And quality time is not watching TV together. It is actually doing something together that gets you out of the regular schedule of your lives, something that forces you to communicate and to express your feelings.
Get a hotel for the night; do it in the back seat of a car, on a snowy patio, or the living room floor.
You have to understand what chemistry is and how it happens within you. And you have to understand the difference between chemistry, which can be very temporary. Only you know what you are after in a relationship. Do you want to remain primarily single without the longer-term attachment of a partnership or marriage? Then pursue your lust, look for a sign from your target, and make your move. Short hookups are great if that is what you want.
If, on the other hand, you are seeking a long-term relationship, recognize that chemistry for what it is, knowing that you will need to build on that to achieve other forms of intimacy that go beyond just the sexual.
Is the last word out on this chemistry thing? No. Researchers are still involved in studying this whole sexual chemistry thing, and we certainly have more to learn. Stay tuned.
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