Relationship chemistry can be a tough concept to define. Is it the elusive, indefinable ‘spark’ you feel when you instantly ‘click’ with someone? Is it the sizzle of physical attraction or a really, really great conversation where you feel you’re both on the same page about everything? Is chemistry a major building block of a relationship, or can we do without it?
“I feel like I have really great physical chemistry with people I have absolutely nothing else in common with,” complains Alex. “And then I’ll meet a really nice guy, but no chemistry. At least not the same sort of instant attraction I usually feel. It’ll be good to talk to them and hang out and spend lots of time together, but that spark seems to be missing.”
While we fully support a strong physical pull and acting on it for your pleasure, relationship chemistry can and does go beyond that instant spark. We asked psychologist Nandita Rambhia (MSc, Psychology), who specializes in CBT, REBT and couple’s counseling, for some insights on relationship chemistry, its types, and signs that you do indeed have it with your partner.
What Is Relationship Compatibility?
“Relationship chemistry is about having a great emotional connect with a partner,” Nandita says. “Many people confuse it with a physical connection, but the emotional bond, too, needs to be really high. In fact, this connection can be termed passion or love. In the initial stages of a relationship, people might say you are infatuated with your partner when this chemistry is at its all-time high,” she adds.
The difference between chemistry and compatibility, Nandita says, is that in compatibility, we tend to look at a person’s core relationship values and the possibility of their longer-lasting presence in our lives. “Chemistry is more about how we feel about them on an everyday basis, the warmth, the positivity, the desire to be with each other all the time, and the need to make them happy,” she says.
So, where does relationship chemistry fall in the compatibility vs chemistry debate? And what is more important in a relationship – chemistry or relationship compatibility? Well, ideally, a good relationship would have both. It’s easy to write off chemistry as a short-term need, and something that fizzles out more easily than compatibility. However, chemistry might start off as the spark that then gives way to a companionable, compatible relationship, lending that extra edge of warmth and desire to the steady flame of compatibility.
How Important Is Chemistry In A Relationship?
Nandita says, “Chemistry is very important in a relationship. That said, you can certainly have a secure, steady relationship with little or no chemistry. However, in my book, that is where boredom could creep in. You know you have something that can and will probably last, and that’s fine. But when chemistry is high, there is energy and passion between a couple, giving it that extra kick, making it more fun and loving.”
Related Reading: 5 Tips To Bring The Spark Back In Long-Term Relationships
“My husband and I have been together for 15 years,” says Dani. “We were together all through high school and college, so marriage just seemed like the next logical step. I wouldn’t say I’m unhappy, and I’m aware that relationships change over time, but there is definitely something missing, that sense of ‘he’s my person, no matter what’.”
Losing chemistry in a relationship is hard, and there are certainly ways to bring the spark back. But it’s also possible that your relationship began with little or no chemistry, and is based on the understanding that you have a strong, committed partnership, albeit without much excitement or warmth.
Relationships come in all shapes and sizes, so there’s nothing wrong with this. But, you needn’t go through life being wistful and wishing for a different life. You can opt out of such a relationship, or consider an open relationship or polyamory, if you’re so inclined.
Types Of Relationship Chemistry
Like relationships come in all shapes and sizes, relationship chemistry, too, comes in all forms. If you’re wondering how does chemistry work in a relationship, well, there’s no one way. Chemistry isn’t purely romantic or sexual, the humor and platonic love you share with a close friend is also chemistry. Here are some types of relationship chemistry:
1. Physical attraction
For many of us, this is where relationship chemistry begins. That instant sense of being attracted to someone physically, knowing you find them attractive and want to act on it. When we talk about losing chemistry in a relationship, we’re often referring to the loss of physical intimacy and/or sexual attraction.
Physical attraction manifests in the all too familiar symptoms of a racing heart, dilated pupils, butterflies in the stomach, and so on. A connection can begin with physical chemistry, and end when it fades. This doesn’t make it less valid as long as there’s clarity that all parties are looking for a purely physical bond.
2. Intellectual connection
A strong mental connection with your significant other is always a plus point. This is where those great conversations come in, those long, deep late-night debates, the way you’re always the best team at trivia nights, and so on.
Related Reading: 12 Ways To Build Intellectual Intimacy In A Relationship
Intellectual chemistry is great because it means you’ll rarely run out of your shared curiosity and thirst to constantly learn new things together. Maybe you like taking classes together or spend hours talking about the science behind obscure concepts. Or maybe you can’t get enough of the lore in the Lord of the Rings stories. Either way, your minds are a match!
3. Spiritual affinity
“My best friend and I decided to adopt and raise a child together,” says 37-year-old Andie, an art director. “We’re not really romantic partners, but we view the world through the same lens, we believe that the best relationships have a higher purpose, and ours is to honor our choice of nurturing a life together. We both believe we were brought together by the universe, that we’re meant to be in each other’s lives in a spiritual relationship, and that we’re meant to be parents together.”
When we think of types of chemistry in a relationship, spirituality is right up there. If you have a strongly shared belief system, your relationship chemistry is bound to be strong too. This is important when considering what is more important in a relationship – chemistry or compatibility.
4. Emotional bond
“An emotional bond is one of the core relationship values of shared goals and interests,” says Nandita. Emotional chemistry is all about getting to know the other person, seeing if your communication styles match, whether or not you feel safe enough with them to open up and stimulate vulnerability in a relationship.
A shared emotional bond can be forged with or without a physical connection. The way we feel about our closest friends or even some family members, people we would do anything for, is all about emotional chemistry. When you’re asking how does chemistry work in a relationship, it’s important to remember that it comes in all sort of ways.
5. Creative chemistry
“I have a colleague I didn’t really get along with at first. Then, we were both put on the same project, and I realized our creative chemistry was off the charts. We bounced ideas off each other, had the same vision for the final outcome, and even our artistic skills complemented one another’s,” says Candace, 30, who works as a graphic designer.
Related Reading: Platonic Soulmate – What Is It? 8 Signs You Found Yours
Creative chemistry is when you have a writing partner who holds you accountable and also completely gets your writing style. It’s the colleague who understands why you want to approach a job a certain way and provides the technical know-how. It’s entirely possible you don’t click on any other plane, but that doesn’t mean you can’t come together to create something amazing!
5 Signs You Have Relationship Chemistry With Your Partner
Now that we have an idea of the types of relationship chemistry, what are the actual signs that you have one or more kinds of chemistry with your partner? How do you know that that all-elusive, often indefinable spark is present and being nurtured by both of you? Again, there’s no one, exact way to determine that you do or do not have this chemistry, but there are certain signs you could look out for. Here are some ways that illustrate that you do, indeed, have relationship chemistry with your partner.
1. You look forward to seeing them at the end of the day
“It seems like a small thing, but to come back to the same face and person day after day and actually look forward to it is a sign of great relationship chemistry, whether you consider them a twin flame or soulmate.” says Nandita. In fact, when you think of losing chemistry in a relationship, one of the major signs to look out for is that you just don’t want to come home to them anymore.
“My partner and I have been together for seven years, and I think my favorite thing about the relationship is that when one of us walks through the door, the other’s face lights up,” says Rebecca, 32, a software developer in Seattle. “We’ve lived together for five years, and it’s just such a great feeling to know that they’re going to be there and that I can be there for them.”
This is especially important in long-term romantic relationships where relationship chemistry can wither over time and you’re left mulling over the types of chemistry in a relationship, and whether you still have it. Keeping up with a relationship is as hard, if not harder than keeping up with the Kardashians. So pay attention to the small things – the molecules of relationship chemistry.
2. You feel good when you’re with them
An important question to ask yourself in any relationship is, how do you feel when you’re with them? In a toxic relationship or a subtly abusive relationship, you’ll feel anxious or unsure of yourself when you’re around them, even if you haven’t acknowledged it to yourself yet.
In a healthy relationship, where the relationship chemistry is present and healthy too, you’ll be happy and safe with each other. How does chemistry work in a relationship like this? You feel completely yourself around them, and there’s a basic sense of contentment and warmth whenever you’re together.
Mind you, this doesn’t mean you’ll never disagree or fight. It doesn’t even mean you’ll be together forever. But for the duration that you are together, even the thought of them will bring a smile to your face, even when you’re beyond the early stages of relationship infatuation, when they can do no wrong.
If you’re constantly walking on eggshells in your relationship, there’s a chance you have chemistry on some level, maybe a physical connect, but not much else going on. Ultimately, though, physical chemistry dies out if you’re not feeling good about yourself and your relationship outside the bedroom.
3. Your sex life is fun and energetic
Let’s talk about sex, baby! We’ve gone on about how relationship chemistry isn’t all about physical attraction and connection, but it’s time to admit that a healthy and fun sex life is a major part of good chemistry and a great relationship. After all, there is a reason we say “nice guy, but no chemistry” sometimes.
Related Reading: The Dynamics And Importance Of Sex In A Relationship
Now, fun sex is all about what’s fun for you. And great relationship chemistry is all about what fulfills both you and your partner. Think about it. Are you and your partner playful during physical intimacy? Do you pay attention to each other’s changing bodies and evolving needs? If one or both of you feel as though things have become monotonous, are you able to talk about it and figure out ways to bring the spark back?
“I find that laughing and being silly in bed is one of my favorite things in a relationship,” confesses Amina, a 33-year-old landscape designer. “Every romance novel I’ve ever read talks about how things get really intense and serious when people are passionate, but the humor and good energy a person brings to sex and intimacy just makes me happier.”
4. There is intimacy and warmth
Sex is important, but your intimacy beyond the bedroom (and other rooms) counts as relationship chemistry too. To me, intimacy is a giant, knotted, woolly ball of touch, trust, laughter, tears, words, and silence. And somewhere within these knots, we find overlapping circles with a handful of people.
“Warmth in a relationship isn’t just about the heat of the moment when your eyes first meet or how things heat up between you in the bedroom,” says Nandita. “Intimacy comes from sharing small, everyday joys and sorrows, talking about your day, and so on. It’s all about non-sexual touch – the forehead kisses, holding hands, a hand on your shoulder, or the small of the back in passing, etc.”
A warm, loving, reciprocal relationship is where that initial chemistry finds a nurturing home to grow in strength and roots. When you really like who you’re with as well as love them, when there’s friendship and laughter as well as romance and passion, there’s magic to be made.
5. There is immense trust between you
Trust is the bedrock of any successful relationship and can be one of the definitive factors in the compatibility vs chemistry debate. When you’re mulling over what is more important in a relationship – chemistry or compatibility – think about how much you trust the person in question.
Trust in a relationship isn’t just about fidelity and being faithful, but also about trusting them enough to be vulnerable and open with them. You’re only truly yourself in a relationship when you trust someone to see you and accept you as you are, while also challenging you to grow and be better. Relationship chemistry could be undeniable on every level, but without trust, or if trust is broken, it’s difficult to sustain that chemistry or even continue to trust the chemistry itself.
In the compatibility vs chemistry debate, there are no easy answers, neither can we stand up and proclaim that one trumps the other. Ultimately, it’s all about what you, as an individual, want out of a relationship, the qualities that stand out to you in a partner, and what you build together.
Maybe you have some types of chemistry in a relationship, but not others, and you’re okay with that. Maybe you’ve got tremendous physical chemistry, but not much in terms of an emotional or intellectual bond. Would that mean you’ve got chemistry but no compatibility? Not necessarily.
“I’ve just gotten out of a long-term relationship, and honestly, I’m just looking to have fun right now,” says April, 24, a market researcher from Sacramento. “I’m looking for strong physical chemistry with people, but I do need the basics of good manners and kindness, even if we’re just doing a one-night stand or a short fling. And as long as we both want the same things and are honest with each other, I think we’ve got compatibility as well.”
- Chemistry is important in a relationship as it keeps the spark alive
- There are many kinds of relationship chemistry such as physical, emotional and intellectual chemistry
- Warmth, trust and feeling great when you’re together are signs that you have relationship chemistry
It’s important to know what you’re looking for at any given point in a relationship, and knowing that your needs can and are allowed to change. There’s nothing wrong with acting on your desires, even if you feel you’ve got more chemistry than compatibility, or vice versa. And it’s also okay to shrug it off and say, “Nice guy but no chemistry.”
Be honest with yourself and your partners, and the rest will follow. We wish you plenty of sizzling chemistry in every aspect of your life. Good luck!
Relationship chemistry is determined by all involved partners’ willingness to be open, empathetic, and vulnerable to one another. While some forms of relationship chemistry can be instantaneous, forming an intimate bond and sustaining it requires friendship, understanding, and kindness.
Chemistry is important in a relationship, but should not be mistaken for physical attraction alone. It is difficult to say whether chemistry can be created over time, but it certainly requires work to keep it going over a long period of time.
There is no definitive time period for lasting relationship chemistry. While physical chemistry can change or even fizzle out over time, there are ways to resuscitate it, as with emotional and intellectual chemistry. However, chemistry cannot be forced, so if there comes a time where the spark is simply gone, it might be time to rethink the relationship.