"Chemistry," describes Jane Greer, Ph.D., New York City-based marriage and sex therapist and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship, "is that cocktail of ingredients where attraction, interest, desire, curiosity, and longing all come together. You're turned on to the person, and you experience it on a physical as well as an emotional level. Think racing heart rate, butterflies in the stomach—there's an excitement and energy that come into play when chemistry is at work."
So, what about when it's just not there? Specifically, when a guy is an A+ on paper—respectful with an impeccable sense of comedic timing, a women's rights attorney who volunteers at the animal shelter in his spare time—but you just don't exactly fantasize about sleeping with him. Can anything be done?
"You can feel chemistry instantly, but it could also take up to years to discover," says Greer. "Chemistry comes into play the moment you realize that you find that person appealing and attractive to you in a way that generates desire."
How, then, can we help the process along if we happen to meet a great guy who might not be our typical type? Unfortunately, Greer says, you can't force chemistry into play on the fly. "You can't manufacture the stomach butterflies and racing heart rate when you see a person—that has to come naturally," says Greer. "But think of it this way: Perhaps you're used to a roller coaster of emotions in a relationship, and you're accustomed to conflict, jealousy, and angst. In the absence of these emotions, you may worry you don't have chemistry, but before you rule someone out, think about whether you feel like you have a lot of fun with them and have emotional chemistry."
Ask yourself, do I like who this guy is? Do I admire his values? Are his behaviors and personality traits appealing to me? "If so, let the relationship continue to grow and see if the chemistry grows stronger," suggests Greer.
Finally, keep this in mind: "Physical chemistry may not immediately be felt, but that can develop the longer you know the person," Greer says. "Sometimes chemistry can stem from relying on someone, trusting them, experiencing the intimacy of a special moment or a shared laugh, seeing him or her do something caring with a pet or child," she says. It's not always just because of his piercing blue eyes, perfect dimples, or rock hard abs. Over time, experiences can bond you and create that same zing: "These things can ignite chemistry, which translates into the desire to be with the person and spend more time with him or her. Suddenly they're on your mind in a way that makes you long for their company."
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