When you have that immediate physical attraction to someone, that is a sign of sexual chemistry. Your palms sweat and you have shortness of breath. You are drawn to someone quickly and often intensely. Sexual chemistry is usually obvious at the beginning of a relationship and is an important component of many relationships.
The danger is you might interpret the sexual chemistry alone as reflecting a deeper connection. Without more knowledge about this very attractive person, you just don’t know enough about who they are.
Sometimes the chemistry does reflect a deeper connection. But how can you distinguish between what is sexual chemistry and what hints at more of a possible deep, intimate bond?
This article will delve into the benefits and drawbacks of sexual chemistry, the chemicals our brain produces during our feelings of lust and love, information on attachment styles, what happens when chemistry diminishes, as well as more about intimacy and loving bonds.
Lust and Attraction
Lust is a desire for sexual gratification. The brain’s hypothalamus influences the production of the hormones testosterone and estrogen. This drives our feelings of sexual desire.
When we are attracted to someone, our brains release high levels of dopamine and norepinephrine. Dopamine and norepinephrine “make us giddy, energetic, and euphoric,”2 sometimes resulting in loss of appetite and the inability to sleep.
We all know of those friends or family members who after meeting someone special say they can’t eat, sleep or concentrate. They’re head over heels. They’re so excited about the new relationship they claim they’re already in love. Often, this is the physical chemistry talking.
The magnetism of intense sexual chemistry can result in good, short-term relationships. As long as both parties recognize their time together for what it truly is, relationships that are based on physical enjoyment can work out well.
Benefits of Sexual Chemistry
When sexual chemistry leads to sex, there are many benefits. On the physical side, besides sex being a form of exercise which improves your health, your immune function increases, you gain positive cardiac effects and even the perception of headache pain in migraine decreases.
The psychological benefits of having sex after sexual chemistry are also multifold. A few of the proven benefits include relief from stress,3 higher rate of happiness and improved sleep quality.
Therefore, when sexual attraction leads to a sexual relationship, there are many positives that come from it.
Dangers of Sexual Chemistry
Unfortunately, when some couples are so drawn to each other in a passionate, physical way, one might want a longer lasting relationship and the other is satisfied with keeping it only physical.
At other times, one partner discovers the other person is not living a healthy lifestyle or exhibits a lot of damaging behaviors. Couples may discover they bring out the worst in each other.
When two people overlook the rest of their relationship dynamics for the sake of a strong physical and sexually-focused tie, it does not bode well. Infidelity, alcoholism, drug usage, and other serious problems should never be overlooked because of great sex.
When two people are obsessed with the other and have off-the-chart sexual chemistry, they might struggle to leave each other but know they can’t stay together either. This type of relationship can quickly become toxic.
How Attachment Styles Affect Us
Dr. Amy E. Keller, PsyD, a marriage and family therapist suggests that falling for someone and having great sexual chemistry can sometimes be connected to past attachments. Sometimes this can include “unconscious and unresolved family dynamics,” she suggests.
It is possible to be strongly drawn to people who remind you of your past, including unconscious and unresolved family dynamics. For example, you might be drawn to a partner who resembles a primary parental figure who did not meet the needs you hoped would be met. As a result, you may find yourself unconsciously trying to heal through your relationship with your partner.
It is important to navigate this with increased awareness, courageous communication, great care, and intention. It is possible to heal from the trauma that happened in a past relationship through your current relationship, but it is also possible to repeat past trauma as well.
Sexual chemistry can’t protect you from someone’s problems that stem from childhood. Ideally, as we mature, the ways we interact and behave in relationships reflect what’s called a secure attachment style. That means we are socially comfortable, trust others, have good self-esteem, and share our feelings with friends and family.
But Dr. Amy (as she is called) cautions us that “if a couple falls down a rabbit hole together to the point of ignoring friends and family while in their love bubble, it usually doesn’t end well.” She adds, “That is, most people don’t come to the table with secure attachments nor are they uber ready right away for a healthy, mature relationship.”
For people who show evidence of a fearful-avoidant attachment style, for example, though they crave love and affection, they don’t trust others and are reluctant to have close relationships. Often this relates to childhood trauma, these individuals struggle with trying to maintain healthy relationships.
According to what Dr. Amy sees in her practice, “Many people have a combination of avoidance or anxious attachment styles. If they still want to explore a relationship with that person, all they need to do is slow it down and pace it out.”
In addition to slowing things down and going at a more organic, less intense pace, the good news is that those having insecure attachment styles can develop a more secure attachment style under the care of and with proper guidance from a mental health professional.
A secure attachment style is possible to develop, but this takes time, care, intention, effort, and the healing of relationship trauma in relationships with yourself and others.
Attachment styles can evolve over time and people with all attachment styles can be in relationships with people who have different attachment styles. This can be healing with awareness, communication, intention, and the openness, willingness, and commitment to heal, change, do things differently, and grow.
When Sexual Chemistry Diminishes
Sexual chemistry can fuel a relationship and eventually lead to intimacy. The physical attraction can help people foster a deep emotional connection later on.
What happens when sexual chemistry diminishes? When the glow of infatuation and attraction dims, and couples see the other’s quirks and faults in the bright light of awareness, that’s when they are tested.
At that point, they can decide if the relationship’s foundation was purely physical and will take them no further. Or do they want to continue down the path of getting to know the other better and perhaps eventually remain together?
Surely, the stressors of everyday life and lack of time may put a dent in the sex life of those who have dated or been together awhile. Work challenges, financial pressures, and the birth of children might negatively impact the carefree sex life that couples had in the past.
Yet, once couples weather the roadblocks that come up as a result of getting to know one another and living a life together, they will hopefully have already developed intimacy, respect, and feelings of love for the other. They can continue to establish a fulfilling relationship while not giving up their sexual selves.
Sexual chemistry remains an important component that keeps a relationship vital and thriving.
The Role of Intimacy
Intimacy can be defined as a physical, mental, and emotional closeness. Results from a study showed that feelings of intimacy boosted sexual desire between romantic partners. These partners had more sex as a result.4
So, it’s clear that feelings of intimacy will enhance any relationship. People can create more feelings of emotional intimacy to improve their relationships and marriages by increasing time together as a couple, turning off electronics, being fully present with one another, and communicating with openness, vulnerability, and honesty.
As discussed, sexual chemistry might lead to a mature, loving relationship. If it does, you can be sure that mature, intimate, and loving relationships reflect two people who have bonded.
Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus and is the neurotransmitter that helps us feel empathy and attachment, and truly bond3 with one another. Oxytocin has been nicknamed the cuddle hormone and is sometimes referred to as the love hormone. During parent-infant bonding, while long-time friends speak and when partners embrace lovingly, oxytocin plays a major and undeniable role in creating and maintaining intimate, loving relationships.
A Word From Verywell
While sexual chemistry can be a passionate and almost euphoric feeling, it can sometimes cloud your judgment when in search of a partner or create a false sense of closeness. If you find that you’re having a hard time figuring out whether your desire for another person is rooted in lust or love, a therapist can help you understand and sort out your feelings.