Chemistry Versus Attraction

Image from Wikipedia

I usually have to hang out with someone a few times before I can be sure whether or not I’m attracted to him.

A fair number of my friends face this same issue. And I think it all comes down to the difference between chemistry and attraction. 

Chemistry is a biological response that occurs between your body and the body of a potential mate. This is all about pheromones and neurotransmitters. It has nothing to do with the person’s appearance, behavior, or personality, or with whether or not they’re a good kisser. (Though that’s an important skill to develop.) 

When I have chemistry with someone, I feel it as an electric current passing between us. Even a simple touch on the arm comes with a ffsssszhooom (insert lightning-strike sound). 

OK, so that’s chemistry. What’s attraction? 

Attraction is a combo of all the emotional, intellectual, and other forces drawing you to someone else. I might be attracted to a guy because he has gorgeous eyes, because he makes me laugh, or because he’s wicked smaahht. More likely, for a mosaic of about fifty such reasons. 

What gets so confusing is this weird intersection between chemistry and attraction. I might find a guy super-sexy for the reasons I just listed–but if he and I don’t have chemistry, kissing won’t feel right. The force field around our bodies will be pushing them apart, not pulling them together. 

I’ve encountered some resistance on this. Some of my friends, and a former shrink of mine, say that the attraction part of the equation is way more important than the raw biological chemistry. They point out that attraction to someone can grow as you get to know them. 

It’s true that attraction can wax and wane. Chemistry, on the other hand, is a constant. It’s the equivalent of skin color, eye color, or height–it’s just there. And it won’t change based on how nice someone is, or how good a match you are on paper. 

For some people, an intense sexual spark isn’t of prime importance. They’d rather be with a terrific person who’s a good friend to them, even if the physical side of the equation is less than spectacular.

But if a thriving sexual connection is a priority, the real killer thing is that there’s nothing you can do to fabricate chemistry. It’s there or it’s not. 

Here are two ways to know early. 

1. Touch his hand or bare arm. Maybe you’re playing darts at the bar and you hand the darts to him. Maybe he’s coaching you on your golf swing and fixes your grip. Pay attention to what you feel. No need to freak out–just pay attention to it. 

2. If activities like kissing, holding hands, and making out don’t feel great, don’t pursue the connection. A little awkwardness early on is natural, but it should still be exciting. 

Here are two ways to make chemistry work for you. 

1. Don’t let it overshadow other compelling decision-making factors. If he acts like a jackass, no amount of pheromonal compatibility will make up for that. 

2. Don’t pretend it’s there if it’s not. Even if your attraction to someone grows, your level of chemistry with them will remain the same. This is not a situation where practice makes perfect. 

What do you think about all this, my worldly and sophisticated readers?