What to Do When Your Relationship Has No Chemistry

Young couple having relationship difficulties in the bedroom

 PhotoAlto / Frederic Cirou / Getty Images

It's normal and natural for romantic relationships to start out fiery and passionate, then slowly transition into warmth and stability. This is due to many factors, ranging from how attraction and bonding hormones in our bodies change over time, to the instinctive nesting habits that have kept us flourishing as a species. No long term relationships maintain the initial chemistry that brought two (or more) people together initially forever, and that's OK.

It would be hard to lead a normal life if we constantly felt overwhelmed with those magical, falling in love feelings!

Though it's normal for long term relationships to have less passion months or years in than they did at first, sometimes couples experience what feels like an even bigger issue than that: a lack of chemistry significant enough to lead them to wonder if they should stay in their relationship.

We'll examine what chemistry is and how it manifests in interpersonal relationships, how you can know if your relationship is lacking in chemistry, and how to potentially bring it back if you've lost it.

What Does Chemistry Mean?

When it comes to human interaction, chemistry manifests in both every day friendships and in relationships. Simply put, the feeling of chemistry with another person is that of connection.

It's a draw to someone else that makes you want more of them. That doesn't have to be in a romantic relationship context, though that is the way we most often use the word. A few common types of chemistry are outlined below.

Friendship Chemistry

The people we choose to be our friends likely have similar interests, politics, and/or demographics to us. But we don't just befriend anyone who feels similar to how we do. Rather, friendship chemistry plays a large role in who we choose to become friends with.

Friendship chemistry is the pull to another person on a friendly, emotional, and intellectual level. It can manifest in ways like thinking someone dresses nicely and wanting to emulate their style, or appreciating their politics and wanting to join them in actions, or liking their taste in food and wanting to go with them to new restaurants.

It's a connection to another person that is stemmed in mutual respect and admiration, but it doesn't usually involve romantic or sexual feelings.

Career Chemistry

If you've ever had a colleague you loved working on projects with, you probably had work, aka career, chemistry with them. This form of chemistry is more specific than friendship chemistry, and doesn't necessarily involve a person's tastes or interests. Instead, it's the connection and dynamic of feeling productive and inspired with another person.

You can bounce ideas off one another easily, springboarding on each other's thoughts, and you feel like what you create together is better than the product of two individuals.

You may not enjoy the person on a personal level, but you get a lot of satisfaction out of working with them.

Sexual Chemistry

Sexual chemistry is what we feel for a person we want to be intimate with. When this is an in-person experience, it's believed that we are responding to the person's pheromones, the hormones that help us understand how someone will be as a mate.

When someone is long distance, we can react to their image, voice, writing, or video. An example of chemistry despite distance would be a celebrity crush, where you have a desire to be intimate with someone but have never met them.

Sexual chemistry is often felt viscerally in our bodies. We may become short of breath, sweaty, warm, or otherwise impassioned when looking at or talking to someone we feel sexual chemistry towards.

Romantic Chemistry

Sexual chemistry is usually a part of romantic chemistry, but it isn't always. Romantic chemistry is centered around what we think of romance as: whether for you that is giving/receiving flowers, sharing a candlelit dinner, or post-coital pillow talk about your hopes and dreams, romantic chemistry is typically considered the most intimate form of chemistry. That's because in addition to sharing our bodies with someone, it leads to us partnering and sharing our lives.

Can Chemistry Be Acquired Or Created?

Romantic and sexual chemistry are usually what lead us into relationships. It's the draw to another person, and the desire to share our bodies and our lives with them, that tends to fuel our partnerships.

These forms of chemistry usually exist at the start of a relationship, as they are what leads us to choose the specific people we do.

There are many tales, though, of people who fell for one another slowly. Perhaps they were friends for years first, or work colleagues, or went to school together. They may have been acquaintances who never really noticed or focused on one another until a chance encounter or situation.

Chemistry may grow slowly in these relationships, and people may become attracted to one another gradually. They may even slowly develop romantic feelings without realizing it, until the other person expresses them.

If you go on a date with someone and feel strongly that there is no chemistry between you, especially if you feel repulsed by them, your instincts are likely correct; after all, that's the point of those instincts!

But if you are unsure whether or not you're attracted to them, it can be worth spending more time with the person to see what develops. Chemistry may grow or increase as you get to know someone.

How to Tell If Your Relationship Is Lacking Chemistry

There are many ways to tell if a lack of chemistry in your relationship is a problem. These are the most obvious ones:

  • Not wanting to return affection from your partner, or give it to them
  • An aversion to being intimate with them
  • Feeling emotionally disconnected from your partner
  • Not wanting to share personal details about what's going on with you
  • Spending progressively more time apart from one another, and not minding it
  • Having romantic and sexual feelings for others that go beyond surface level

How to Rekindle Chemistry

A lack of chemistry in a relationship is predicated on a lack of connection, or the desire to connect. You can try to bring back lost chemistry through emotionally and physically connective activities, such as:

  • A date night with activities you both enjoy
  • Intentional affection, even if it doesn't feel instinctive in the moment
  • Orchestrated touch, such as massage
  • Attending sex therapy together
  • Attending couple's counseling together
  • Scheduled check ins, in which each partner shares about their emotions and emotional state
  • A vacation or staycation

Sometimes, going about things backwards works better than we'd anticipate. For example, affection releases oxytocin, a feel-good chemical. Even if you don't feel like being affectionate, the act of giving and receiving affection makes our bodies produce happy chemicals. That, in turn, can reignite the happy feelings we have towards the person we are being affectionate with.

A Word From Verywell

Chemistry may change and evolve over time in a relationship. It may even diminish. If it does, it's possible to bring it back through intentionally reconnecting with your partner. There is no harm in trying an activity that may help you increase chemistry with your partner, and there is much to be gained.

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