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Making Sparks Fly: The Chemistry of Romance

As every high school student learns, chemistry experiments usually produce predictable results. Stir some things together and nothing happens. Try again with different chemicals and you blow the doors off the lab.

Unfortunately, falling in love is not so straightforward. We never know when romantic fireworks will ignite and light up the whole sky–or when we won’t even be able to get the fuse lit. Sometimes a person who seems “right” for us can cause explosions with a single smile while another person who seems equally right doesn’t generate so much as a fizzle.

Chemistry is what infuses passion and pizzazz into a relationship. If you are compatible in other key ways, it is worth some effort to give physical attraction a chance to grow as well.

Keep these thoughts in mind:

Make room for romance

Physical attraction is a fickle thing. Like an artistic muse, it sometimes must be courted and coaxed. Don’t expect it to respond well to being penciled in on your daily planner. Nurture it with some long walks together, picnics in the park, or unhurried evenings with no schedule to keep. Slow down and let your feelings breathe before you make a decision.

Know yourself

Something as important as physical compatibility should not be left to chance. Understanding what attracts you will help you predict whether or not your current relationship has the potential to move in that direction. Be perfectly clear about the things you find attractive in a partner and the things that turn you off.

Give it some time — but not too long

Some people ignite immediately; others have to smolder for a while. If you’re a “smolderer,” allow some time — say, a couple of months. If chemistry hasn’t kicked in by then, chances are it won’t.


Be honest with yourself

When we really want a relationship to work, we sometimes try to manufacture chemistry or convince ourselves it’s there when it really isn’t. But you can’t counterfeit passion, and it isn’t fair to you or your potential partner to try. If it’s not happening, admit it and gently exit the relationship.

There is no substitute for chemistry with a potential partner. Give each romantic experiment a good stir, but don’t wait forever for the pyrotechnics to begin. If nothing happens, move on to other combinations where the sparks do fly.