What Is Chemistry, And Can A Relationship Survive Without It?

Updated April 11, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

What does it mean to have “good chemistry” with someone? Scientifically, chemistry is how elements interact, combine, and change to become something new. The chemistry between people works much the same way. Read on to learn how the intuitive, immediate sense of connection you may feel when meeting someone can often indicate you are compatible for an emotional relationship—or, sometimes, just a physical one.  

What is relationship chemistry?

Researchers at the American Psychological Association define interpersonal (relationship) chemistry as feeling an instant connection the first time you meet someone. The bond may feel instinctual and can take many forms—often with overlap between friendship and romantic chemistry.  

How does chemistry influence dating?

While the initial “spark” can lead to a deeper connection, building a genuine emotional and intellectual bond is generally required for a long, healthy relationship. Studies show that technology has initiated a shift in modern dating, with dating apps changing the perception of romantic chemistry. Dating apps can reroute your neurobiology by affecting the reward centers of your brain, essentially leaving you addicted to the endless flood of options over seeking a deeper connection. 

What causes chemistry between two people?

Have you ever met someone and instantly knew that you would get along? Chemistry doesn’t always have to be romantic, and you may occasionally meet people you instinctively want to spend more time with for various reasons. Perhaps their individual pheromones entice your senses, or maybe you are physically attracted to them. Some people know within moments if there is the indefinable "spark" of chemistry. 

“When individuals experience chemistry, they experience their interaction as something more than the sum of their separate contributions. Interpersonal chemistry requires coordination, in that the interacting individuals share and match their goals and efforts, supporting each other in the process.” — Chemistry Between People: A Sum of Their Connections

Types of chemistry include.

  • Friendship
  • Career
  • Sexual
  • Romantic

Exploring compatibility in a relationship

Chemistry may initially attract you to someone, but determining your compatibility takes further effort. Compatibility extends beyond the preliminary attraction and helps you evaluate how well their lifestyle, personality, and values align with yours. Just because you are drawn to someone when you first meet them doesn't mean a relationship between you would be healthy and thriving. Some people simply aren't compatible with one another romantically. 

Do you worry about a lack of chemistry in your relationship?

Chemistry vs. love: What’s the difference?

Chemistry and love are often confused, but love is a much deeper connection built over time where you value their thoughts and feelings and consider how your actions affect them. 

Recognizing a lack of chemistry

Sometimes, you may meet someone great on paper, but when you see them in person, it just doesn't click. Explore some of the signs that romantic chemistry may be lacking. 

  • The conversation is difficult and stilted, and you struggle to relate to each other. 
  • You don't seem to agree on essential issues or have vastly differing values. 
  • You have no desire to get closer to them or get to know them better. 
  • Time moves very slowly when you’re together. 
  • The connection between you feels more formal than romantic. 
  • Eye contact is awkward, not romantic. 
  • You’re not physically attracted to them. 

How does chemistry fade?

Relationship experts often correlate romantic chemistry with the emotional connection between two people. If you and your partner allow distance to grow between you and emotional intimacy to fade, your chemistry may fade with it. 

“Countless couples complain of losing the 'spark' in their relationship. Some chalk it up to evolved differences, a slow growing apart, or sheer familiarity. The wave of 'deadness' that can submerge a relationship after the first thrilling months or years have caused many couples to lose hope and even look elsewhere for the excitement of newfound intimacy.” — Lisa Firestone, Ph.D.

Turning good chemistry into a solid relationship

If you have good chemistry with someone, it could mean there’s a connection upon which you can build a solid relationship. One of the best ways to find out is by spending more time with them and seeing if there is more than a spark between you. If you have chemistry at the beginning and are compatible with one another, you might make a good couple. 

When chemistry doesn’t lead to an emotional connection

By contrast, good chemistry doesn’t always mean you will develop an emotional connection with the subject of your interest. For many people, chemistry doesn’t extend beyond an initial attraction. You may discover that what you thought was a romantic attraction is more geared toward friendship. 


Can a relationship last without chemistry?

Whether a relationship can survive without chemistry depends entirely on the people involved. Many couples find that physical intimacy matters less as they age, so it is often not an issue for many older adults. If you have an emotional connection with someone but not a physical attraction, that may come with time—if you choose to give yourself enough to let it develop. 

Talk to your partner

If you notice the lack of chemistry between you, there’s a good chance your partner does too. Open, honest communication is at the heart of many successful relationships. If you have concerns, take them to your partner and discuss what you can do to move forward together. 

Find common ground

Something drew you together in the first place. Find your common ground and use those similarities to frame ways to spend time with each other that you’ll both enjoy. 

Communicate daily

The big issues in relationships are important, of course, but often the little, everyday occurrences help you feel close to your partner. Take time each day to talk about what happened and keep them involved in your life. 

Stimulate oxytocin production with frequent touch

Your brain produces a neurochemical called oxytocin, a hormone related to your mind's pleasure and reward centers, which is released when you are near someone you love. Physical touches, such as hand-holding and cuddling, can stimulate the production of oxytocin and build on your connection with your partner. 

Make eye contact often

One of the benefits of chemistry is that it allows you to feel seen and understood by your partner. Making and holding eye contact lets them know they’re the focus of your attention, which can strengthen the connection and chemistry between you. 

Highlight the physical features they like

If you're seeking to build or rebuild the physical chemistry with your partner, entice them by dressing to highlight the features you know they like. It will make you feel more confident, and they will likely appreciate your effort, reacting favorably. 

Tips for building or reigniting chemistry

  • Find ways to laugh together. 
  • Focus on common values and other commonalities. 
  • Learn to speak and understand their love language while sharing yours. 
  • Touch each other often. 
  • Make yourself emotionally vulnerable. 
  • Discuss your fantasies, desires, and wishes openly. 
  • Make them feel seen, heard, understood, and accepted. 
  • Spending time together should be a priority. Try a regular date night. 
  • Make time to talk about what's happening in your lives. 
  • Discuss plans for the future. 
Getty/Halfpoint Images
Do you worry about a lack of chemistry in your relationship?

How couples therapy can help you reconnect

If you feel like your relationship used to have that spark but lately lacks chemistry, consider working with a licensed therapist online through a virtual therapy platform geared toward relationship troubles like Regain. Couples therapy can help you and your partner identify the underlying issues that lead to emotional distance and decreased chemistry so you can work through them together with the support and guidance of a mental health professional. 

For years, researchers have studied how effective various methods of psychotherapy are. Recent research published by Frontiers in Psychology indicated no significant difference in online and in-person couples therapy outcomes. Online therapy is often available at lower costs, with shorter wait times. Both groups showed decreased symptoms related to depression and anxiety while experiencing increased relationship satisfaction. 

Therapist reviews

“Sessions with Natalie are very insightful and give practical advice on implementing new habits and changes. Be prepared to engage and be challenged to think in a different way. I know that my partner and I can already see improvements in our relationship and feel more positive about working through our issues together.”

“Austa has been wonderful thus far. She has helped my partner and I during an unimaginably difficult time... She has also guided us in communicating effectively and setting appropriate boundaries in our relationship. I was hesitant to pursue counseling at the beginning, but I truly believe that it is making a difference for our relationship. Austa is easy to talk to and she is a great listener. I would wholeheartedly recommend her as a counselor.”

Do you worry about a lack of chemistry in your relationship?

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Chemistry can be an essential part of a relationship, making you feel drawn to someone. However, it may not be enough on its own to serve as the foundation for a solid, healthy relationship. The information presented in this article may offer insight into how chemistry can develop, what to do if it fades, and when to try turning it into a relationship.

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