The 7 Types Of Chemistry + What Each One Means For Your Relationship

Everyone talks about chemistry as that magic ingredient we all need in a relationship but can't quite quantify. We use words like attraction, connection, knowing, vibes, or fit to describe what it feels like. But what is it, really? And is chemistry always a good thing?

We hear people say, "there just wasn't any chemistry," to explain why their first date won't turn into a second. On the other end of the spectrum, people might say, "there was so much chemistry right away" or "we both just felt it." Interaction progresses from there, sometimes leading to successful, happy relationships, and other times to years of difficult interactions.

Most people who are dating or in relationships agree that the feeling of chemistry is real, but not everyone places the same value on it. Some take a bottom-line "gotta have it" attitude, while others are more circumspect. Some people don't even see it as a good thing initially.

Below are several types of compatibility we often characterize as chemistry—some being more important than others—along with suggestions for ways to take a closer look at what's driving these feelings.

1. Physical attraction

Do you believe in love at first sight? It might be more accurate to call it chemistry at first sight. Appearance is one of the most prevalent catalysts for chemistry. Good looks can arouse desire in almost anyone. Our cultural conditioning instills these values, so we respond unconsciously to others on the basis of how they look. When under the spell of sexiness, we don't realize that physical attraction is what's driving our interest and instead identify it as the ever-elusive chemistry.

Here's what you need to know:

Enjoy the physical attraction but don't move ahead too fast. Take time to assess what else is on offer. With time, the allure of a purely physical attraction will wear off and you will be able to see the whole person more clearly.

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2. Codependency

Codependency occurs when a person relies on the emotional connection to their partner or relationship to an unhealthy extent. They feel as if they can't survive without them. It’s sometimes called "relationship addiction." One example of this type of relationship is a codependent involved with a narcissist. Though desperately unhappy, the codependent sticks around because of his/her addiction, which remains unacknowledged and instead gets called chemistry.

Here's what you need to know:

Codependents can learn and change. If these issues are causing distress in your life, find a therapist or counselor who can help guide you through the growth process necessary to change your relationship patterns.

3. Shared purpose

We meet someone new and suddenly find ourselves discussing our purpose or mission in life. If we're both on the same page, we're off and running. It's a heady connection for sure. Just the fact that we are willing to be so open right away seems to indicate chemistry. Our shared passions and interests quickly form a strong foundation for continuing involvement. Having someone on board who encourages you to pursue your goals in life is one of the loftiest aspects we can hope to find in any relationship.

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Here's what you need to know:

Not many red flags here, at least initially. Having a life purpose that your partner supports can feed a lasting love. Just make sure you stay focused and keep your purpose alive with your own energy as well.

4. Personal growth

People who have been in stagnant relationships where they felt stuck often attract this type of chemistry. It's a relief to find someone who acknowledges their own shortcomings and is willing to work on ways of healing and growing. Hallelujah! These couples usually get to work right away, providing feedback and insights intended to help their partners grow. Sharing self-help books, online resources, and even therapists, they can make great leaps together toward creating more fulfilling lives.

Here's what you need to know:

The main caveat here is to make sure your connection has more aspects to it than just personal growth. All work—which is what growth often feels like—with no play can make for an exhausting relationship. Go through "your stuff" as it comes up, but also make time for more light-hearted ways of relating.

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5. Courting the muse

This type of chemistry happens so often we have a phrase for it—it's called "courting the muse." A mutual desire to escalate each other's imagination characterizes this inspiring connection. Artists thrive on it, along with entrepreneurs and others who like to "dream big." It can be quite a high for both parties initially. If it endures over time, the productivity and joy it can create are unlimited. Think Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. But this chemistry can also fizzle out, or point to a connection other than romance, such as a collaborative partnership or friendship.

Here's what you need to know:

Only time will tell here. As with many types of chemistry, it's best to enjoy the connection without making assumptions about the nature of it too soon. Let it play out and try to remain conscious and curious as it does.

6. Past-life agreement

This is the most "woo-woo" type of chemistry on this list. It involves two parties who believe they made an agreement in a past life to meet up in this one. Their goal is to resolve issues from their past life together in order to clear a karmic debt. While this may sound far-fetched, the concept of a relationship being fated is actually quite a familiar theme in literature, and many of us have had similar feelings IRL. But beware. So-called past-life relationships can feel almost compulsory, so much so that we are afraid to leave.

Here's what you need to know:

The potential for physical or emotional abuse can be enormous under these circumstances, so the best advice is to steer clear of this line of thinking. Instead, look for healthy connections in the here and now.

7. Sexual attraction

No discussion of chemistry would be complete without this type—the most compelling but also potentially the most troublesome. When two people discover a lusty connection, it can feel irresistible and that's where the problem lies. Early on, the literal chemistry—hormones released in our bodies—set off "in love" fantasies that have little basis in reality. Later, sexual chemistry keeps some couples involved long after they need to split. Yet, sexual chemistry also plays a vital role in sustaining healthy relationships. Happy couples sometimes refer to it as the "glue" that keeps them together.

Here's what you need to know:

Try to keep your wits about you, especially in the early stages of the relationship. Know that hormones are going to keep you from thinking straight, so don't believe your fantasies. Instead, check out what values you share IRL and make a point of building a solid foundation from them. Then sex can be the icing on the cake.

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