The 7 Types Of Relationship Chemistry + What They Mean

mbg Contributor By Annice Star
mbg Contributor
Annice Star has a B.A. in psychology and a master's in teaching. She works as a freelance writer, editor, and wellness coach.
Expert review by Kristie Overstreet, Ph.D., LPCC, LMHC, CST
Clinical Sexologist & Psychotherapist
Kristie Overstreet, Ph.D., LPCC, LMHC, CST, is a clinical sexologist and psychotherapist with 12 years of clinical experience. She is a licensed counselor in California, Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana. She is also a certified sex therapist, certified addiction professional, and president of the Therapy Department, a private practice in Orange County that provides counseling services throughout the United States.
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. We hear people say, "there just wasn't any chemistry" to explain why their first date won't turn into a second, or they might say "there was so much chemistry right away" or "we both just felt it." But what is relationship chemistry, really? What does it mean to have chemistry with someone, and is it always a good thing?

Below are several types of chemistry—or feelings we associated with relationship chemistry—along with suggestions for ways to take a closer look at what's driving these feelings.

1. Physical attraction

The idea of "love at first sight" might be more accurately described as 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.

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Here's what you need to know:

Make sure you know the difference between love and lust. 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.

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 and draw most of their self-worth from that person or relationship. Codependent relationships are often unhealthy because they dissolve boundaries and individuation, but these harmful consequences go unacknowledged and instead get called chemistry.

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Here's what you need to know:

If you tend to find yourself in codependent relationships, know that you can learn and change. Find a therapist or counselor who can help guide you through the growth process necessary to change your relationship patterns and learn to be emotionally independent.

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 may 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.

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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 you "stuff" as it comes up, but also make time for more lighthearted ways of connecting.

5. Courting the muse

This type of relationship 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.

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Here's what you need to know:

Only time will tell here. As with many types of relationship 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

Some people believe in karmic relationships, different types of soulmates, and past lives. A past-life agreement, sometimes called a soul contract, 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.

Here's what you need to know:

Beware of feeling compelled to remain in relationships that turn out to be unhealthy. So-called past-life relationships can feel almost compulsory, so much so that we are afraid to leave. The potential for physical or emotional abuse can be enormous under these circumstances. Remember that you are always allowed to walk away no matter who you're with. Or think of it this way: If you believe in karmic connections, also believe in the fact that the universe would never want you to stay in a relationship that is hurting you. Leave when it's time.

7. Sexual chemistry

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. 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 a 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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