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Romantic Chemistry 101

Valentine’s day has just been and gone for another year. It’s a time when many of us take stock of our love lives. Doing so may make you realize that some of that chemistry you had in your early days of dating has started to fizzle or that you are no longer feeling the romance or passion you crave. Don’t worry…we’ve got some science-backed tips for you and your partner to help reignite your spark.

First: The Chemistry Basics

Surprisingly, relationship researchers don’t know how to predict the feeling of ‘chemistry’ between two people.[1][2] But, I think we can all agree that we know it when we feel it. Maybe on your first date, the conversation effortlessly flowed as you talked about your favourite music. Or, you connected as you realised you have the same quirky sense of humour. In my own research, I’ve found that we can best predict who forms relationships out of a group of speed-daters by considering who feels unique chemistry. It’s not about who is the hottest or who is the most open to love (although those things help!)…. it is about two people feeling something special above and beyond their other dates[3]. And, once people form a relationship, sexual chemistry and sexual compatibility are important for staying satisfied.[4] In other words, chemistry is important for getting—and keeping—you and your partner together.

So how can you nurture your chemistry in the bedroom and beyond?

Take a Chemistry Test

No, I am not talking about those cheesy magazine quizzes that will tell you if your relationship is “in need of a generator” or are an “electric storm” (for you Schitt’s Creek fans). Instead, your relationship might benefit from a sexual preferences quiz. You may think you know what your partner likes in the bedroom—you’ve been together awhile, after all—but there may be a few surprises yet. In fact, a study of long-term Canadian couples found that they knew 62% of their partner’s sexual likes and only 26% of their partner’s sexual dislikes.[5] Because sex is still something that makes a lot of us feel vulnerable and uncomfortable talking about, doing a sexual preferences quiz (like here or here) can be a non-awkward way for you to explore your sexual interests: You and your partner both fill in the survey on your own and afterward it gives you a list of activities you both independently said you would be open to trying (e.g., watching porn together, talking dirty). You may discover there is something you’ve both been secretly hoping to add to your bedroom routine. Trying something new is key to busting you out of your routine and reinvigorating your passion.   

Find Your Sexual Catalyst

One thing that might have changed from when you started your relationship is that you may no longer feel that “can’t wait to rip your clothes off” urge to have sex with your partner out of the blue. And that’s okay! Sexual desire often looks different in a long-term relationship. If you have read Emily Nagoski’s book “Come as You Are” (or listened to her podcast—we’re huge fans!), you know that having the right surroundings are important for getting in the mood. We often may not feel the spontaneous urge to rip our partner’s clothes off, but if we start ripping their clothes off, we can often get in the mood. She uses the analogy of a party—you may not always want to go, but once you are there, you usually have a good time. So how can you host a good party if you will? There’s obviously a lot of variability in terms of what gets people in the mood. If you’re using the Cupla app to-do lists, you are already nailing this (pun intended): Especially for women, feeling like they have to remind their partner about things and manage the household can really dampen their sexual desire[6]. In general, doing whatever you can to lower your partner’s stress is a good start—whether that’s through to-do lists, taking their mind off things with a date, or drawing them a bath!

Your Chemistry Homework

As anyone who took organic chemistry will tell you, you have to put in work if you want to ace chemistry. Romantic chemistry is no exception. Our fun “homework” to you is to try to recreate the feelings of chemistry you had with your partner in those early first few dates. Remember, there was something unique about the way you two hit it off, so let’s get you back to that place. A great way to do this is to literally get you back to that place and have you revisit the spot of your first date (or something similar). Or, you can metaphorically get back to that place by trying some of our date night conversation starters. Why does this work? Well, when you ask your partner questions you probably don’t know the answer to (“If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?”), you bring back the excitement of those early days when you were constantly learning new things about your partner[7].

Cupla is a relationship management app for couples. With its user-friendly interface and innovative features including a shared calendar and to-do’s and date planner, Cupla empowers couples by providing tools for better organization, communication, and relationship well-being.

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[1] Joel, S., Eastwick, P. W., & Finkel, E. J. (2017). Is romantic desire predictable? Machine learning applied to initial romantic attraction. Psychological science28(10), 1478-1489.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/trust-games/202111/why-do-algorithms-make-mistakes

[2] https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/chemistry-relationships

[3] https://www.psypost.org/2023/01/new-study-sheds-light-on-how-three-distinct-types-of-first-impressions-predict-subsequent-dating-outcomes-64705

[4] https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-011-9771-z

[5] MacNeil, S., & Byers, E. S. (2009). Role of sexual self-disclosure in the sexual satisfaction of long-term heterosexual couples. Journal of Sex Research46(1), 3-14.

[6] https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=3090993591132003

[7] http://psychology.iresearchnet.com/social-psychology/social-psychology-theories/self-expansion-theory/


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