By MH Staff - Posted on 10th January 2014
Find out which magic ingredients you’ll need to set off a romantic chain reaction in your relationship.
WHAT IT IS: You’re challenged by your interactions with her, and you sense that you have to work a bit to keep up when she’s talking about a topic she loves. WHY IT'S IMPORTANT: This sort of compatibility predicts relationship sustainability over the long haul. “Research shows that couples who have a lot of similarities, including intellectual compatibility, end up staying together,” says Dr Helen Fisher, a sex researcher at Rutgers University and chief scientific advisor for chemistry.com. This type of chemistry is more than just compatible IQs; it’s the feeling you each have of being continually impressed with how the other’s mind works. SPOT IT: You may not understand that robotics project she’s working on, but you’ll close the bar down listening to her talk about it. Meanwhile, she’ll sacrifice a Saturday to watch a Scorsese marathon with you as you explain the nuances of his work. You might argue about politics, but the next morning, you email links to each other to prove your respective points, says psychologist Dr Lisa Firestone, co-author of Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice (R267, kalahari.com). You’ll also occasionally concede defeat, she says. CULTIVATE IT: Expressing your intellectual curiosity will put you both in sync, especially if at first meeting you two seem to have nothing in common. “People can become rigid in what they think their interests are,” Firestone says. “But the more questions you ask, the more you might find common ground – and fascination – with who she is and what drives her. To build that intellectual chemistry, ask her to teach you a skill she loves, or give her a lesson in something you love.” Keep it playful and low-key; the idea is to keep refreshing your respect for each other’s accomplishments.
WHAT IT IS: Ever feel that “I want you” surge when you catch sight of a stranger across a crowded bar – or your hot girlfriend across the room at a cocktail party? WHY IT'S IMPORTANT: Physical attraction releases a hormone flood that sparks the chemical reaction. It’s the building block of physical arousal, says Fisher. And it’s fuelled by testosterone, which sparks your desire and helps you muster the courage to approach her. SPOT IT: Your brain will make it obvious. “When you see a beautiful woman, your body produces a surge of oxytocin, vasopressin and dopamine – all as a response to a potential sexual opportunity,” says Dr Larry Young, co-author of The Chemistry Between Us (R312, kalahari.com) “That surge occurs, to a lesser degree, even with your online interactions.” When her image locks in your brain, that’s the birth of physical chemistry. CULTIVATE IT: Find a reason to touch. Flirty skin-to-skin contact brings on a surge of hormones (including the “cuddle hormone”, oxytocin), making you feel closer to the person you’re touching. It’s also a powerful way to prove that you’re not a threat, says Dr David Givens, director of the Center for Nonverbal Studies in Washington and the author of Love Signals (R179, kalahari.com). The best way to do that, Givens says, is to be playful. At a bar, for example, invite her to play a round of pool. “We’re wired to be cautious of strangers, but breaking down the barriers can make her subconsciously want to be closer.” In a relationship? Shower her with compliments, but keep them specific, says Dr Scott Haltzman, author of The Secrets of Surviving Infidelity (R240, kalahari.com). “When I know my wife is going for a haircut, I set a reminder on my phone so I’ll remember to comment about it later,” he says. This type of planning can produce spontaneous physical connection: you’re reminding yourself to notice her, and when she feels appreciated, she naturally turns her attention to you.
WHAT IT IS: You’re a dynamic duo when you’re alone – and a power couple people want to hang with when you’re out in a group setting. WHY IT'S IMPORTANT: “Couples are more likely to be happy together when they agree on how they spend their time alone and with others,” says Dr Geoffrey Greif, coauthor of Two Plus Two: Couples and Their Couple Friendships (R269, kalahari.com). SPOT IT: As a couple, you can go out together with friends and everyone has a good time. Or, conversely, you’re both cool with spending a weekend or two apart. CULTIVATE IT: “By a few months into the relationship, you two should prioritise each other when making plans,” says Walsh. “That means if she suggests takeaways and TV, you should want to do that instead of going out with the guys.” But it’s also essential to alternate movie nights with nights when you head out together. “Regularly socialising in medium-sized groups, when you can see your partner through the viewpoint of others, is vital for relationship health,” says Haltzman. “You have to bring your best self, and the more you both bring those parts out in public, the more you’ll also do it when you’re alone together.”
WHAT IT IS: You may not have similar numbers on your paychecks, but you’re on the same page when it comes to saving and splurging. WHY IT'S IMPORTANT: “Money can create the biggest rifts in relationships,” Walsh says. “It only grows worse when you have a bond or student loans to deal with.” SPOT IT: It’s no big deal who picks up the bill, and you’re cool if she pulls a larger salary than you do (or vice versa). You can also agree on most purchases – or at least agree to recognise that you have different spending styles, so she won’t ask (and you won’t tell) how much you actually spent on that flat screen. CULTIVATE IT: It may sound counterintuitive, but the first way to get on equal financial footing is to make sure money isn’t driving every date or decision. Dinner at home, a free concert or a camping weekend can allow you to see how well the relationship works without the distraction of expensive date nights. As you start to merge your cash, make sure you’re both open and forthcoming. “No one should be in the dark,” says Walsh.
WHAT IT IS: You speak the same language and have common cultural references, inside jokes and lingo that make it clear to any eavesdropper that you’re two are together. WHY IT'S IMPORTANT: Studies show that couples in close relationships match their conversations, using similar words. Called language-style matching, it can indicate how much you like each other. SPOT IT: You finish each other’s sentences correctly, says Dr James Pennebaker, a University of Texas at Austin psychologist who studies language and relationships. Also, you genuinely respond to the points she makes in emails and never have to ask her, “Who’s that again?” when she talks about someone from work. CULTIVATE IT: Early on in the relationship, start an inside joke, give her a nickname, and bring up the anecdotes she told you on your last date. Finally, listen instead of zoning out when she talks about her day. Ask lots questions, repeat names and be engaged in the story. “Paying close attention boosts language-style matching, but what it’s really doing is directly boosting liking,” Pennebaker says.
WHAT IT IS: If an electric spark seems to arc between the two of you and the only place you want to be is back in bed, then yes – you’ve gone beyond mere physical chemistry and on to sexual chemistry. WHY IT'S IMPORTANT: Without that spark, even the best bond devolves into a roommate or sibling-type relationship. SPOT IT: It’s the couples who can’t keep their hands off each other, the ones who are constantly touching and holding each other. “Attraction works like addiction,” Young says. “The formation of a bond between partners involves activation of the brain reward circuitry, the same part of the brain that cocaine acts on. And sex releases the reward activation chemicals that make her want you more.” In other words, the more sex you have, the more you want. CULTIVATE IT: “Sexual chemistry gradually decreases, but it doesn’t mean the relationship has gone bad or lost its spark,” says Dr Justin Lehmiller, a social psychologist at Harvard. The antidote is to be aware of this tapering effect and to launch a strong offence with plenty of novelty, which can add a dopamine infusion to the chemical cocktail released during sex. New positions, new places, new toys – these keep those can’t-get-enough chemicals pumping.