No Fireworks? How To Kick Up The Chemistry
By Erika Rasmusson Janes
When you’re in a new relationship with someone you like, it’s easy to assume that things will get red-hot without much effort. But what if the only fireworks in your and your new flame’s future are the ones you plan to watch this 4th of July? When everything else in a relationship is right but the attraction is more ho-hum than hot, there are things you can try before calling it quits. While chemistry is important, feeling love (or lust) at first sight isn’t a realistic gauge of a relationship’s success, says Julie Ferman, founder of Cupid’s Coach, a personal introduction service in Southern California. “It takes time to develop a history and a sense of comfort together,” she says. “Don’t expect the roof to blow off the restaurant on the first date.” So try kicking things up a notch with these tips:
1. Ditch the diner
Unless you and your new honey are passionate foodies, forget the standard dinner date—where more heat may be generated by your bisque than your banter. Even a cozy dinner at an intimate bistro isn’t the best way to spice things up, Ferman says. The reason? “Dinner with a [near] stranger can feel staged and awkward.”
How to fan the flames: Plan dates around activities you both love. That could be anything from taking your dogs for a walk to taking a cooking class together (talk about heat!). “Engage in activities that are naturally fun for both of you,” Ferman says. When you’re having fun, you’re more likely to feel confident and at ease—and that’s sexy. Rob Davis, a Minneapolis-based marketing director, had gone on a handful of dates with a woman with whom he wasn’t “completely clicking” when he noticed some travel books in her apartment and asked her about them. “We sat down and went through several books, exchanging stories of adventure and foreign locales,” he says. “The next weekend we went on a two-day trip to Minnesota’s North Shore.” Now, several months later, they’re clicking as a couple—and still traveling.
2. Listen up
When people are nervous (and who isn’t in a new relationship?), they’re often too worried about whether they have salad stuck in their teeth to actually listen to their date. “That’s part of why people aren’t connecting on those first dates,” Ferman says. “They’re stuck in their own thoughts,” wondering how they are being perceived.
How to fan the flames: Be other-focused. Lisa Daily, author of Stop Getting Dumped!, recommends avoiding the same old boring questions. “By the time someone has asked you what you do for a living 34 times, it’s pretty stale,” she says. A better course of conversation: “Ask questions that are fun and unusual, but not bizarre,” she says. (For example, “What would your best friend say about you?” is good. Asking anything about sex, like “Have you ever had a threesome?” is bad!)
3. Laugh a little
“Don’t take yourself or your date so seriously,” says Debbie Mandel, author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul. “Cultivate an eye for humor, be playful, and watch the sparks fly.”
How to fan the flames: Humor is a terrific stress-reliever, so book a date at your local comedy club, see the circus or catch a funny movie. When we laugh we let our guards down and feel playful, “and to get the chemistry going, you have to be playful,” Mandel says. “It’s hard to let chemistry flow when you’re trying to present yourself in a certain way and you’re not being natural.” An added bonus: People look more attractive when they smile.
4. Put away your pictures
“Often, when the chemistry thing isn’t present early on in a relationship, it's because one person or the other is comparing this new prospect with the ‘picture in the mind’ that they have of their ideal mate,” Ferman says.
How to fan the flames: “Allow for the very real possibility that Prince (or Princess) Charming just might show up on an unfamiliar horse!” Ferman says. Rather than focusing on what’s “wrong” about the person — they’re short, not blonde, etc. — focus on the qualities that you admire. “Challenge yourself to notice and comment on those features you find lovely—a warm smile, a fresh manicure or trimmed beard, or the person’s unique sense of style,” Ferman says. “Then offer a sincere compliment and watch the chemistry level instantly rise.”
5. Sweat the small stuff
We’re talking exercise here, which Mandel says increases testosterone levels in both men and women and in turn increases libido. “And how convenient for your love object to be there sweating with you,” she adds.
How to fan the flames: Consider a workout you can truly do together, like a couple’s yoga class or a weightlifting session where you “spot” each other. Costa Mesa, CA-based Jason Jepson exercises three times a week with his girlfriend of six months, doing everything from kayaking to taking a joint scuba-diving lesson. “Working out kicks it up a notch for many reasons,” he says. “But the best is that you get to see each other excel and help each other achieve goals.” Another bonus: “When you care for your body, you are much more inclined to care for the person you are with and be more comfortable within your own skin.”
6. Make contact
Small physical gestures can have a big impact on how you feel about your mate. “Locking eyes with someone transmits a powerful sexual energy which, when returned, seals the deal,” says Mandel. “It’s a powerful trigger. Holding hands, particularly without speaking, transmits warmth, receptiveness and connection.
How to fan the flames: It’s simple: Make eye contact and grab your date’s hand whenever you have the chance.
Erika Rasmusson Janes is a New York-based freelance writer and editor.
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