The dramatic variations in how people view spark/chemistry

My dramatic misunderstandings of spark/chemistry

My first misconception about chemistry was that it was always mutual. Somehow I managed to hold onto this belief into my late 20s. I now know it’s definitely not always mutual but I still find it a little strange as it can feel like a physical thing: like when static causes your hair to stand on end. I suppose it’s one of the reasons people so easily get carried away and sometimes even ask ‘didn’t you feel it too? I thought you did.’

Not only that, but I also discovered not everyone views spark and chemistry in the same way – at all. An ex of mine called chemistry ‘a bond’, which I found odd, and on Quora etc. I’ve seen it described as ‘intrigue/wanting to know more’, ‘imagining someone naked and feeling fluttery’, ‘child-like excitement about seeing the person’, ‘the urge to touch and kiss a person’, ‘a romantic attraction’ and ‘feeling understood’. I personally call spark the urge to touch and kiss someone and chemistry the excitement and electricity that I occasionally feel when kissing someone, usually someone I’ve liked for a while. But most people consider ‘spark’ and ‘chemistry’ as interchangeable.

The most obvious meaning of ‘spark’ or ‘chemistry’ is a physical feeling like electricity. Photo by Everton Vila on Unsplash.


What causes spark/chemistry?

Now, this is an area of some debate. Some scientists claim pheromones – chemicals we release and can subconsciously smell – may have some influence on our experience of spark or chemistry, but it’s not entirely clear how that works or how much is due to that [1]. Many articles present it as the only factor but that doesn’t explain why it’s often not mutual.

Others see spark/chemistry as a complete mystery, while others believe chemistry can be created and is quite situational. The latter fits with my experience as I’ve felt it develop more around people who are a bit flirty with me, and in situations where I’m often physically close to someone, as well as developing over time when I feel someone would be a great match for me, and suddenly start seeing them in a more sexual light.

How long should we give it to develop?

A friend of mine says she can evaluate whether or not she feels a spark for someone immediately on meeting them. For me, that has hardly ever been the case and the more usual scenario is that I feel it a few weeks after getting to know someone. But it can even be years on in a friendship. That has happened to me several times and it feels no different to if it had been immediate. So, presumably we’re all different in this respect. According to one study, a quarter of singles don’t expect to feel chemistry until the second date, and a third don’t expect to see that spark until three dates in − or more [2].

Not many people expect to feel like this on a first date. Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash.


Fifty-three percent of singles in a survey said they would be prepared to go on a second date with someone they initially felt no chemistry with to see if the person ‘grew’ on them [3]. And this approach is recommended by most of the online dating coaches I found [4]. Some recommend two dates, some three, and some even say giving someone a chance on six dates is a good idea [ref]. But if you’ve been in the dating game many years and have never felt chemistry develop after the first date, you might understandably ignore that advice (I may still refer to you as a fussy ****** though!).

Can I create chemistry?

Potentially, yes. There is a consensus on advice I found online on this topic. Tease a little, playfully, make suggestive remarks, use brief light touch to the arm/back/shoulder/hand and make a little eye contact with a teasing look. Stop if your love interest looks uncomfortable or doesn’t seem to be flirting back. Signs of encouragement may include leaning towards you, touching you too, suggestive comments etc and if it’s going well maybe even follow up with a kiss on the cheek. Don’t worry if you’re too shy for most of that though: there are women who will love your shyness and who run a mile from the confident ‘pick-up’ type guys!

Maybe offer a massage and, if it’s accepted, include a few light tracing touches along with the regular massaging. Touch is important as some people won’t feel chemistry until there is touch [5].

Pick up on flirtation coming your way and try to reciprocate it and show it is appreciated. Take it easy on compliments and being ‘too nice’ by trying to be constantly accommodating: this de-values your worth and reduces excitement.

Consider activity-based dates rather than going to coffeeshops/bars/restaurants. Some people never feel spark in such places [6].

One writer recommends six intimate dates and actively doing things that could create chemistry e.g. active dates, creating nice-smelling environments, doing something totally new, trying out different locations etc. [7]

Finally, if it’s going well and playful touch has been reciprocated, don’t take too long to go in for a kiss!

Obviously, don’t go for a kiss (even a kiss on the cheek) if the object of your affections isn’t showing any signs of flirting with you and be even more careful if the person works with you, to avoid getting into trouble for inappropriate behaviour (or causing someone who can’t avoid you to feel uncomfortable!).

Some situations can help chemistry to develop. Photo by Morgan Sessions on Unsplash.


He/she says I’m attractive and a great person but there’s no spark

Probably not worth arguing with the person or sending them a link to this post. You could briefly try being flirtier but if that doesn’t get them to change their mind, move on. In any case, they may have used it as a polite excuse rather than pointing out what it is about you that turns them off.

As Dumpling girl on the Plenty of Fish forum says to a guy who was told ‘there was no spark’: ‘She wanted to let you know that she recognizes that you [are a] physically and otherwise attractive person. But not everyone is going to be attracted to everyone. It doesn’t really matter why. What matters is that it’s not there, and you can’t (and she can’t) force it to be there. You shouldn’t think of yourself as any less attractive because she in particular isn’t attracted to you.’ [8]

Women may be fussier than men about spark. Men are 80 percent more likely than women to go on a date with someone they don’t yet feel a connection with [9]. Some men don’t seem to know what ‘spark’ means and seem more likely to ask about it online.

If someone’s told you there’s no spark, take consolation in what one member of Not Alone wrote: ‘ i went out with a guy who was VERY handsome, VERY intelligent, kind, funny, hardworking, and all that jazz. but ya knwo what, i just wasnt feeling it like “that”. on paper it was a match made in heaven, but it wasnt what my heart wanted.’ [sic] [9]

If someone says there is no spark, it’s probably not worth pursuing them much further. Photo by Abo Ngalonkulu on Unsplash.



A few other interesting comments I found

Being realistic

‘what you should and should not experience with a romantic partner: a basic level of personal and physical chemistry, a realistic view on that person’s strengths and weaknesses, and a belief that although you’ve been more wildly attracted to other people before, you’ve never had a better relationship in your entire life. That’s why you lock it in.’ [10]

Four types of reaction

Another writer describes four types of reaction to someone: 1. heart and mind (friendship) 2. mind and body (friend-with-benefits type interest) 3. heart and body (short passion) 4. heart, mind and body (good relationship potential). She recommends avoiding number 3 and warns that with number 2, someone often gets hurt. [11]

No spark after four dates: time to stop?

I read a large number of Quora responses to this question. Most said yes, if there’s no spark there probably never will be. But a few said it’s not like that for them.

What about you?

I’d love to hear about your experiences: what is spark/chemistry for you? When do you usually feel it? Do you think it can be created?

References and related links

[5] see [2]
[8] see [6]
[9] see [3]

Don’t focus on my impairment, ask me what I can bring to the role — Scope’s Blog

After graduating from university, Lauren embarked on a long and difficult journey to find a job. In support of our new campaign, Work With Me, she spoke to us about the barriers she faced and gives some advice to disabled people who are still searching for a job. When I graduated with a good degree and […]

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