Most writers are wrong about sexual chemistry. Don’t look in biochemistry books, because what’s called sexual chemistry is actually an accident of matching sexual styles.
“Amazing sexual chemistry” is more than paying attention to your partner, feeling sexual attraction, sexual tension, keeping eye contact, walking hand in hand, or when you feel drawn to each other or have rhythmic body language. I’m going to argue that it’s more than when you have emotional connections or feel good.
In my years doing sex and couples therapy, the most difficult challenge is working with couples who fight because they simply can’t see things the same way. This is even more true when the subject is sex. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It starts with understanding that there’s more than one ‘reality…’
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Couples simply can’t see things the way their partner does, so they make something up. Unfortunately what they make up usually isn’t flattering to the other person. Often a person loses sexual desire. Sexual chemistry begins with respecting differences. In this brief post, I want to talk about one area where couples differ. And in this area, it seems to the couple that it is nearly impossible that they could reconcile those differences:
Yes, sex. Couples have different ‘sexual styles’ and as a result, start to have less and less pleasure in physical sharing.
One person likes a nice quiet room, to be relaxed, and close their eyes and focus in on the sensations. This is not sexual chemistry. It’s preference.
If you remember that old commercial, “Calgon, Take Me AWAY!”:
That’s the mentality of the style called “Trancers.” They like darkened rooms, quiet interactions, steady rhythms, not a lot of talking. They “groove” to sex in their own calm way.
Think of this song by Bobby Vinton, the “Polish Prince:”
You put those two together, and the latter says: “I love how your eyes close whenever you kiss me. I just love how you love me!” and the former (Trancer) says: “Can we just be quiet now and get into it?”
Sex is dramatic, with high self-esteem. All playfulness and creative, exhibitionistic, even. Sexual skills are valued. Novelty keeps things interesting.
“Sexy movies? Why sure! Sharing fantasies? Let’s start now... Watch me strip in front of this audience! Cool!”
This one, called “Role Enactor,” would really conflict together with the romantic Partner Engager who shouts:
“Why don’t you just love ME! Why do we need these outfits, movies, and sex in daring places!”
The Role Enactor shouts back:
“I do love you, but why do you have to be such a stick in the mud! You are so uptight!”
To get these couples to stop pathologizing, they have to understand that terms like “prude” or “nympho,” “objectifying” or “demanding” are hardly going to bring them to a better “mutual understanding.”
We might miss the fact, though, that neither of them will likely want to “negotiate.” Sexual chemistry doesn’t require conversation. It’s hidden somewhere in the Mythical Land of Groin.
Why? Because they don’t speak the same language. They don’t frame things the same way. Two behaviors are likely to be seen quite differently because each come from a different place, with different intentions when they do that particular act.
Picture the scene:
One says: “I want sex 3 times a week!”
The other says: “No, that’s too much! Once or twice a month is more than enough!”
Will this couple be satisfied with once a week sex?
Of course not.
For one, it will be way too infrequent, while for the other, it will be way too often.
And in sex, like in agreements about what kind of future the couple should work toward, it takes “two to tango,” at least for a mutually good time.
Negotiation won’t work.
So what will?
Dr. K is the President and CEO of Couples Therapy Inc. She maintains her Intensive Couples Therapy practice over the winter in Miami, Fl and the rest of the year in Boston and on the edge of the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts. She is a Gottman Certified Couples Therapist, has advanced training in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, and has been a AASECT board-certified sex therapist from 1982-2017. She continues her work in sex therapy.