Relationship Chemistry: What it is and What It Could Be

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When we meet someone, there can be that sudden overwhelming spark. Our heart rate picks up, our energy spikes, butterflies in the stomach and sweaty palms can occur.

I have written about chemistry sometimes being our subconscious reaction to meeting someone who triggers memories and reactions from our past. We learn love from our experiences in our first five years, and while they aren’t hard-wired into our brains yet, the early triggers do hide deep in neuropathways and jump out at us unexpectedly. If our experiences were primarily positive then this chemistry can be a forerunner to healthy interaction. If we grew up in chaos or trauma, then our triggers are not so healthy emotionally, and could mean we are reenacting a pattern.

Check right now. Think of everyone you have had strong chemistry with. Is there any type of relationship pattern? Are there similarities in the people to whom you’re attracted? Are these healthy or unhealthy patterns? Recognizing unhealthy patterns can help us change them.

This article however is about biological chemistry and pure sexual chemistry. Later I will write on how to build on that chemistry to create strong relationships.

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Hey! You smell good!

One small study indicates that for women, there is an equation to smell and attraction. Other scientists believe human pheromones are not produced or released in the same way as those of insects and animals. We do not have the working vomeronasal organ within our noses, as do animals, which connect to the hypothalamus. Fetuses have them in the womb, but then the organ atrophies. So, if we are picking up pheromones, as the one study indicates, it is through our normal nasal function. A study published in Respirology in January 2016 found that erectile tissue in women’s noses swelled when exposed to a progesterone derivative called AND. Who knew our noses act like penises and nipples? I guess those scientists did. So that, and olfactory memory, may be why we can be instantly attracted to or repulsed by someone wearing a cologne that a former partner wore, and why the sweat smell of one partner is enticing while that of another is repelling. Maybe smells are indicators of good health, which is imperative for the success of the species.

MHC represents major histocompatibility complex. It is a marker of genetic similarity and dissimilarity. This can be detected through smell. Women who are not on hormonal contraceptives are attracted to men who do NOT have similar MHC. Women on birth control are more attracted to men with similar MHC. Scientists believe this helps guarantee offspring with diverse characteristics who are therefore more likely to survive. The lack of attraction of ovulating women to men with similar MHC prevents “inbreeding.”

OMG Becky! Look at those child-bearing hips!

In another post I wrote about why we see other people who are potential sex and romantic partners as objects early on. Please read that article for more on Object Relations. For our purposes here, what is important is the numerous studies that indicate people are attracted to others who look like they are healthy and able to produce and protect healthy offspring. This is so hard-wired into our biological selves that it continues to hold true even past our child-bearing years. In spite of what you might think based on the preponderance of extremely thin actresses and models, studies show that most men of all ethnicities are attracted to women with wider hips and smaller waists, highlighting those hips.

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Apparently biology lays the groundwork for relationship. People are still drawn to one another, though, even when physical aging sets in. That is partly because older people now are staying physically strong and attractive. But, as the “smell” studies indicate, there is more to attraction than the visual. And what about the attraction between male to male and female to female? Since that isn’t directly related to reproduction, so what is it based on?

I believe it is still based on survival of the species. Same sex couples are still drawn to each other for characteristics that help raise children. Remember, in our anthropological past, it really DID take a village. In some human gatherings strong women were as prized as strong men for survival tasks. Caring men were capable of nurturing children and protecting them while others were out hunting or gathering. Perhaps all attraction is actually the outgrowth of developing communities where people could cooperate, reproduce, and protect. Simply an assurance that the species will continue.

But then, what of romance? Ah. that is another article.

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