Can You Create Sexual Chemistry If It’s Not There?

You’re on a date with a really great guy. He’s smart, sweet, funny, and just your type. You almost can’t believe how perfect he is…until you hook up. No butterflies, no goose bumps, nothing. You completely fall flat. This guy who’s so good on paper just can’t seem to fire you up in the bedroom.

“Chemistry is complicated,” says Bat Sheva Marcus, Ph.D., founder of the Medical Center for Female Sexuality in New York. “It’s not binary. Chemistry is much more gradient than that.”

So if it can’t be turned on or off like a light switch, how can you at least nudge yourself toward a spark? Here are a few expert-suggested strategies.

1. Work Up a Sweat
One surefire way to boost your sexual chemistry? Exercising together. A heart-pumping workout can increase blood flow, oxygenate your blood, and release feel-good endorphins, says clinical sexologist Patti Britton, Ph.D. As a result, you’ll feel more excited and alive and also build some healthy self-esteem. To do this in a subtle way, plan on a more active date, like rock climbing or dancing.

2. Imagine He’s Hard to Get
The power of a perceived obstacle can be really strong, says Britton, referencing the work of noted sex therapist Jack Morin, Ph.D., who created a formula for enhancing sexual chemistry called the erotic equation: E = A + PO (Excitement = Attraction + Perceived Obstacle).

Here’s how that translates into plain English: If your guy is just too nice and available, try to imagine something standing between the two of you. Suggest he take a weekend to hang out with his buddies, then think about how much you wish you could see him. Find out when he’s taking a business trip, and then wait until he’s away and out of reach to send him yearning text messages. It might just help turn up the heat in your sex life. “We want what we can’t have,” says Britton.

3. Make Fantasies Work in Your Favor
It’s pretty common to be dating a good guy but be turned on by bad guys. That doesn’t mean you can’t at least mentally picture yourself with a Shawn Hunter if you’re dating a Cory Matthews, though. “I’m a big believer in fantasy,” says Marcus. “If you’re with Mr. Nice Guy and you want to be tied up by three men, let your head go there.” And you shouldn’t feel guilty about it—you’re willfully choosing to be intimate with this person, even if your mind may wander elsewhere. It’s perfectly normal.

Depending upon how open you are with your partner, you can also share your sexual fantasies with each other and even bring porn or erotic talk into the bedroom, says Ava Cadell, Ph.D., founder of and author of NeuroLoveology.

4. Experiment with Different Locations
If you’ve fooled around at your place and it felt like kissing your brother, try his apartment or house to see if the results are any better. The change of scenery may ignite something that wasn’t quite catching beforehand. If you’re feeling adventurous, Marcus recommends trying somewhere totally new, like the back of a movie theatre. “Different places can bring out different parts of people,” she says.

Britton also encourages adding an element of surprise to up the hot factor. Buy tickets to a sex show or bring him to a Latin dance club—anything out of the norm for you.

5. Add Some Aroma
“What a lot of people don’t realize is the strongest of all our senses is smell,” says Cadell. “If you really want to create lasting chemistry, you have to find out what your favorite aromas are.” Set the scene with your favorite flowers or perfume, and you’re more likely to be seduced. This also works with food fragrances, like licorice or banana bread for many women and vanilla or cinnamon for most men.

6. Keep Trying…Up to a Point
Keep in mind that if you have a very “one and done” attitude about sexual chemistry, you may not be giving yourself enough time to really figure out whether there’s anything there. One unfulfilling night can be a fluke. It could have something to do with your mood or even what you ate that day, says psychosexual therapist Sara Nasserzadeh, Ph.D. But if you get busy with a guy a bunch of times and it still doesn’t satisfy you, you may never achieve good chemistry with him. “Don’t linger if you feel like it’s not there,” she says. “Trust your instincts.”

But where is that line between not giving a guy a chance and hanging on too long? Marcus suggests being intimate with someone at least six times before calling it quits. “And if you feel like the spark is just not there, either decide you can live without the spark or just move on,” she says

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