The dynamics of Sexual Chemistry & Attraction


The dynamics of Sexual Chemistry & Attraction
Author: Paul DobranskyPerhaps one of the most voraciously read stories in everything from fiction to journalism are ones that let us live in the shoes of someone in love, or wonder how it is that they found love. From romance novels and films, to the self-improvement, wellness and the cosmetics industry, countless dollars are spent yearly in pursuit of learning about love, attracting a mate, or when all else fails, we at least want a second-hand experience in what we imagine a perfect romance would feel like. It might not be beyond the bounds of reality to consider something: that our curiosity surrounding the mysteries of love could transform – turning into real results in our lives – if we really focused down on something incredible that I am about to reveal to you. It might even save you a whole lot of money.
The real secret of attracting a mate isn’t really a single secret. It’s THREE. There are precisely three kinds of attraction, and if you understood these in detail, there would be no more confusion in your love life. You need ALL THREE to be operating in your romance if you want that kind of durable romantic relationship that makes you ecstatic to be alive, and more “in love” with just one person with each passing day.That goes for MEN, as well as for women. For example: It turns out that one of the most common problems I have helped women with for years is the natural confusion some women encounter about which of these three types of attraction they are experiencing with men. I suspect men are in the same boat, but are just too manly to talk to someone about solving the problem. (Which I guess makes it good that I am a man- women feel very comfortable coming to me because of my expertise and non judgmental, entertaining personality, and men feel comfortable asking me for advice just because I am an everyday sort of guy too, like them. )

The Three Types ofAttraction
1. Sexual Attraction
2. Emotional Attraction
3. Intellectual Attraction

People aren’t perfect, so we usually only have ONE or TWO of these online with our beloved at any given time. And THAT is what is causing much of the confusion in romance. They are NOT the same, and they are actually “housed” in three separate parts of the brain.

Sexual Attraction
This is the one that really gets us going. It is the source of much of the “magic” that people feel in relationships, and perhaps the hard science reason for that is that it is mediated by Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes us feel beyond a “feel-good” sensation. It is responsible for none other than ecstasy – the passion chemical dischaged in wonderful things such as good sex, but also in destructive things like addictions. It is ultimately what makes us feel passionate about anything, whether that be a romance, a drug addiction, an adventure travel experience, or the job of our dreams. Looking at such dramatic, poetic, philosophical things as love and soulmates has never struck me as a good fit to be talking about brain chemicals. That feels so sciency and sterile as compared to seing them in more pictorial, story,and even diagram form when I work with men and women at live seminars in Chicago. Besides, how practical can it possibly be to realize that someone makes you feel a rush of Dopamine. What are you going to do? Give yourself an injection of dopamine when you feel lonely? I don’t think so, and yet that’s kind of the equivalent of what people are doing when they use cocaine or some other street drugs. What if our minds worked like a very complex computer. Can you imagine that there would be “hardware,” like a processor and hard-disc-drive. There would also be “software,” which is a totally different thing about computers. Software actually makes computers USEFUL and PRACTICAL and EASY to understand – just point and click. Hardware is too complicated to understand and use in our daily lives. Well, think of Dopamine, Serotonin, Norepinephrine, and the gross anatomy there are located in, as being precisely like the “hardware” of our brains. Think of psychology, and methods of simply SYMBOLIZING it in picture form (which is what I have actually done for you in the mindOS theory in The Secret Psychology of How We Fall in Love) as precisely like the “software of the mind,” rather than the impractical “hardware of the brain. ” Good. If we look at sex and sexual attraction more in terms of a “software” way, romantic dilemmas become crystal clear, and what’s more, we can actually do something practical – in the real world, and normal language – when we think this way. To members of a branch of psychology, called Evolutionary Psychology, the mind can actually be divided into three major “software” units: the “Reptilian Brain,” the “Mammalian Brain,” and the “Higher Brain”

Guess what It turns out that we can literally see how useful it is to divide up the “Three Brains” into the very places that Sexual, Emotional, and Intellectual Attraction are taking place.
Sexual attraction is what is going on in the Reptilian Brain. This is where wefeel PASSION, or LUST, or DESIRE. It is the place where we are specifically MASCULINE or FEMININE, and these latter distinctions are called Gender Instincts. I can’t tell you how many thousands of times a man or woman has come to me telling me that they are “in love” when in strict, scientific terms, they are only in LUST. Someone who lusts after you or desires you is NOT necessarily in LOVE. Why? Because LOVE is literally housed in the software part of the brain called the Mammalian Brain. Love is “Emotional Attraction. ”

Emotional Attraction
Emotional Attraction is obviously the domain of the emotional parts of the brain. In “hardware” terms, these are the places where Serotonin, Norepinephrine, GABA, and other neurotransmitters operate. Once again, SO WHAT? These chemicals are not so valuable – or let’s say, practical – for us to know about if we want to solve love problems. The Mammalian Brain, as software, is the place in our minds where we feel good or bad emotions, which directly correlate with our level of SELF-ESTEEM. I have never known a chronically depressed person who had a very high self-esteem, and I have never known a durably high self-esteem person who ever got very depressed for very long. So emotion has everything to do with our self-esteem, and vice versa. We all know that high self-esteem is “attractive,” right? Literally. It is EMOTIONALLY attractive. I want you to think of all your dating relationships, your marriage, or any romantic attachment. I guarantee that the most emotionally satisfying relationships have an element of FRIENDSHIP, don’t they? Yes, in romance we want not just good sex (a lover), but we want friendship as well. Psychoanalysts call this state, “limerance,” a kind of fanciful daydreaming about a romance, which has both elements of passion, and raises your self-esteem too. You have formed a bond of friendship. Once again, the hardware folks will tell you about Oxytocin, a hormone neurotransmitter that appears to be involved in most human “bonding. ” But how practical is that? We can’t go around injecting people with Oxytocin to force them to be our friends. No, we all have to take TIME, and make efforts to form the bonds of friendship with people we are interested in. And THIS is the very reason that so many men and women confuse SEX with LOVE. Love exclusively operates in the Mammalian Brain’s “software” responsible for emotional connections, and the desire, lust, or sexual attraction of the Reptilian Brain is responsible for getting us to mate only, through the intense passion we feel. In other words, the common suspicion that it is impossible to be “in love” when merely a “one night stand” has taken place is scientifically on the mark. Someone who lusts after you does not love you, at least not until you both have taken your own sweet time to get the work of bonding in friendship in place. Friends “love” each other, and the exact process that is really going on in “real love” is simply this: we have somehow managed to RAISE EACH OTHERS SELF ESTEEM. Think about this. It is infallibly, always, and forever, true. Every time you knew that you knew that you knew you felt love, someone, somewhere had raised your sense of self-esteem. e. g. your mood became elevated. (Not impulsive “passion,”just to say you felt less depressed or anxious, and happier instead. ) Likewise, every time you felt someone was “a good friend,” they had managed to regularly raise your self-esteem, your mood felt “good. ” So in the book, I actually devised a scientific definition of friendship itself. Friendship is “consistent, mutual, shared positive emotion. ” If you look at every good friend or bad friend you have ever had, you will find that one of these four terms was missing about your relationship. Get it? So passion and love are two different things in two different parts of the brain. If we have both, then we have a person in our lives who is both LOVER and FRIEND. Good.

Intellectual Attraction
The third “software” of the brain, Evolutionary Psychologists call the “Higher Brain. ” This is mainly housed in the “hardware” we call the Cerebral Cortex. But I don’t care about hardware in working with you today. I want you to have practical results in your life. Our “intellect” in the Higher Brain – our ability to reason,to have logic, to make wise choices, to set limits on others and understand our rights, responsibilities and ultimately, our unique identity as individuals – is all operating in this part of the mind. This part of the mind helps us to communicate, negotiate, compromise, and team up with a romantic partner in what has been called COMMITMENT. We can not commit to each other, and be a reliable teammate and partner in life if we do not understand how to use this part of the mind. Since this is where logic and rationality reside, does it make sense to you to know how matters of the heart sometimes do not make any sense, how they literally “defy logic”? How people can be “crazy in love” and have “love sickness” It’s because LOVE is NOT located in the part of the mind where LOGIC works. Have you ever been PASSIONATELY involved with someone to a degree where you seemed to think “crazy thoughts” and do “crazy things” This is why. Passion, lust and desire are in the Reptilian Brain, where sexual attraction exclusively takes place. Logic, reason and wisdom are exclusively located in the Higher Brain of the Cerebral Cortex, where partnership,teamwork and commitment help us build a logical, rational, wise life. Sexual Attraction is NOT A CONSCIOUS DECISION. It is none other than a REFLEX, a Gender Instinct. So there it is. If you start looking at each and every romance or date you have ever had, or any you have in the future – if you look at your marriage too this way – you will quickly, precisely see what went wrong, what could go wrong, and exactly what to do to fix it.

We ideally need and want a romance that is with a Lover, a Friend, and a Partner all in one, a person to whom we feel Sexual, Emotional, an Intellectual Attraction of “all three brains.” When we find that, there is never a need or urge to cheat, betray, or regret what “might havebeen. ” My goal for you is to find that – a solid love, passion, partnership, a romance with no regrets. It is far easier than you would think. All you need to do is think smart from the very first moments of meeting. Then keep your eyes open from there.

THE FOLLOW-UP DISCUSSION AMONG 30-SOMETHING GOOD FRIENDS (1 guy vs 4 gals, all pretty techie)

Here’s that article I was talking about.  Nara was right, “emotion” was the third factor.  It’s a good read.  A lot more geeky/technical than I remembered, but it makes good sense to me. [[link discontinued but see article above]]

What do you think?



Thanks for sharing Jo. very insightful…actually we all know it already but it was very helpful how the author put things in perspective.this paragraph summed it all up for me:

“We ideally need and want a romance that is with a Lover, a Friend, and a Partner all in one, a person to whom we feel Sexual, Emotional, an Intellectual Attraction of “all three brains.” When we find that, there is never a need or urge to cheat, betray, or regret what “might have been.”

good read 🙂


I read it a couple of times. Looks like finding someone with all three attributes is an important way to avoid cheating or being cheated on. Good article Jo! 🙂
I wonder if there is a rule for the right ranking …- Suzy
Please excuse Suzy. She has spent days in employee reviews, and now sees everything in terms of ranking. 😛
I’m not sure what ranking would mean here. It says you need all three for a truly successful relationship. I’m not sure you can say that one is more important than the other. If one is missing, the relationship won’t last, so therefore all three have the same ranking – Pri 1! If you want to measure the value of one destined-to-fail relationship to another, then yes, we can rank them. Maybe relationships with strong sexual attraction and no emotional never last as long as ones where the opposite is true. But this is silly talk – who’s interested in thinking about relationships that are destined to fail?(Totally guessing here since I’m not a psychologist) What you may be able to say is, given your relationship with a given person, which of the three is strongest, medium and weakest in a relative sense. And that, I think, is more a reflection of what you value or need most (e.g. do you crave sexual connection more than emotional?) than a statement of the actual intensity of that particular attraction. Because the attraction is either there or it isn’t. I don’t think you can say, for example, that you are only somewhat sexually attracted to someone. That person either fulfills you or they don’t.And that’s my love advice for the day…
I understand that all three attributes are important, but just like Air, Food and Water are essentials for human beings, we can only go without air for less than 4min and we can (maybe) go without water for 2 days, food for 4 days Thus, we rank these three important items in this order air, water and food. This leads to my question above…- Suzy
Who ranks them that way? And why? They are all equally important.If the conversation is “what do I need to live” then the answer is simple: “you need all three”.

If the conversation is “I know I’m going to die, but give me the one that will let me live the longest” then the answer would be: “air”. My point above is that’s not a very interesting conversation. Because we all want to live, don’t we?

Similarly, we all want successful relationships. So we need all three levels of attractiveness. No one’s thinking “I want a six month fling. Which of the three attributes will guarantee my relationship lasts that long?”

In Microsoft speak, these are all Pri-0 Must features. Look at Lync: “send IM” , “receive IM”, and “see contact name” are all must have features. You can’t really rank them, because you can’t ship with one of them missing.


Agree with Jo on – it’s difficult to rank them and also not even necessaryAgree with Suzy on – although 3 are important, practically impossible to achieve all the three perfectly. So you can still technically rank it to some extent.

In my opinion sexual attraction/chemistry is extremely natural and you cannot really ‘create’ it. It’s either there or isn’t. But mental or emotional connection you can work on to some extent (although this isnt true if 2 people have absolutely no mental/emotional connection to begin with)

So if both can relate to each other to an extent and if both are willing to learn more about each other, what they do, how they feel …….try to listen, learn and compromise – they can improve their mental or emotional connection (although it will never be as ideal as the natural connection where you just know that he/she is perfect for you almost as soon as you meet).

So if i had to rank: I’d go definitely with sexual first and then emotional, followed by mental. This doesn’t mean i’d ever go for a relationship in the absence of the latter 2 (just ranking…aye)

but ideally, EVERYONE would love to have the three and in equal amounts too…let’s just hope we all find the three :-))

ps; carole, we need your insightful opinion 😉

– Nara

1 guy and 3 girls in a conversation on love. My chances look grim. Assuming the fetal position,- Jo
This is no argument my dear…merely a discussion :)- Nara
Ahah thanks for sharing Nara, sorry i have no insightful opinion. Ideally you have all 3 but the author itself mentionned you never hve all 3 at the same time.I think it is difficult to keep the sexual attraction after long term relationship. It is also difficult to keep the intellectual connection when you meet too young because you intellectually evolve very differently most of the time.

Friendship seems the safest value to bet on. But need work and trust on both side.

Finding a business partner is the same quest excluding the sexual attraction.

I believe if you have intellectual conneciton, friendship feeling come easily.
If you are friend with someone (and friend has so muuuch different meanings!), the intellectual connection is not that obvious.

So my strategy will be:
– find someone i find cute (at least a 5 on a scale of 10)
– check we have the intellectual connection (should be fast to tell)
– take me time to know him better and become friend, little by little, give and take away.

Anyother good read is Why men marry bitches :-0
no kidding 🙂

– Carole

I think they are all equally important to the survival of long term relationships. But each has a different level of urgency.If i want the relationship to last at least 10 years, I need all three.
If i want it to last for 2 or 3 years, emotional and sexual chemistry have to be there.
If I’m living in the moment, then sexual chemistry is all i care. Actually, i still want emotional chemistry. Yeah, I’m a girl.

We all have to start from somewhere. I and many others easily go from sexual and emotional level, then proceed to intellectual level as I’m human, led by scents, sights and easily swayed unconsciously.

I see a lot of relationships fail right before it reaches the third level or stagnate for a long time in the first two levels yet refuse to give up. The couple became lovers and friends but somehow couldn’t make it last. Later in a relationship, passion and sexual drives become more flat and logic kicks in. If the two can’t intellectually stimulate each other and partner up as a stronger team in day to day life, then there is nothing exciting left. But most people are too reluctant to admit that the other half is not a fit partner for life because their heads are buried in chemical high or stuck in a loss aversion mentality.

So in this light, i should start from the intellectual level first, in order not to waste my time. I agree with Carole, you can easily tell if the person and you has intellectual connection at the beginning of the relationship when your head is not clouded yet by too many chemicals. If there is green light on the intellectual side, I can then safely proceed to emotional and sexual level. Even if the other two factors don’t work out, you can still land yourself a friend. Rather than the other way around, where you got nothing out of it but a good lesson.

What do you all think?


I think the challenge will be not letting the sexual attraction get in the way while you try to evaluate the others. Sexual attraction is a very low-level, pheromone-driven, subconscious thing. More power to you if you can control it. I think we’ve all said some pretty wise things here. Between the four of us we can run our own love advice column. HahahaCheers,
Here is my twist of this scenario. As I said earlier we all know these three elements are essentials, like in our daily like we need Air, Water and Food. However in the case of ‘survival’ (temporary condition), say you are stranded in an island because of your plane crashed, or get lost hiking etc. then the ranking plays its role. That’s why I listed the FACT that leads to the human-being survival ranking, a human being can’t go without air for more than 4 min, water more than 2 days and food for more than 4 days. So to survive in the wilderness – we should prioritize for getting ourselves dehydrated until we can find food. Again I acknowledge that these three are essentials in our daily life, but in the case of survival, which one we should prioritize higher temporarily till we can find all the three essentials again. Thus, from the article below, which one is our air or water?Here is a scenario; A couple HAS these three essential factors in their current relationship. It has been Great!! Somehow, a condition change which leads them to a ‘relationship survival’ mode. For example: one of them wants to pursue a higher education (PhD) in a different city. Both agree that’s he/she should pursue this dream opportunity but after several months, because of one reason or another, this has made the relationship goes to a survival mode (in the paragraph above, I use the example of the plane crashed and you are stranded in an island or you are ‘getting lost in the wilderness’ from hiking. Again this is temporary condition, but can also be ‘Fatal’, if we make wrong choices.

What does this ‘couple’ need to do to ‘survive’? Will 4yrs go without sex is a better choice than having a relationship without emotional/intellectual? I’m asking because this ‘rank’ will impact on how this couple will survive this temporary condition, before they are back to their default situation where they can have all of those three essential items again.

– Suzy

I see what you’re saying. It makes sense. The one thing I would say to your example scenario is that it’s a slightly different spin that takes us down a different conversation. I read your scenario as the couple still have sexual attraction, they never lost it, but because of distance can’t meet their sexual needs. And that becomes more of a conversation about the viability of long distance relationships.I would argue that distance does not by itself decrease sexual attraction to someone, or emotional and intellectual for that matter. But other factors do come into play that put strain on the relationship and may in the end impact attractiveness. Like the notion of “out of sight, out of mind” and the immediate needs (e.g. sex drive) of the individuals. This is why I’m a pretty firm non-believer in long distance relationships.


About Carole (code name 烤肉)

I work in tech since 2008, moved from Reunion island to Paris, Beijing, San Francisco and ended up in Berlin in 2014.
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