Chemistry (and conflict style) works... or it doesn’t
Malcolm Gladwell devoted an entire chapter of his book Blink to John Gottman’s love lab. Gottman, having spent his career studying dynamics of marriage and relationships, could watch a couple interact for 15 minutes (without listening to the contents of the conversation) and determine whether they'd be together for the long haul. Gottman cited conflict resolution as the biggest predictor of success -- mainly because how we handle stress is almost impossible to change. It follows logic that a peace-loving hemp wearer might solve problems effectively and positively with a cerebral but expressive poli-sci guy.
Just like sexual chemistry, you either have conflict chemistry or you don't. The faster you deal with a problem at hand, the faster you can make a call on the overall quality of relationship. For a great example of this, watch Aziz Ansari turn a slightly tipsy Plan B run into an opportunity to buy someone a Martinelli’s, the greatest apple juice ever, on Master of None. That’s how you get that 5:1 ratio started.
Our love centers are separate, but connected
One of the most interesting things to come out of Dr. Fisher’s research is a better understanding of how love takes up residence in the brain. Before scanning the brains of old and new couples in love, it was assumed that love lived in just one part of the brain. Fisher discovered that different sections of our brain control different relationship feelings, desires, and behaviors. “The sex drive predisposes you to seek a range of mating partners,” Fisher writes. “Romantic love enables you to focus your mating energy on a single individual at a time; and feelings of attachment incline you to form a pair-bond at least through the infancy of a single child.” Everything after that is a matter of attachments born of real life, challenges, conflict, and how the couple handles adversity together.
Fisher recently argued that casual sex actually improves the quality of some marriages by way of what she has named “slow love,” or the way couples form deep attachments after experiencing life's emotional ups and downs. The thing that keeps them together while they form it? Great sex, of course.
Take-away advice: sex won't ruin anything
Unless your date has some guilt issues around sex in general, chances are good going home with him or her won't harm your sense of self or chance at true love. The release of feel-good endorphins and oxytocin might wake both of your love centers into sudden romantic awareness of each other, assuming you share a positive perception of casual sex and follow what your hearts (and hormones) are telling you to do. Fisher says we're programed to have sex before falling in love slowly; and emerging research tells us Millenials are more willing to take their sexual chemistry for a test drive, like, yesterday. What matters in the end is the same thing that has always mattered: meeting the right person.
Just ask Mark and Linda, or maybe their healthy, happy 10-year-old son.
*Names have been changed.
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Sarah Murrell is a food and sex writer living in Indianapolis. She also edits The Sensualist. Channel her sarcastic sensuality on Twitter: @likesquirrel317