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I Really Like This Girl But the Sexual Chemistry Is Off 

Dear Athena,

I'm sort of new to dating. I just came out of the closet a few years ago, and I haven't really had a serious relationship — until now. This girl I'm with is really cool and sexy and fun to be around. We've been hanging out more and more and I really like her, but unfortunately there isn't much sexual chemistry. Making out is so-so, and I feel nervous because this all feels so new. We haven't done much more than a bit of foreplay and I sort of stop at that because the chemistry is just off. Yet I really like her. Can this relationship work without a good sexual vibe? How can I relax and get more into it? Or should I just end it?

Sincerely,

Turned On and Off

Dear TO&O,

Chemistry can certainly be a spark that ignites the moment your lips first touch another's. It can be instant, unmistakable and almost impossible to resist. Those connections are exciting and gratifying. But so are the bonds that take a few strikes of the match to get going. Relationships that start slow often burn a little deeper and last longer, while the ones that start hot and heavy can fizzle quickly when you realize you don't really like each other all that much.

We're led to believe that every sexual encounter with our romantic partners should be amazing from the word go and forever after. But in fact they are often awkward or mediocre experiences that leave us wanting more. Some moments will be extraordinary, sure, but others, not so much. Still, that doesn't mean a relationship is doomed to fail. The sexual part of your relationship isn't figured out in one night or one kiss but over time and with exploration.

In addition to noting your own feelings, take note of your partner's — a relationship, including sex, is a two-way street. How does she feel? What turns her on? If you crave intimacy with her that's as stimulating as the rest of your partnership, you have to start with communication. When you feel the moment is right, talk with her about sex, and encourage her to share her fantasies. Show a keen interest in her whims and desires. Sometimes just talking about what you both like can be an aphrodisiac.

When you're willing to have an open and honest dialogue about what you want and invite your partner to do the same, you create a shared experience that feels safe and empowering. That can only lead to a positive, intimate relationship. I think "chemistry" can build with time and patience.

Remember, this partnership is very new; you're still learning about each other in every way. There are no rules about how this is "supposed" to go. Try to enjoy the newness and the unknown instead of fretting about what you don't know. You say you're nervous. Look for ways to be intimate with her outside of the bedroom: Flirt with her, grab her hand when you're walking together, sit a little closer on the couch, hold her a little bit longer when you say good night at the door. Show her affection, and take it slow. Chemistry can't be rushed or faked, but all these little steps just might result in a big reaction.

Yours,

Athena

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