Noted scientist Helen Fisher shows you how

Chemistry is more than just a metaphor for romantic compatibility. Brain chemicals really do play a role in determining to whom we are attracted and the strengths and tensions in our relationships.

My research has identified four main “love types” — Explorer, Builder, Director and Negotiator — based on whether the chemical dopamine, serotonin, testosterone or estrogen is dominant in a person’s brain. A little over a year ago, I reported in Bottom Line/Personal on some of my research. Here, more on how to make your relationships stronger by knowing your love type…


Each of us is a combination of all four types and may express any of the four styles depending on the situation. However, we tend to act according to one type most often. For clues to your love type, answer “yes” or “no” to the following questions…

1. I do things spur of the moment.

2. I have a wide range of interests.

3. I am more creative than most.

4. My friends and family would say that I have traditional values.

5. I think consistent routines keep life orderly and relaxing.

6. People should behave according to standards of proper conduct.

7. I am able to solve problems without letting emotion get in the way.

8. Debating is a good way to match my wits with others.

9. I am more analytical and logical than most people.

10. I like to get to know my friends’ deepest needs and feelings.

11. After an emotional film, I often still feel moved by it hours later.

12. When I wake from a vivid dream, I need a few seconds to return to reality.


If you answered “yes” to questions 1, 2 and 3, you probably are an Explorer. (Dopamine is dominant.)

Explorers love novelty, spontaneity, freedom and risk. They are curious, creative, offbeat, magnetic, flexible, optimistic and full of energy.

If you answered “yes” to questions 4, 5 and 6, you probably are a Builder. (Serotonin is dominant.)

Builders are guardians of tradition and respecters of authority. Cautious but not fearful, they prefer rules and routines and are comfortable with statistics and concrete details. They are calm, orderly, persistent, patient and frugal. Builders also are highly social — community-oriented, cooperative and loyal.

If you answered “yes” to questions 7, 8 and 9, you probably are a Director. (Testosterone is dominant.) Although testosterone is popularly thought of as a male hormone, Directors can be male or female.

Directors are decisive, exacting, competitive, ambitious and self-contained. They say what they mean. Logical and analytical, they excel in technical fields, such as engineering, computer sciences and mechanical repairs. Their focus tends to be narrow, but they go deeply into areas that interest them.

If you answered “yes” to questions 10, 11 and 12, you probably are a Negotiator. (Estrogen is dominant, but Negotiators can be female or male.)

Negotiators are big-picture thinkers — imaginative, open to possibility and comfortable with ambiguity. They are empathetic, intuitive, emotionally expressive and sensitive to others’ needs, as well as introspective and aware of their own internal processes. Negotiators are adept with words and have good people skills — they are agreeable and read tone and gesture well.

If you answered “yes” to questions in more than one category, choose the category in which you had the most “yes” answers. If there is a tie, you exhibit traits from all those categories.


Some love types are natural fits…

Explorer-Explorer. Explorers make ideal playmates for each other. They delight in spur-of-the-moment adventures and lusty sex. They don’t bicker over details or get on each other’s nerves.

Advice for Explorer-Explorer pairs: Be willing to set limits together — unrestrained Explorers can burn each other out. Because novelty is so appealing to Explorers, adultery is a danger. Both partners need the resolve to say a strong “no” to temptation.

Builder-Builder. Builders enjoy sharing family traditions and social networks. They make joint plans, stick to schedules and appreciate frugality.

Advice for Builder-Builder pairs: Because Builders believe that there is one right way to do things, stubbornness can be a problem — disagreements over trivial matters can lead to a stalemate. Builders need to work on letting go of the little things and focusing on their shared values.

Director-Negotiator. The see-all-sides Negotiator benefits from the Director’s decisiveness, while the demanding, analytical Director appreciates the Negotiator’s social skills. They have lively discussions — the Director’s depth of knowledge is complemented by the Negotiator’s contextual perspective.

Advice for Director-Negotiator pairs: When this couple argues, the Director is likely to fly off the handle and then quickly forget about the incident, while the Negotiator may nurse hurt feelings for years. A Director and Negotiator should agree on how they will deal with flare-ups — perhaps by going to separate rooms until tempers cool.

The Director needs to risk revealing deeper feelings to the Negotiator. And when the Negotiator needs something, he/she needs to say so.


These pairings are more challenging, but any pairing can work if partners make allowances for their differences…

Explorer-Builder. An Explorer can add stimulation to a Builder’s quiet life, while the Builder provides security. But over time, the Explorer may feel constrained and the Builder neglected.

Advice for Explorer-Builder pairs: Look for ways to combine adventure and stability.

Example: A trip with friends to a mountain lodge, where the Builder can socialize by the lake while the Explorer goes rock climbing.

Builder-Director. Both types are emotionally contained and value persistence, calm and order. However, both like to be in control, leading to potential conflict. Also, the Director’s boldness and self-reliance may clash with the Builder’s cautious nature.

Advice for Builder-Director pairs: Focus on mutual goals. The Director’s ambition, combined with the Builder’s planning skills and social network, can make for a comfortable home and stature in the community.

Explorer-Negotiator. Both are curious, imaginative and open-minded. Tensions stem from different expectations of intimacy. For the Explorer, intimacy means doing things together… talking helps the Negotiator feel close.

Advice for Explorer-Negotiator pairs: The Negotiator needs to recognize that fun can be bonding. The Explorer should practice looking the Negotiator in the face during conversations and make an effort to speak the language of emotions.

Example: The Explorer might tell stories about past adventures that include some speculation about how the experience changed him/her.

Director-Explorer. Both types are unconventional, inventive, irreverent and highly sexual — all areas of strong compatibility. But the Director spends long hours at work, while the Explorer is more interested in having a good time. The Director’s deep knowledge about a subject may seem obsessive to the Explorer. The Explorer’s broad interests and hedonism may strike the Director as superficial.

Advice for Director-Explorer pairs:Since neither is possessive, each can pursue his/her interests independently without worrying that the other will feel left out. But schedule shared activities to avoid drifting apart.

Builder-Negotiator. Both value strong, stable relationships. However, the Builder may be befuddled by the Negotiator’s emotionalism, and the Negotiator disappointed by the Builder’s lack of introspection and imagination.

Advice for Builder-Negotiator pairs: Make the most of commonalities — nurturing, nest-building, community ties.

Director-Director. Directors appreciate each other’s straightforward style, competence and drive. Directors don’t like to fail, which makes them willing to ride out difficulties.

Advice for Director-Director pairs: Beware of workaholism. Directors often don’t make time for each other, so put shared activities on the schedule and commit to them.

Negotiator-Negotiator. These couples are highly sensitive to each other’s feelings, have inspired conversations and go to great lengths to please each other. Yet they easily can become mired in analysis of the relationship and paralyzed by minor decisions.

Advice for Negotiator-Negotiator pairs: Set time limits on discussions of relationship dynamics.