Finding Passion – Part 1


passion

My post from last week on Can Guys and Girls Just be Friends has received a surprising level of response. Since statistics show around 40% of men and 30% of women will have affairs, I suppose it shouldn’t be that surprising.

I thought I was finished with this topic, but comments and emails from readers have led me to explore something I’ve only touched on a bit in the past – the loss of passion in long term relationship.

I believe that more than anything, loss of passion is THE leading contributor to both affairs and divorce. Statistics are clear, many marriages or long term relationships fail. What statistics don’t show is that many of those that “succeed” aren’t really happy relationships – or at least not as happy as they could be.

Some people accept that this is just natural, and tell themselves maybe this is what marriage really is. Or they decide it is better than the alternative of being alone. So they emotionally disconnect and become roommates who live parallel lives, each person doing their own thing with maybe the occasional “duty sex” thrown in once in a while.

Other people ask themselves, is this all life is? Is this what marriage is really about? It seems obvious that the answer is no. That isn’t what anyone expected when they agreed to “in good times and in bad”. Unfortunately although this loss of passion happens gradually, once it has happened it can seem hopeless to get out.

Living parallel lives is one way to deal with the pain, but ultimately that will lead to an affair, divorce, or acceptance of an unhappy existence. That pain does not go away though. It gnaws away at you, and will start to permeate all aspects of your life. One reader described it to me as follows:

Nothing is more painful than a broken relationship. Nothing is more painful than feeling love for the person sitting next to you, and feeling nothing in return. Knowing they are right there, but they are a million miles away.

Affairs allow someone to feel as though they have reignited the passion, and allow the person to convince themselves that yes, it WAS the relationship that was the problem (after all, they can feel passion for someone else, right?). But all the evidence shows that after a year or two the passion in the new relationship fades and the person is back in the same exact spot.

Divorce is another way out, but it is also a way of blaming the relationship. And like affairs, there is no guarantee that any future relationship will be any better.

Short of things like physical and emotional abuse it seems clear that improving the current relationship is the best option if possible – especially if kids are involved.

Commitment involves what you are putting into the relationship, and remaining as roommates isn’t healthy for anyone. So if you have emotionally disconnected you should either start actively working on the relationship or you should get out.

I believe in both love and marriage, and I don’t believe passion has to be lost. If it has been lost, I believe passion can be found again. Marriage can be wonderful, loving, fulfilling and passionate. It should be a place of personal and emotional safety. If yours isn’t, I don’t believe it’s ever too late to change that.

What is Passion?

The first thing to look at is passion. What exactly is it? When I think passion in a relationship, I think of sex (or at least the feelings that lead to sex). I think of people who can’t keep their hands off each other. People who are fumbling with each other’s clothes when they are barely through the door.

I’m sure most people have experienced that, however briefly, and it’s a great feeling. It’s also how passion is sold to us in romance novels and movies. But is that really what passion is?

Science has shown that the intense emotions of the early stage of a relationship are really hormone induced infatuation, and that this emotional intensity is unsustainable for longer than 6 months to 2 years (incidentally the average length of an affair – hmmmm).

Does that mean long term relationships are destined to be sterile and passionless? I don’t believe that to be the case at all. Quoting myself here:

Being passionate about something means REALLY enjoying it, and having strong positive feelings for it. You can be passionate about all sorts of things: cooking, traveling, a sports team, whatever. When people talk about passion in a relationship it’s the same thing. You are passionate about the other person. They are very important to you, and you care greatly for them. Seeing them happy is a source of happiness for you.

The hormone induced early passion may be destined to fade, but a healthier passion can and should stay in long term relationships. Unfortunately, that often fades too.

Loss of Passion

Why do we lose passion? Where does it go? There are all sorts of possible answers to this question, but for one of the big ones (in my opinion) I’ll turn to the movies. Have you ever seen the movie Analyze This? It’s a great film, with Robert DeNiro playing a mob boss who is going to see a counselor/psychologist (played by Billy Crystal). Here’s an exchange from the film:

AnalyzeThis

Crystal:  What happened with your wife last night?
De Niro: I wasn’t with my wife, I was with my girlfriend.
Crystal:  Are you having marriage problems?
De Niro: No.
Crystal:  Then why do you have a girlfriend?
De Niro: What, are you gonna start moralizing on me?
Crystal:  No, I’m not, I’m just trying to understand, why do you have a girlfriend?
De Niro: I do things with her I can’t do with my wife.
Crystal:  Why can’t you do them with your wife?
De Niro: Hey, that’s the mouth she kisses my kids goodnight with! What are you, crazy?

I thing this amusing exchange touches on something very important. I’ve talked about roles before, and how we have different aspects to our selves. In my view, our partners have at least three distinct roles that they need to play in our lives. They need to be friends, lovers and family.

In long term relationships, all of these roles need to be nurtured and maintained. Time and effort needs to be spent on being both friends and lovers. When that doesn’t happen, it’s easy to start seeing your partner only through the roles that you do maintain, and that’s when trouble begins.

This becomes especially pronounced when kids are introduced to the mix. I have kids, and I love them. They’re great, and I couldn’t possibly imagine my life without them. In theory kids act as a bonding agent for a couple. They are a product of their love for each other, and they bring the kids into the world together. Even couples who have split up will admit that in an ideal world they would have been able to raise the kids together.

But kids also require great sacrifice, and can put strain on the relationship. As awesome as they are, they are demanding little buggers in terms of time and energy. And time with them (or just as a family) is time not spent as a couple. It is very common for couples (usually the guy) to admit that they miss the time they used to have with their partner before kids.

Many women also lose themselves in being mothers. Add in hormonal and physical changes, and it can be difficult to find the energy required for being a couple. I’m a guy, so I won’t pretend to “get” this stuff. But I know that as as the kids get older it is common for women to have to find themselves again (there are a number of books written on this topic).

In the scene from the movie, De Niro’s character has lost sight of his wife as a lover. His view of “wife” has come to see her only as the mother of his kids. He may still see her as a friend, but he no longer sees her as a lover – he has stopped seeing her as desirable or sexual.

With or without kids, many couples fall into the trap of not making time and prioritizing each other as friends, and lovers. It may be not making time for each other, or taking each other for granted. Like anything else, if you don’t use it you run the risk of losing it, and over time this lack of focus on each other can lead to an emotional disconnect.

When someone says “I love you, but I’m not in love with you anymore” this is likely what has happened. For whatever reason, not enough focus has been spent on being an “us”, and the end result is a breakdown of emotional connection. This happens to varying degrees ALL the time, with many couples.

How do you solve this? From what I can see, it is a puzzle many, MANY people wish they could solve. If I *knew* the answer to this I would likely be on the talk show circuit promoting my latest relationship book instead of writing this blog, but based on a variety of sources I do have some thoughts. Stay tuned for part 2.

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20 thoughts on “Finding Passion – Part 1

  1. Pingback: Finding Passion – Part 1 1/2 | thezombieshuffle

  2. “I believe that more than anything, loss of passion is THE leading contributor to both affairs and divorce.”

    I have a similar sentiment. Passion; it can either make or break the trajectory of your relationship. We may crave it in different dosages, but in summary, the relationship will suffer without it.

    Even if you physically remain in the relationship, without passion, you are simply roommates who occasionally engage in passionless sex. That is a nightmare. Just thinking about it gave be the heebie-jeebies. LoL.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Roommates is a dangerous spot for any relationship to get into, but once you add kids to the mix it can happen far too easily. Kids change you from a couple to a family, and the family is great – but you need to still make time to nurture being a couple. Many, many people fail to do that, and find themselves drifting apart.

      The question becomes, do they recognize it and use it as an opportunity to make corrections and come back together again? Or does it become a barrier to their relationship (and potentially cause it to end)?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Finding Passion- Part 1 1/2 | The Fickle Heartbeat

  4. I want to comment so badly on a few issues here. Let’s just say this post hits way to close to home for my husband and I right now.
    Hormones and menopause haven’t been good to me.
    He has gone through changes as well. What use to be good isn’t any more.
    The issues we had trouble with before are mountains now.
    Yet, we love each other.
    I am romantic or want to be….he is distant and always has been.
    This is tearing the rest of our lives apart.
    We use to be so close….Intertwined almost at times.
    We are still always together…Yet, Not.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m a big fan of the band The Cure, and they have a song called “The Loudest Sound” that really speaks to me about things like.

      Side by side in silence
      they pass away the days
      so comfortable
      so habitual
      and so, nothing left to say

      Great song. Look up the lyrics and they will probably move you in some way.

      In any case, over the long term relationships have ups and downs. I took a quick look through you site, and it seems like you and Danny have been together for quite a while.

      People change, all the time. Often in small ways, some times in bigger ones. It’s so easy to lose touch with each other, and it seems many couples wake up one day and realize they aren’t sure who they are individually, and they have lost sight of the couple.

      That’s a dangerous time, but I truly believe it can also be a positive time. It all depends on how you approach it.

      If you point fingers and blame and long for “what was”, you are bound to end up unhappy. If you can re-learn each other and accept that things will never be the same, but they can still be great, you can be happy (incidentally, check out an post from a few month back called “it’s not the same” (or something like that). It’s one of my favorites.

      In any case, be honest and be open with each other – and try to do it in a non-judgemental way.

      You have needs, he has needs. You both matter. You need to find a path forward together where you both feel valued and loved. It’s not easy, but no one ever said life would be.

      I guess that’s what makes the journey so interesting.

      Best of luck.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Agreed.

        One of the things you’ll see in my writing is talk of perfectionism, and how bad it is both for individuals and relationships.

        It’s easy to get along while things are going well, but conflict can be very difficult.

        Some simply try to avoid it and pretend it’s not there (yeah, that works REALLY well). Others walk away at the first sign of trouble.

        Learning to deal with conflict in a healthy way is not something that comes naturally. It is a skill, and it can be developed.

        When people talk about communication being the most important part of a relationship, I think they are really talking about the ability to deal with conflict, and to address issues that may make us uncomfortable.

        If a couple acknowledges that it’s not easy, but commits to working on it and being open and honest without getting defensive, I think they are building the groundwork for a wonderful future.

        That’s where the real commitment comes in. One thing I like to say is that when it comes to commitment, there’s a difference between just “staying” and working to make things and positive as possible for both parties.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Now if I could just get Danny to open up and talk about us. He likes to hide and pretend everything is ok .
        We started counseling again .
        He likes the couple we have and he does end up talking. Opening up. There. Not at home. But it is a good start.
        I want to talk about us and he can talk all night long about work at the park and our life here as long as it isn’t personal.
        So I have to watch how I react all the time.
        I get angry.
        Working on that.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Everyone has their own way of dealing (or not dealing) with issues and conflict. I think finding a balance between approaches that works for both people can be one of the biggest challenges for any relationship.

        It’s tough, because what may seem so obvious and important to me may actually be trivial or painful for my partner.

        No matter “how” couples choose to communicate, as long as they are willing to acknowledge that what’s important to one person affects the relationship, I think they are on a good path.

        Trouble arises when someone takes the approach that “this is your issues”, or “it’s not a problem for me, so I don’t want to talk about it”.

        Liked by 2 people

      • We just stopped communicating about anything important. D doesn’t to and I have gotten tired and angry about try to.
        I still try but not as much.
        Everything seems trivial to D any more.
        All he talks about is work. Over and over. Since we live where he works and I volunteer it has made our lives a bit more complicated.
        We never talk about anything else,
        I try .
        I bring up vacations or just a day away. He brings up work/

        Liked by 1 person

      • I can understand that. A buddy of mine found that his life with his wife was only revolving around their roles as parents, and tried bringing “date night” back with a rule that they wouldn’t talk about the kids. When they started, he found they had nothing to talk about. They knew each other already, and other than the menial changes of day to day life, there wasn’t really much to say.

        I think that’s a sad reality for many of us in long term relationships, and I don’t know the answer.

        I have a number of ideas, and I’ve written about them in the past, but turning things around is not an easy task. If you find anything that works let me know 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • It is hard to try and “Bring Back “what you had. In our case , I still pray that we can.
        Danny is giving up on certain things and that bothers me.
        I never give up. That may also be a problem.
        We both love to do many of the same things.
        Most we can’t afford to do any more. So , instead of finding those things we can do…and there are a lot of them….We don’t do anything.
        He is stuck in a rut.
        I am as well but as least I want out of it.
        We still can enjoy any number of things here that don’t cost anything. Getting him to do them requires a lot of work.
        It should be fun. Spontaneous at times.
        We are surrounded by 2 state parks and thousands of acres where we live…..It is finally cooling off a bit and drying up.
        I can’t get him excited about our Nightly Drives . We had such a good times. ALWAYS.
        I am hoping that like me, when it really is cooler he will want to get out again.
        I, at least want to talk about the fun we had and could have. I like to plan ahead.
        He either talks non stop or he ignores me for hours in his computer room. Then when he is DONE he wants my attention again….No matter what I am doing.
        Sad thing is, I can be busy here ….Like a am now and he comes in….I stop and ask what he wants….I interrupt want I am doing or I finish it up quickly.
        He makes me feel as if I am interrupting the most important NEW EVENT .
        I can’t talk to him about it either.
        Things are improving bit by bit….
        I think…
        I keep trying.
        YOU HAVE A WONDERFUL WEEKEND.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well you can only control you. Your choices and your actions. You can model the love and being positive, and try to keep lines of communication open (easier said than done).

        Eventually he will meet you part way, or he won’t. And depending on what happens their, you will decide that you can accept your relationship as it is, or you can’t. Not helpful advice, I know 🙂

        But you are trying, and you say there are some improvements – so that’s a good start.

        Have a happy Canadian Thanksgiving weekend

        Liked by 1 person

      • I didn’t even remember it was Thanksgiving in Canada. I have friends there. I remember sill Columbus Day since the park was busier because of it.
        There have been improvements…Slight on one end. I am working hard on my end though.
        I let things go for too long.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Don’t beat yourself up over that – we often do. I read a quote from a counselor once who said that she feels couples often come to her 2-3 years later than they should have.

        No one likes to admit when things aren’t working, or when they could use help. And frankly, when our relationships are struggling it’s embarrassing to often we don’t *want* to talk to anyone.

        So we tell ourselves that it’s just a phase, and that things will get better. Sometimes they do, other times things continue to slowly deteriorate until we hit a point that we can’t handle it anymore.

        Sadly, by then it’s often too late. Well, not actually too late – I don’t think it’s ever too late. But by then it’s reached a point where a sense of hopelessness has become entrenched. And THAT is very hard to turn around. I had a post about that a few months back that I titled Momentum Shifts. Often the negative momentum has become larger than the actual problems.

        Like

      • even after being married for 9 years and together (Long distance and visits between Colorado and Florida )for 2 years Danny still expects me to walk away..To walk out and find someone else.
        It is not in me to give up on something / someone I believe in.
        I believe in US.
        I learned a lot from watching my parents . They had (mom died last year) a marriage unlike any I have ever seen. Best friends.
        Dad calls their story a love story and it was / Is.
        Danny never had that. Any of it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • What we see from our parents definitely shapes our understanding of what a relationship looks like – for good or bad. One of my earliest posts (Great Expectations in Love) was about this topic, and I think it’s one that often is woefully ignored.

        Understanding each others past, and upbringing can go a long way towards helping us understand each other.

        All the best.

        Liked by 1 person

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