HOW TO BE CONSUMED BY PASSION
My last blog post “how to be consummated by love” looked at building relationships that have a balance of the vital ingredients of passion, intimacy, and commitment. This post focuses on passion: attraction to your partner, infatuation with your partner, and the desire to be close to your partner.
What is passion?
Passion is a basic relationship need that needs to be fulfilled for a relationship to be satisfying. We are biologically programmed to crave newness and excitement in our relationships. The ‘high’ that comes with a new relationship feels good. When doing something novel, chemicals are realised which make us feel pleasure and act as a reward to increase our motivation to do it again. Studies have shown that experiencing passion releases the same chemicals in response to rewards such as food, money, cocaine, and alcohol. On a biological level, we have to feel passion in our relationships to motivate us to keep coming back for more. Our brains see long-term love as a goal-directed behaviour to attain rewards. The rewards from love are numerous: reduced stress, feelings of security and calmness, and union with another.
Where does the passion go?
The decline of passion in the first two years of a relationship is natural. The more you get to know someone, the less exciting and mysterious they become. Routine and familiarity kills passion and breeds boredom. Passion has to make way for the other two ingredients of love: intimacy and committing to a shared future. But just because passion naturally declines, does not mean that it isn’t a vital ingredient to satisfying long-lasting relationships. We are biologically wired to seek out passion with someone. Settling for a passionless relationship is problematic as it is likely that someone else will come along outside of your relationship and ignite the passion in you or your partner.
Where does sex fit in?
Sexual satisfaction is important for relationship happiness. While passion does include sexual desire, it is also more as it involves longing and a desire to be near your partner. When there is a good dose of passion, sexual satisfaction is more likely. It basically works like this: increased passion leads to increased sexual desire which leads to more sexual activity which increases the likelihood of increased sexual satisfaction. Good sex makes us feel happy and builds and maintains feelings of love. On a biological level, this means that sex can work as motivation to keep us coming back to the same partner over time.
Want more passion?
As the infatuated love from the beginning of a relationship grows to include intimacy and commitment, our brains do not stop craving the experience of passion from another person. If you want that person to continue to be your partner, this means you have to make a conscious effort to re-introduce passion in your head, in your heart and in your actions directed towards your partner. Remember that passion is a biological drive and you will know your efforts are working as you will experience a physical rush of pleasure and a desire to come back to your partner for more.
To re-introduce excitement and newness into your relationship, here are some ideas:
- Do date night differently
Don’t do your typical date dinner date night where you talk about work and the kids. Do something different that takes you out of your comfort zone. Stimulate the biological experience of passion by adding something thrilling to your date: dancing, rocking climbing, or go-carting. Do something novel and challenging together.
- Think about your partner sometime today and everyday
Remember at the beginning of your relationship when your partner would occupy your mind all day and you could not wait to hear from them? Try to reclaim that feeling by setting aside some time to think positive thoughts about your partner. Maybe write a list of the physical characteristics or personal qualities that initially attracted you to your partner. Reflect on what is attractive and appealing about your partner, instead of focusing on magnifying the things that bother you. Get sentimental and relive your first date, your most passionate kiss, or the best sexual experience you shared in your memory. Be daring and share these recollections with your partner.
- Get affectionate
As passion is a biologically-driven need, our bodies need to be involved to increase passion. Start with small physical gestures, like a touch on the shoulder or a kiss on the cheek. These physical expressions may slowly begin to turn you on as your body starts to respond to what feels good. Create the expectation that sex does not need to immediately following these displays of affection. Instead, wait to have sex when you are both feeling passionate and the time is right as this will build and maintain sexual satisfaction.
- Find passion everywhere
Our need for passion extends to our relationships, careers, hobbies and interests. If you want to lead a passionate life, you can’t expect all your needs for passion to be fulfilled in one relationship. Get excited about other areas of your life, make time to do new and exciting things for yourself, and invest in hobbies and interests that challenge you. Invite your partner along sometimes, but not always.
If passion has never been present in your relationship or has been missing for a long time, I have found that couples counselling may be helpful. Over the next few blog posts, I will also be offering couples some creative ideas about how to build and maintain the other two key ingredients of consummate love: intimacy and commitment.