Jake and Marissa have been married for six years. If you asked them if they are happy with each other and if they love each other, they wouldn’t hesitate to say yes – they love each other dearly and can’t imagine life without the other.
And yet, things have changed between the two of them. And sometimes, Marissa wonders whether something is wrong with their relationship after all. The spark that was once between them, her utter excitement about Jake and the burning desire to be with him, the physical attraction and bliss are gone. It’s as though the romance in their relationship has evaporated.
What do you think about Jake and Marissa’s relationship? Is something off, or do they have nothing to worry about? Which value does passion have in your own relationship?
In this article, we will
- discuss the normal progression of passion within relationships;
- discover that what matters most for your satisfaction in your relationship is your personal ideals and whether you have what you truly want;
- share a number of surprising steps that can help you sustain or reignite the passion in your relationship.
Passion isn’t only emotional arousal and having sex with each other; passion for someone includes much more. When you’re passionate, you long to be with your partner, you miss them terribly when they’re gone, and you think about them frequently.
Passion is one of the three core components of love. Any relationship you have in your life, be it with your partner, your children, relatives, or friends, can be described in terms of three core components – intimacy, passion, and commitment. When we think of passion, we mostly think of new relationships when partners are almost obsessed with each other.
But what happens to the passion in your relationship as time goes on and you settle into a life together? And are there any ways to keep the fire burning? Here are five things you should know.
It’s normal for feelings to change and develop throughout your relationship
If you’ve been in a long-term relationship, you know that feelings as well as the character of the relationship change. Just as you and your partner continue to develop and grow, so does your relationship. That’s normal and there’s nothing to feel badly about (unless you begin to feel unhappy in your relationship).
Passion, and particularly sexual passion, tends to wear off relatively quickly. As you settle into everyday life and perhaps even have kids, routine and responsibilities have a way of taking over, often leaving you with little energy after the day’s chores and obligations are completed. Passion is quite hard to maintain in the long term and thus tends to take a less prominent role as relationships mature. At the same time, other components of love relationships may take on a more important role. Partners often find that their intimacy with each other increases. In fact, many couples who have been married for years and decades report that their relationship is characterized by feelings of a deep friendship.
The nature of relationships changes for all of us as time passes. Your relationship can be fulfilling even without the passion you once had. But if you miss it, keep reading because we have some tips for rekindling your passion below.
Tip #1 The nature of relationships changes as time passes by. This is normal and nothing to worry about per se. But if you feel your relationship is missing some passion, there are ways to sustain or restore the passion you once felt.
It’s YOUR ideals that matter
Society and the people around us have a way of imposing ideals on us that dictate how we should live our lives and what our relationships should look like. You may have a relationship that, in principle, makes you quite happy. But if societal norms lead you to expect a fiery romance for the rest of your life (there is a reason that all those movies and fairy tales end once the lucky couple gets together – we’re not granted a look into their relationship ten years later), you might be sorely disappointed in reality.
Remember that all that truly matters for your happiness as well as that of your partner is that your relationship is close to the ideals and dreams that you personally have for yourself. Norms and expectations of others do not make you happy; only the fulfillment of your own dreams and ideals does.
Do you want a lot of passion at this point in your life? What does the passion you crave look like? Is it of a sexual kind, or is it more of the kind where you truly enjoy each other’s presence and are excited to see and be with your partner?
Tip #2 Take your time to do some digging and find out what you really want with respect to the passionate aspect of your relationship. And ask your partner as well. Once you know what you want, you’ll be in a better position to judge whether what you have is what you want or what you need to get closer to your ideal.
Responsiveness fuels passion
So yes, if you’ve been in a long-term relationship, you’ll likely experience a lot more intimacy than passion with your partner. Commonly, people assume that intimacy and feelings of deep connection and security that come along with it inhibit sexual passion. After all, we tend to connect sexual passion with novelty, uncertainty, and excitement. But that’s not necessarily the case. You may be able to sustain or even increase the passion and excitement your partner feels for you by being responsive to them.
But what does it mean to be responsive to your partner? It means that you show your partner you
- care about them by sharing affection and telling them you love them (“I really love it when we can spend some time together, even if it’s just watching a short movie at night”);
- understand them by listening to them or following up with questions when there’s something you do not understand in a conversation (“Why did you think Erik didn’t agree with your idea?”);
- respect and value them (“I realize this is a hard situation for you right now, but I know you can turn things around when you just keep going; you’ve you need to succeed.”).
How does responsiveness work? When people have a responsive partner, they feel special and perceive their partner as valuable which in turn makes their partner more sexually desirable. Being responsive works particularly well if your partner is a woman, but men tend to experience an increase in desire for their partner as well when their partner is responsive to them.
Tip #3 By showing your partner in words and actions that you care, understand, and value them, your partner is likely to perceive you as valuable and more sexually desirable.
We’re not always aware of the source of our arousal – use that to your advantage
Researchers Arthur Aron and Don Dutton hired an attractive woman to recruit men for a study who had just crossed a long suspension bridge spanning a deep gorge. The men were asked to write a story based on a picture, and the woman also gave them her phone number in case they had any questions. The woman also recruited men who had just walked over a sturdy bridge across the same gorge. Half of the men who had crossed the suspension bridge called the experimenter, whereas less than 13% of men who had crossed the sturdy bridge did. What had happened?
Crossing a narrow suspension bridge over a deep gorge physically aroused the men – they had an increased heart rate and sweaty hands. They misattributed their physical state to the presence of the woman -- rather than to their having crossed the scary bridge – and concluded they must have found the woman quite attractive.
Researchers in an amusement park in Texas found similar results when roller coaster riders rated the photo of a moderately attractive person (of the opposite sex) as more attractive after they had ridden the roller coaster than before they rode.
Tip #4 So what does that mean for you? A little thrill is a good thing for sexual arousal and attraction. If you want to feel more passionate in your relationship, try to do something new and exciting that physically arouses the two of you. You might just find that the thrill of the situation translates to your feeling more attracted to your partner.
A double date can light your fire
When you think about a romantic dinner with your partner, you probably think about a dinner for two. But research shows that this is actually not the best way to reignite your passion for each other. Next time, try to go out with another couple on a double date, and do so in a setting where you can exchange meaningful personal information. Interactions with another couple, where both parties talk about themselves, can increase passionate feelings as partners begin to see each other in a new light through the exchange with others. The key is that you really talk about personal topics with each other and that both couples respond to each other in a caring way.
Tip #5 Spend some time on a double date with another couple you care about or would like to get to know. Make sure you meet in a setting that facilitates the exchange of personal information and that you all respond to each other with care and concern.
Now it’s your turn to try out some of the suggestions above and see where they get you. Let us know in the comments below or by writing us an email how things worked for you or if you have any questions !
Birnbaum, G. E., Reis, H. T., Mizrahi, M., Kanat-Maymon, Y., Sass, O., & Granovski-Milner, C. (2016). Intimately connected: The importance of partner responsiveness for experiencing sexual desire. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 111(4), 530.
Dutton, D. G., & Aron, A. P. (1974). Some evidence for heightened sexual attraction under conditions of high anxiety. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 30(4), 510.
Meston, C. M., & Frohlich, P. F. (2003). Love at first fright: Partner salience moderates roller-coaster-induced excitation transfer. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 32(6), 537–544.
Sternberg, R. J., & Sternberg, K. (2018). The new psychology of love. Cambridge University Press.
Sternberg, R. J. (1998). Cupid’s arrow: The course of love through time. Cambridge University Press.
Keep romance alive with double dates. (2014). ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 2, 2022, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140210114544.htm