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Why Passion Is Not a Solid Foundation for a Close Relationship

In early April 2020, just short of 4 billion people were asked to stay home due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Not surprisingly, this led to a surge in the use of online dating apps. Around that same time in late March, Tinder got its highest number of swipes ever -- 3 billion, that is.

Many dating apps place an emphasis on good looks. After all, it's easier to look at a photo and be swayed by looks than to try to guess someone's personality from what they write. One swipe is all it takes.

Now, I realize these days you swipe but it doesn't mean you will easily meet someone. But let me tell you the story of Gabe and Louise, who met through a dating app....

Gabe found Louise on a dating app.  Sure, he looked a bit at her profile.  But as soon as he saw what she looked like, her profile really didn’t much matter to him. 

She was a total knock-out.  He couldn’t believe that a woman could be that good looking. 

He didn’t have much in common with her, from what he could tell, but he just didn’t care.  He had to give it a try.

To Gabe’s surprise, Louise also chose him on the app.  He was not half as good looking as she was, but at least he had a college degree, which she just was working on part-time—very part-time. 

They had a first date and it was, Gabe thought, incredible.  At first, he was worried because they had nothing much to talk about; if anything, she did most of the talking.

But his mind was elsewhere.  The sex was just as amazing as he had imagined it would be.  He had the woman of his dreams.  With sex like that, he could go on forever, maybe longer.  Or so he thought at the time.

The relationship lasted all of three months and then it blinked out like a flashlight suddenly run out of battery--there one moment, gone the next. 

Louise still was incredibly good in bed.  But he had nothing to say to her, nor she to him.  They tried to make small talk, and when that failed, they jumped into bed. 

And finally, it just wasn’t enough. The lights went out, and so did the relationship.

Love consists of three components: intimacy, passion, and commitment.

Intimacy involves feelings of closeness, trust, communication, respect, connection, and friendship.

Passion involves feelings of need, desire, intense longing, addiction, craving, and intense focus.

Commitment involves feelings of staying in a relationship for the long term, staying despite whatever happens, and being true to the other throughout.

Many dating apps place an emphasis on passion

Many apps that are used to make connections today put a great emphasis on passion.  If all you see in an app is a picture and some fairly trivial information that says little about the potential match, you likely will choose potential dates largely on the basis of expected interpersonal attraction, which forms a major basis for passion.

Basically, you may be going for the hottest date you can find.

Whether through apps or some other way, many of us fall in love with what a person looks like or what we imagine the person to be.  We may hardly know the person at all.

I know this happens because it happened to me many years ago—when I was in high school.

We think we know the person, but all we know is our image of what we wish they were.

Passion-based relationships do not bode well for the future.  There are at least four reasons.

Four reasons why passion isn't a good basis for a long-term relationship

First, when we are ruled by passion, our dreams about what a person might be like are wrong more often than not. 

We project into our image of the person what we would like them to be or to become rather than what they are. When we discover that they are not what we hoped for, the relationship can go downhill quickly.

Second, passion is the least stable of the three components of love.

It is quick to come, but also quick to go.  Because it is quick to go, if you build a relationship largely on the basis of passion, without knowing it, you are building the house of your relationship on a foundation of sand.

As soon as there is a bad storm in the relationship, the foundation is likely to crumble.

Third, passion, at least in its stronger forms, is an addiction.

You become addicted to the partner much like someone else might get addicted to a drug.

You are relying on a dopamine surge.  Drug addictions do not go well and neither do personal addictions, if that is all there is.  Eventually, you will habituate.

The same amount of contact with the person will not have the same effect on you, any more than the same amount of coffee will have the same effect a month after the first day you drank your first dose of daily caffeine.

When people acquire addictions, at first, they use a substance because it gives them a high.  When people become addicted to a lover, it’s the same—the lover gives them a high.

But eventually the substance (or the lover) no longer provides the same high.

So, you either need more and more passion to keep the addiction going, or you reach a sort of asymptote—a lower but steady level.

Relationships need more than passion!

And there is a problem: If one ceases to use the substance or to be with the lover, one likely will have to endure withdrawal symptoms.

So, people often continue to use addictive substances (or stay with lovers) not for the high, but to avoid the low of withdrawal symptoms.

For example, if they suddenly go off certain illegal drugs, they may become very ill or even die.

People generally don’t die if they are dumped.

But if passion was a strong or sole part of their relationship, they are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms not unlike those of drug withdrawal. They may feel depressed, depleted, shaky, unstable, anxious, hopeless.

If the relationship involved more than passion, chances are at least decent that you never will have to go into withdrawal.

But if the relationship was solely passion-based, be prepared for the ending, and possibly a bitter one.

Fourth, relationships based primarily on passion are woefully incomplete.

In the end, what keeps a relationship going is intimacy—close connection—and the commitment to maintain the relationship even when it gets into trouble, as it almost inevitably will, at some point or other.

To keep a relationship thriving, even if you start a relationship because you just can’t take your hands off your partner, try to develop intimacy and perhaps even some of the commitment that will glue the two of you together, at least for a while.

Don’t make the mistake Gabriel and Louise make. A better fate awaits you!

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