The Real Reason Relationships Lose Passion.

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heart sickness

Time magazine traumatized me.

I still remember like it was yesterday—the glossy pages of an article about “Love” that proved, to the best of scientific knowledge, that most relationships lose passion within a few years.

This, the authors (with many PhDs) said was statistically significant. This happened to most (anglosaxon-Western-culture-gainfully-employed) people, thus we could safely throw aside the outliers and begin to adjust ourselves to this supposed norm.

The reasoning that continued is, I’m sure, familiar to you—our bodies secrete dopamine when we first meet someone, we feel high, then our brains can’t sustain that level of stimulation, so we level out to oxytocin, and eventually lose our passion for each other, substituting it for compassion and comfort.

That’s it. File closed.

Proven by science.

Now, I’ve got nothing against science. I think science is an incredible tool for observing the world around us and making patterns out of what we observe. However, and this is a big however, science, especially when it comes to studying human behaviour and psychology, is like a magnifying glass. It can only show us what’s currently there, not what could be.

This might sound really obvious, but stick with me.

Because we study what is going on and not what is possible, how can we know that we aren’t just providing an explanation for a horrible social trend that can and will be changed? How do we know, in short, that the loss of passion is inevitable, rather than an unfortunate current circumstance?

To say that I’ve spent my life chasing this question would be an understatement.

Perhaps only because I’ve desperately wanted to, I’ve found many holes in the current theory of passion. For example, the theory says that the reason that we lose our passion for each other is because the brain “cannot sustain that level of stimulation,” so it’s forced to kick into a calmer kind of relationship with the person.

Why, then, do addicts continue to get high? Sure, they need more and more, but they don’t just stop getting high on drugs because their brain “cannot sustain that level of stimulation.”

Why, then, do artists, musicians, and other creative people report feeling passionate for their hobbies for a lifetime? Why do they call them their “passions”?

Then I thought—if the loss of passion is an inevitable outcome of being in a relationship, what about the outliers? What about the people who do manage to sustain passionate and compassionate partnerships? Are they brain damaged?

Or maybe they’ve got something figured out that the rest of us don’t.

Should we really discard the few who manage to have what we all secretly want as freaks instead of learning from them?

I, for one, choose to continue the pursuit of passion—not just sexual passion, but passion in general. Passion is a value for me. It’s a need. It’s a way of life.

Passion is when we reach out for what we’re deeply yearning. Passion is when we stretch ourselves out of our shells and burst in every direction, allowing the light within us to radiate, to reflect off everything around us, and to return to us radiating even brighter.

Passion is an act of courage.

Passion is an act of vulnerability.

And what I’ve found from working on my passionate and compassionate relationship as well as from coaching women all over the world who struggle with theirs is this:

Most relationships lose passion because we lose our courage. We lose our vulnerability.

No matter how compatible we are and no matter how much we try not to, we hurt each other.

The first time you’re hurt, you’re surprised, but you come around. You understand. You forgive.

Yes, you forgive. But something’s different. Your innocence has broken. You put up some layers of armour between yourself and this person you once trusted unconditionally. You close your heart just a little bit. You trust a little less. You show a little less of your true self.

A few years later, you’re both in armoured fortresses with a whole, empty trench between you, suffering chronic feelings of emptiness and frustration. And you don’t understand that it’s because of that time your partner made a joke about something that was important to you or when you discovered they were doing that thing they promised they never would.

You never think it’s those things because it’s water under the bridge. And it is. But your lack of trust isn’t. And, without trust, there’s no vulnerability. And, without vulnerability, there’s no courage, no passion.

It isn’t just people that we close down to—it’s life in general. When we first fall in love, it feels so good, because we trust blindly and we allow ourselves to be fully open. When we first go for our dreams, it feels so good. We trust. We hope.

Then, we fail. Then, we get hurt. Of course, we do what everyone else is doing, we do what’s logical—we close off. We try to stay safe. We avoid pain. And thus, we avoid any chances we have at pleasure as well.

Some people, by the time they’ve done this cycle enough times, don’t even feel passion at the start of their relationships, because they come in with all of their armour and shields from the past. They think the world is a loveless place, and yet there is more love to go around than they can imagine. They are just hiding in the dark.

We don’t have to live like this.

The only way out of this, in your life and in your relationship (assuming that you’re going to stay), is to be a little foolish and trust, despite all the logical voices in your head telling you not to. The only way out is to unlock that room within which you’ve hoarded the most innocent, beautiful, sacred parts of you, so that you won’t risk having them hurt, and let them out, free, vulnerable.

It’s scary. And it’s also the only way.

And the reason science keeps finding ruined relationships scattered like bodies in a battlefield is the same reason that science keeps finding depression, anxiety, addiction and mental health distress. It’s because Western culture is, as it stands, held together by pillars of fear. Fear drives us to buy things we don’t need, work jobs we hate, and live lives we regret.

Fear is the norm.

And no matter how many brain scans they do on your average person, no matter how many times they discover that this state of fear and suffering is prevalent in human beings right now—there is no way, absolutely no way, that I’m ever going to believe that this is all we’re capable of.

Just because it’s normal doesn’t mean it’s right.

We don’t have to lose passion for each other or for our lives.

We just have to be a little foolish, a little crazy, a little daring. We have to be pioneers of a future that, right now, only exists in our heads.

Then, years from now, when we live in an authentic, happy, liberated society, science will still be around. And all those studies will just show us what we already know: passion is a way of life and the core of every soul.

When each of us gains the courage to strive for what we really want and what we’re really capable of, regardless of how much it hurts or how much we fear it, we will see our culture transform before our very eyes. One person at a time.

So what about you?

 

Relephant:

6 Common Killers of Passion.

 

Author: Vironika Tugaleva

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: takmeomeo/Pixabay

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anonymous Feb 19, 2016 4:23pm

I can fairly say I've been in love twice- the kind of love that drives people quite mad… You know, where you know you're in quicksand but you're like, 'so? I'm in love!' As you sink to an untimely death.

I fell out of love with the first one after ten years when all the illusions of 'us' were replaced by the reality of her selfishness.

The second time… Well, that's what I'm writing about. I think I fell out of love yesterday for the exact same reason. Of course I have a terrible cold so I'm wondering if that's what's making me feel so passionless or if I've had enough of her selfishness.

I get the research analysis in the Time's study- that idea that people aren't wired to be that happy that long. I also get the posters comment that passion is just illusion. I think the real issue is that two people feeling that same ongoing euphoria is rare and hard to sustain in a world that does everything to kill it off. Love, true love, is very rare and delicate. It doesn't always last forever but I still believe it can.

anonymous Oct 23, 2015 5:49am

Great article!

anonymous Apr 13, 2015 11:03am

"Why, then, do addicts continue to get high? Sure, they need more and more, but they don’t just stop getting high on drugs because their brain “cannot sustain that level of stimulation.” Actually this is also completely untrue, addicts eventually do not feel "high" anymore but instead must take the drug to feel normal.

    anonymous Jul 11, 2015 3:11pm

    I suppose it depends on what you're addicted to, MJG. I had incredibly difficult problems with addiction and, for me, it was about searching for a high with some substances, and escaping a low with others. I think we all have different reasons for doing the same behaviours 🙂 Thanks for sharing your views!

anonymous Apr 2, 2015 1:58pm

And it takes two, if both want to make it last, they will find the way. If one starts to leave mentally, even before they leave physically, it makes you go out of your mind! Till you heal, because you have to heal, you want to heal and love your self!

    anonymous Jul 11, 2015 3:11pm

    Very true, Rosanna! Thank you for sharing!

anonymous Mar 21, 2015 9:21pm

I don't think being hurt is necessarily the reason people lose passion. It's certainly an interesting theory though. In my case, my wife and I married very young. She was madly in love with me. She had never been hurt before by anyone. Yet after a few years she woke up one day and realized she no longer felt the same way. No rhyme or reason. She said I did everything I was supposed to do. She said I was a great husband and father to our daughter. But she wanted to go chasing after something else to get that "high" back. I can't imagine why a person would being willing to destroy a family just to chase after a high. People who crave passion are addicts to the feeling of passion. But having spent a number of years studying buddhism, I learned that passion is an illusion. It's a temporary state of enjoyment that has little to do with genuine happiness. Genuine happiness IS compassion. Yet people who get caught up in the feeling of excitement are very much like drug addicts looking for the next high. I have learned over the years that there are higher levels of fulfillment than passion. It doesn't scare me at all to think that a relationship will lose its passion in exchange for compassion and comfort. Because for me, that is when the REAL love starts. Long after the fire is gone, when you have to work to make the relationship last. THAt is when you start to understand what true love is. Otherwise you will spend the rest of your life bouncing around from relationship to relationship searching for that high. You see, sometimes love is more than just feeling. And thank God for that. The answer to why a couple can last a lifetime together is because they have both outgrown the illusion of passion and have and found genuine unconditional love. And Ironically, once this level of human maturity has been attained, it is possible to get some of that passion back. But it is a rightful passion, not some teenage fantasy, And yes, you must be willing to completely let go. You can't hold back your true feelings. Share your deepest thoughts with your partner and if they have the courage to do the same, you CAN grow together and work through the hard times. I promise you, no marriage can go for 20,30 or 40 years without having serious growing pains. My wife and I have gone through ours. But it was patience, trust, friendship and compassion that got us through it. Not passion. The more whole you are as a human being, the easier it is to find that person who is equally whole. But those that crave passion are often missing something in their lives that have little to do with their partner and more to do with something missing inside themselves. Become a whole person and you will see how the very definition of the word passion changes. I suggest you read the book "The Art of Happiness" by the Dalai Lama. He speaks of passion as a relationship illusion. "While some relationships may begin with passion, extreme passion does not last. When passion fades, couples are left with their real relationship. Things that were originally masked by the passion are brought to light. In a sense, passion is an illusion that obscures the true underlying relationship. Now, that is not to say that once the passion fades the relationships fail. Essentially, the relationships built on a solid foundation stand a greater chance of lasting regardless of the initial levels of passion."

    anonymous Jul 11, 2015 3:14pm

    You know, Jason, I think you're right. You've hit on something important, something I've written about elsewhere. I feel a deep passion for my work, and I think that keeps me from chasing passion in sexual relationships. My partner is doing the same. We've often joked that you have to "either chase your dreams or chase some tail". Of course, this isn't always true, but I do think that, when people's relationships run out of passion, it's important to seek for passion elsewhere – in art, in work, in making a difference in the world. I think compassion is very important too, and maybe we all have different levels of desire for passion. In my experience, once we've had our passion needs met by something healthy, like helping people, it's not like being addicted to sexual passion. It is a little duller, but it lasts. More sustainable, I guess. Thank you for sharing your important viewpoint!

anonymous Mar 10, 2015 11:19pm

Liked and shared. My god parents taught me that true love never dies. They were as passionately in love with one another until they died in their ripe old age. I loved when my godmother would tell me over tea and crumpets how he still in the middle of the night reached over for her and scooped her up and whispered in her ear how madly he loves her! This was imprinted in my heart and my soul forever. Perhaps that’s why I’ve always been called such a fool in love. I’ve been in love with the same man for over 25 years. It’s far from perfect and it’s not your typical relationship. He’s in his 60s and I’m in my 50s and we still are so passionate it blows my mind. There’s been forgiving to do and it’s done along the way. Honestly I don’t care what the scientist say and I don’t care what anybody else says. I’ve never been abused and I haven’t been used. ” damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead I say”!❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

I guess in that sense I’m a true Libra I love love!

    anonymous Mar 11, 2015 12:45pm

    Wow! That's just amazing. Your response makes me feel excited in a million ways. I just love real-life stories of people doing the so-called "impossible". Thank you for sharing that!

anonymous Mar 10, 2015 10:56am

I SO agree with you, Vironika! I've seen so many passionless couples get passionate again as they are breaking up and feel there's nothing left to lose so they start being honest about how they really feel. Truth telling works like 'magic.'

I think we have to be willing to risk it all and lose it all in our relationships while also being committed.

Your deepest truth is air for the fires of passion in your relationship. 😉 I know this from experience. That's my 'science.'

    anonymous Mar 11, 2015 12:46pm

    That is so true, Lynnet! I've seen the same. I've done the same. It's strange how automatic our self-protective mechanisms are. It's all a testament to the importance and the beauty of self-awareness! Thank you for your wise and kind words.

anonymous Mar 8, 2015 8:21pm

"Why, then, do artists, musicians, and other creative people report feeling passionate for their hobbies for a lifetime?" I know a lot of musicians that don't consistently feel passion for their "work", and neither do I. (I'm a pianist) Why not? I can only speak for myself and this may be an oversimplification but I've seen through the illusion that something "external" can evoke feeling(sustained and consistent) and that something/someone is responsible for me feeling a particular way. For the most part that passion unfolds when "Paul" is not at the fore . When this body'mind is totally accepting of itself. And I'm not sure human beings consistently feel that way given the ebbs and flows of human existence. Thank you for you article. I've read your book and very much enjoyed it.

    anonymous Mar 9, 2015 1:13pm

    AH! Yes, Paul. You are spot on. "Passion unfolds when 'Paul' is not at the fore." Yes, I agree 100%. When we let those egos drop and see through to our core. I find the same. I think all relationships, including our relationships with ourselves, lose passion as a warning of something awry – a call to return to ourselves. It's a signal of inner action that is needed, rather than a symptom of some long-term ailment of the human condition. Thank you for bringing that light to this conversation. I feel we understand each other 🙂

      anonymous Mar 12, 2015 3:49pm

      Thank you for your response. Much love.

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Vironika Tugaleva

Like every human being, Vironika Tugaleva is an ever-changing mystery. At the time of writing this, she was a life coach, world traveler, and award-winning author of two books (The Love Mindset and The Art of Talking to Yourself). She spent her days writing, dancing, singing, running, doing yoga, going on adventures, and having long conversations. But that was then. Who knows what she’s doing now? Keep up at www.vironika.org.