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?
Author: Vironika Tugaleva
Editor: Catherine Monkman