Passion is a loaded topic for many couples. Some people spend their entire relationship grieving the passion they feel they are missing. Others spend their entire relationship trying to find balance amid the extreme highs and devastating lows that are characteristic of intensely passionate relationships. I want to spend some time talking about this thing called passion, and see if we can make some sense about how to incorporate it in our lives so that it works for us, and not against us.
Passion Cocktail, Please
On the most fundamental level, passion is an extreme emotion that can be either positive or negative. Passion extends all the way from "I love him passionately!," to "I hate her with a passion!" Passion provides us with intense feelings of aliveness - of interest and intrigue. Passion evokes an internal response to our external environment.
When we are passionate we are engaged, connected, involved. When we experience passion we are accessing a core part of our self - a sacred energy of sorts that taps into something that says "Yes! I am alive!" We have passionate feelings that develop in response to relationships, possessions, causes, professions, hobbies and as well as very simple, unexpected things such as a sunset that catches us by surprise, or a cool breeze that brushes our cheek at just the right moment, or the excitement of receiving an unexpected call or email from a dear friend. Passion is a complex concept that ultimately helps us understand who we are.
What's passion got to do with it (love)? Let's back up a bit and explore the very important role that passion plays in the development of a relationship. In "The Chemistry of Love," Helen Fisher writes about brain research she conducted with many people in the initial stages of love. In a nutshell, Fisher's research indicates that how we behave when we first fall in love is largely related to the production of three chemicals: dopamine, norepinepherine and seretonin. These are the kind of chemicals that must surely inspire lyrics to songs such as: "somebody bring me some water... can't you see I'm burning alive." Melissa Etheridge knows what I'm talking about, do you?
According to Fisher, humans (as well as animals) are designed to produce what appears to be a passion cocktail of sorts that is generated when we encounter an object of our desire. These chemicals then work together to create experiences that make falling in love alluringly intense and passionate. Music sounds much sweeter, foods taste so much better, the world appears to be a much more beautiful place. When we fall in love most of us experience an immediate increase in energy, decrease in appetite, obsessive thought process about our beloved, and the constant feeling of insatiable need that produces desire and passion.
Once the passion cocktail (as I like to call it) has been present long enough to create a commitment between two people, or in the case of animals - produce offspring - it appears our survival instincts are satisfied and the passion cocktail begins to dry up. Once the chemically assisted passion begins to subside, we are at risk of perceiving our relationships differently. The incredible high created with the help of our passion cocktail sometimes causes the non- chemically assisted passion to feel less significant, somehow not enough.
I have a question for you. When is the last time you nurtured the passion inside of you - separate from your relationship? If you do not take interest in yourself, why then would you expect that someone else will? If we must love ourselves in order to love another, it stands to reason that we must have passion for ourselves in order to have passion for another. When I hear partner's say, "I want her to make me feel sexy," or "I want him to make me feel needed," or "I want her to feel passionate about me," my immediate thought is, "do you feel sexy?," "do you feel needed?," do you feel passionate?" If not, then there are no receptors for this gift you wish to receive.
The good news for those of you reading this saying, "SHOW ME THE PASSION", is that there are endless ways that we can nurture and feed our own internal flames by engaging in activities that inspire, move, entertain, enliven, and evoke our own senses. We can get involved in a cause, or help an elderly neighbor. We can watch a good movie or play, go dancing, or taking a weekend trip somewhere new. We can buy fresh flowers that fill our homes with beauty and fragrance, or take a hike, or watch the sun set or rise. We can enjoy a warm bubble bath, or a relaxing massage. We can listen to music, sing, dance, or play an instrument. We can spend more time with friends, start new hobbies or interests, begin working out, eating right, or begin a journal. This is just a start...we can slowly begin to build the passion within by taking interest in ourselves - to become interested in, curious about, and attached to who we are. When passion evolves from the inside out, we do not have to rely on others to create it for us.
Now for those of you in a relationship, let's bring the topic of passion full-circle. Passion is a necessary ingredient if you want to have an OUTstanding relationship. Remember, passion informs us that we are alive, connected, inspired, and engaged. We have established that it starts with our self, and how we each live and behave. OUTstanding couples bring passion to their relationship everyday. Everyday you ask? Yes, everyday. Now let me clarify, I'm not talking about the "somebody bring me some water" kind of passion, I'm talking about the "connected," "inspired," "engaged" variety of passion.
Here are some helpful tips for you to begin considering how to improve the passion in your life.
1. Know what trips your trigger. Pay attention to the moments, even if they are fleeting, when you feel alive - happy, engaged, excited, interested, curious and attached. Maximize these moments. Seek opportunities to involve yourself in ways that connect you to yourself and the world around you. Notice when you feel most connected to your partner and seek opportunities to recreate these moments when possible.
2. Make opportunities to express your passion and experience that which makes you feel passionate. Make a list of all of the things you already know about what makes you feel alive, and happy and exchange lists with your partner. If you are single, go to #3.
3. Every week identify one thing from your Passion List that you will experience either together, or alone. Commit to doing this one thing from each list. If you are single, commit to doing the one thing from your list!
4. Make a conscious effort to pursue your interests and inspires you. Do not wait for passion to find you. Seek it out. Live it everyday. At the end of everyday, ask yourself, what was I passionate about today? If the answer is "nothing" then commit to something very specific that you will do tomorrow to insure that something takes place that allows you to feel alive and connected to both yourself, your partner, and this wonderful world in which we all live.