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Doing Life Together

couple-498484_1920One of my favorite books is the classic, Wuthering Heights, written by Emily Bronte. It’s a story of passionate love between Heathcliff and Catherine who have known each other since childhood. Life separates them. When Heathcliff hears that his Catherine has died, he feels deep anguishes and cries out, “Be with me always. Take any form-drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!”

When I read this novel in my teens I thought, “Yes, yes, I want someone to love me so passionately, he cannot live without me.” When I matured a bit, I read the classic again and thought, “Wow, there is some serious psychological disturbance going on in this romance!” So much for intense passionate love! Maybe it can be dysfunctional!

While novels and movies portray the undying, passionate love of characters like Heathcliff and Catherine, in real life, passionate love is intense, but not sustained in such a way that our partners are roaming Moors and calling out our names long after we die. Relationship passion ebbs and flows. When couples do not understand this and expect epic movie like responses, frustration and disappointment ends in conflict.

Without an understanding of the biology of desire, we can easily think waning passion dooms us to problems and join the Righteous Brothers in singing, “I’ve lost that loving feeling and its gone, gone, gone.” Feelings of lost love set up a host of conflicts and tension. Sometimes, love isn’t lost, it’s blind and in need of a shot of novelty!  Things like busyness, boredom, stress reactions, aging and a host of other issues can lead to lost passion and become points of contention.

When passion feels lost, Helen Fisher’s work on the brain systems related to love helps us understand that without God and a commitment to marriage, we can easily wander into tempting waters. She reminds us that our brain’s systems of lust, romantic love and attachment, aren’t always connected to one another. Based on her research, she believes we are capable of loving more than one person at a time. In fact, she says we can lie in bed at night and swing from deep feelings of attachment for one person to deep feelings of romantic love for somebody else.Thus, the decision to stay faithful when passion feels lost has to include a vibrant spirituality in which we overcome temptation and the urge to turn away from our spouse through the power of the Holy Spirit. Passion and romance are not the same.

Will your marriage always feel passionate? No. Will there be times of passion? Yes, and you can create more through novelty and attention to your partner in a loving way.

Will there be romance? Yes. You can create and build a loving, respectful relationship that will bring romance and times of passion. But expecting passion to sustain on a regular basis is a set up for disappointment.

Romantic love is related to marital satisfaction, good self-esteem and commitment to a person. Passionate love is associated with uncertainty and even anxiety. This is why it creates such a longing at the beginning of a relationship.

Perhaps more of what we want to sustain is romantic love, based on expressions of affection and fondness, along with acting in ways that show our love. Passion will come and go, but love will sustain us even when passion is at ember stage.

 

 

Blog adapted from We Need to Talk (Mintle, 2015).

 

 

 

 

 

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