Passion Vs. Comfort: Do You Have to Have Fireworks to Have a Successful Relationship?

Passon Vs. Comfort: Do You Have to Have Fireworks to Have a Successful Relationship?

Passion vs. Comfort. This is a post you don’t want to miss, inspired by a discussion on my (500) Days of Summer thread. Here’s the gist of it. Reader Lori writes:

I have been with a man who loves me, and has loved me, as close as one can get to unconditionally for over 13 yrs…. I was never totally madly in love with him, but he knew he wanted to marry me the minute he met me. I married him – BECAUSE he was a great guy in so many ways, minus the sky illuminating fireworks. Don’t get me wrong, intimate moments were always adequate…even pretty damn good at times. But never, well, you know…crazy great. Almost fourteen years later, I remain married and faithful, but with an empty space in my heart. And wondering if I aspired to mediocrity and lost out on the amazing feeling most of us have felt at some time, of true selfless love. I love him….but I’m not ‘in love’ with him. And that is what has happened to EACH AND EVERY married friend I have, (male and female) that married simply because of the reasons you mention… many have strayed, the others are simply living there…yet nobody’s home.

Because if you take as gospel what she says – “passion or bust!” – you might have a long and lonely road ahead of you.

Everyone I know that married because the partner seemed a great choice, would be a great dad, etc. ended up divorced or unhappy. The FEW couples I know who are happily married – still love to hold hands AND ‘make-out’ – THEY married someone they felt intense chemistry for & vice versa…and of EVERY one of the divorced friends, several who are dating but have not found love, only ONE tells me she made the wrong choice leaving. The rest say they would rather be alone, than with someone and lonely.

Please know, I am not a cynic. I have SEEN & BELIEVE IN great love & marriage, but it SHOULD NOT BE treated as a business decision – it sounds great in theory – but it just brings way too much misery for way to many down the road – you better be pretty damn sure you wanna come home to this person, sleep with this person, and walk on the beach holding hands with this person 50 yrs later…because divorce.. from what I have seen… hurts. And living in quiet desperation…hurts.

Listen, I’m a 37-year-old dating coach who’s been married for less than a year. As such, I’m not going to sweep Lori’s points under the rug or deny her 13 years of pain. She feels what she feels, she’s seen what she’s seen, and it’s perfectly valid. In fact, it’s very persuasive.

However, without negating Lori’s take on things, I’d like to try to balance it out a bit. Because if you take as gospel what she says – “passion or bust!” – you might have a long and lonely road ahead of you. And I’d rather you have a happy relationship instead.

Unfortunately, while I’d like to appeal to emotion (as Lori did), I have to appeal to logic. So first of all, let’s acknowledge that Lori’s working off a small sample size, and, like most of us, she finds evidence to support her existing worldview. Whether Lori knows them or not, there are plenty of happy couples who did not have instant magic and chemistry. I’m in one of them. It’s dangerous to extrapolate from five divorced friends who regretted their choice of husbands and conclude “this is how the world works”.

People who are generally satisfied in life are satisfied in marriage. People who are generally dissatisfied in life are dissatisfied in marriage.

Next, Lori’s making the assumption that every woman who didn’t have that ga-ga, giddy, wobbly-kneed feeling about her husband feels as empty as she does in her relationship. This is not the case either. People who are generally satisfied in life are satisfied in marriage. People who are generally dissatisfied in life are dissatisfied in marriage. This is further explained in “The Paradox of Choice”, by Barry Schwartz. I can’t say what the right reasons are to get married or what the wrong reasons are. Nor can I say whether you or your friends truly settled. What I can say is that it’s really easy to envy others based on what you think they have in their marriage. The reality is often quite different. Yes, even for couples brought together by passion.

A movie called “Serendipity” illustrated this point well. In it, John Cusack envies his best friend Jeremy Piven’s perfect marriage…until he learns near the end that Piven’s getting a divorce. Who’da thunk it?

Envy is always a sin, and grass is ALWAYS greener. Seriously, Lori could sacrifice her marriage to pursue her dream man. The fact that she doesn’t means that there’s something compelling keeping her married – and it’s not simply the kids. I suspect she realizes that even if she doesn’t have the divine spark, being single in your 40’s is no cup of tea, and perhaps a kind husband is not so bad after all.

Reader Sophie follows up on Lori’s comment with this question:

Can you give me/us an idea of how many of your friends you think/know married people they weren’t in love with?… I’d like to know what percentage of people aren’t in love on their wedding day. I don’t want to “settle” but I think it would make it easier if I knew that it’s what a lot of people end up having to do.

For what it’s worth, I think MORE people are “in love” when they get married than not in love. Unfortunately, that “in love” feeling one experiences is often an illusion that masks severe cracks in a couple’s long term compatibility. Thus, being “in love” – what some might call passion or chemistry – is not necessarily correlated to a happy marriage. Doubt it? Look at all the times you’ve felt passion for someone, which, ultimately, amounted to nothing.

That leaves a certain percentage of people – fewer than the passion-seekers – who go into marriage without blinders on. I would guess most of them love their partners – much like Lori – they just don’t feel that THING that makes you feel like you just KNOW. These marriages have a greater likelihood at lasting, but only if these folks can get out of their “grass is greener” thinking. Once they go for greener grass, as Lori acknowledged, they find themselves in the same morass as every other single person – wondering how to find that elusive partner that gives them EVERYTHING, consistently disappointed that everyone’s falling short. If you’d rather be single and alone, well, congratulations, you’ve got your wish.

If you’d rather be single and alone, well, congratulations, you’ve got your wish.

I didn’t arrive at these conclusions from a textbook. I arrived at them as a newly married man, as a dating coach, and as a student of all sorts of dating and relationship advice. In short, I’ve long been asking the same questions that you have. After dating half of Los Angeles over 15 years, I didn’t rush into marriage – and I wanted to be sure that it felt the way it was supposed to feel.

I remember talking to Dr. Pat Allen, author of “Getting to I Do”. When I asked her how marriage was supposed to feel, she held up a blank index card to me. “On this side, you have passion.” She flipped over the card. “On this side, you have comfort.”

“Choose one.”

Yeah. It hit me like a ton of bricks, too. But I got it instantly.

It’s not impossible to have ANY passion with comfort or ANY comfort with passion. It’s that the two don’t coexist easily. The very thing that ignites passion is friction and instability. Once again, look at your past. Passion is usually brief, intense and rocky. Comfort, on the other hand, tends to be softer and more nurturing.

Comfort, therefore, is not nearly as exciting, but it tends to last longer. Studies say that passion usually dissipates in 18-24 months. Which is why people who expect their passion to last for 40 years, in essence, are trying to defy the laws of nature.

In marriage, you’re not making a decision for the next six months. You’re making a decision that’ll last the next 30 years. And just like one might choose different career paths for passion or comfort, people choose partners for similar reasons.

Consider the 45-year-old struggling actress who still thinks she’s going to be the next Julia Roberts. Guess what? She’s not. But kudos to her – she followed her passion, she followed sher dreams, she never settled. She showed them!

I use the Hollywood metaphor because I was a screenwriter in my 20′s. I pursued it for 7 years because I knew that SOMEBODY made it in this town, and dammit, I was as good as they were. Agents, managers, execs, contests and film schools all agreed. But after writing 13 screenplays before I turned 30, and not making a consistent living at it, I made a conscious and difficult decision: I was going to put passion aside for comfort.

Due to some combination of unrealistic expectations, Hollywood fantasy, and human nature, we seem to think that all our dreams should come true.

I could have been the penniless 40 year old guy who continues to take a 1-1000 risk with his life…or I could get a new career. You know what I chose.

I have absolutely NO regrets.

Hey, I admire those who refuse to compromise – especially that tiiiiiiiiny portion who finds both passion AND comfort in work or love. But make no mistake, it’s rarely that simple. Passionate couples fight and divorce more readily than comfortable ones. Successful writers run cold, and are forced to find new careers. It’s easy to envy everyone else; it’s just foolish to do so.

All of this talk reminds me of a favorite Billy Joel song, Vienna, from 1977. In it, he wrote:

You have your passion, you have your pride, but don’t you know that only fools are satisfied?

Dream on, but don’t imagine they’ll all come true.

Due to some combination of unrealistic expectations, Hollywood fantasy, and human nature, we seem to think that all our dreams should come true. Why?

Because we want them to. Because we’re good, deserving, people. Because SOMEONE has fantasies come true, why not ME?

I don’t begrudge you the right to your dreams. But at what point do you start to live in the real world, where people make compromises because they’re prudent?

Chances are, you’re compromising at your job – with your pay, your hours, your co-workers, your location, your status, your very career itself.

The alternative to this compromise is called unemployment (or, maybe, self-employment). Either way, it’s a lonely road.

Which is just my way of saying: think twice before you toss out that sweet, generous, good-hearted, loyal, honest partner of yours.

You might think you’ll be happier alone.

I think it’s debatable.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Ronnie Ann Ryan - The Dating Coach

    Evan – I am blown away by your response. You are SO COMPLETELY ON THE MONEY. It’s a shame we are so impacted by the media and movies about what love should be. The “grass is always greener” is a tough mentality to kick. However it is faulty thinking that creates suffering.

    A good follow up to your advice is “COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS!” Being grateful with what you have and what is working can sometimes counteract negative mental chatter that makes people feel crummy about their life and choices. If the grass is always greener else where, then you are actually already where the grass is greener according to others!

    Lori – count the positives and see how you feel which may help close that empty spot in your heart. Fill it with gratitiude and see where that takes you.
    .-= Ronnie Ann Ryan – The Dating Coach’s last blog ….10/1 CT Event Convention for Reinvention Westbrook =-.

    1. 1.1
      flamencamex

      Great point. Wow!

  2. 2
    Honey

    I feel like I’m one of the lucky ones, but then again I think it’s because I’m predisposed to feel happy and lucky in all areas (whether I actually am by other people’s standards or not).

    But I would suggest that relationships are skill-based as well as emotion-based, and there are a lot of things that you can do to bring zing into a comforting relationship.

    Take a class together, learn a new hobby, visit all the crazy touristy things in your hometown that you’ve never been to, travel, move to another city, become vegetarian, join a kickball league, plan surprises for your partner, try new restaurants (especially authentic ethnic cuisine you’ve never had before), have a two-person book club where you read and discuss things you’ve never read before (or take turns sharing your favorites with each other), tell yourself out loud, every day, all of the reasons why you are lucky (there are lots of studies that show that positive out-loud self-talk has a huge impact on how you feel about something – also works really well if you don’t feel especially attractive, this is how I convinced myself I’m gorgeous!), learn more about his love style and yours and how you can best give each other what you need, read erotica or watch porn together, buy (or make up) sex games that lead you to try new things, have an honest conversation about what turns each of you on.

    I think it’s easy to say that a relationship doesn’t have the “zha zha zhu” (as Carrie on SATC would say) when at least part of what is happening is that you’ve gotten into a rut with regards to your entire life. This happens to everyone, but there are tons of things you can do to switch things up, as my very short list above shows. Even things that you do “purely” for yourself, such as joining a gym/getting a personal trainer, going back to school for another degree (even if it’s just for fun and not to advance your career), or switching career fields will energize you in ways that give you a new perspective on your partner.
    .-= Honey’s last blog ….One Super Important Thing I Learned From Dating Three Chicks At Once =-.

  3. 3
    Selena

    Evan selected certain passages from Lori’s posts to support his position. I’ll submit some others I found particularly poignant.

    #15 Basically, I just wanted to put it out there from the womans side of marrrying mr. close to perfect it doesnt come without its pitfalls as i told my husband, he lived his life able to feel what it feels like to feel intense passion for a woman , i will probably never feel the same for a man.

    # 24 after 5 yrs of dissecting the issue, aspiring to self awareness w logical choices, there is no perfect answer. Its a choice. Ive chosen a life (truth be told) of acquiescing, w the tradeoff of stability for my children. If it makes any difference to even one young passionate reader, think carefully forever is a really long time to love someone. To live safely, without love and passion, is.. in my experience..a life unlived..

    #30 i knew i was not crazy in love w/him, but loved him enough, knew he d be a great dad, handsome etc. never felt intense chemistry, my friends think he’s great, ask jokingly if they can have him if i ever divorced. Before marriage I dated lots, had great boyfriends. At some point, I felt time was right to settle down. wanted kids & he was a good choice. I had no idea of the capacity to love/be loved at that time. If i had a magic wand, id wish to fall in love with him, rather than leave and make him sad. Ive tried everything short of the wand. Without that indescribable passion for another person that little something missing becomes a very big something.

    #38 tried counselors & self help short of a magic wand (or hypnosis), you cant force yourself or convince yourself (or anyone else for that matter) to fall in love. To male readers: movie star looks have very little-nothing to do w/ it, ive felt great sparks w/some ok looking men & ended relationships w/handsome, successful men. All my friends agree: it is something you cant put your finger on charisma & chemistry.

    So it’s wiser to choose Comfort over Passion because passion fades? It seems that comfort can become less comforting over time as well. So in the end, does it really make a difference which you choose?

  4. 4
    Evan Marc Katz

    Actually, I chose certain passages, Selena, for space purposes – to synopsize what she was saying. But yes, it’s a viable question: does it make a difference which you choose? There are issues with both, as pointed out in The Post-Birthday World and The Paradox of Choice. I think, over 30 years, comfort makes a little more sense, unless you wanna be fighting with your husband when you’re expecting him to drive you to chemo. But reasonable people can disagree. Thanks for your contribution.

  5. 5
    Selena

    Evan, your premise is “…if you take as gospel what she says – “passion or bust!” -you might have a long and lonley road ahead of you. I’d rather you have a happy relationship instead.”

    What Lori describes is not something I would exactly call a happy relationship.

    And neither marrying for passion or comfort would seem to be any guarantee of having someone driving you to chemo 30 years hence. Fighting or not fighting. ???

  6. 6
    Midlife Dating Coach Annie Gleason

    Evan, You’re absolutely right. In my coaching practice, the vast majority of my divorced female clients in their forties and fifties left their husbands to be with a man with whom they felt amazing chemistry. They knew in their hearts that they were leaving a boring, routine marriage to be with their true soulmate.

    And, guess what? After six months to a year of reality, these relationships fizzled. And after a couple of years of being alone and dating, most of them wished that they’d worked on putting the sizzle back in their marriage instead of leaving.

    You can create passion by being attentive, doing something new together, or flirting in a different way with the one you love. Helen Fisher’s studies show that you can bring chemistry back to a relationship by doing something novel or risky together–whether it’s something as mundane as taking a trip to somewhere you’ve never been to, or as exciting as skydiving.

    Lori — it’s really hard for many single women in their forties and fifties. It’s difficult to appreciate how valuable a loving, supportive long term relationship with a good man is until you’ve lost it for good. Passion is easy to find–and lose. Long-term love and compatibility is much more complex and rare.
    .-= Midlife Dating Coach Annie Gleason’s last blog ….Why MidLife Men? =-.

  7. 7
    JuJu

    Yeah, I agree with Selena here. Evan, you are arguing a point no one is really disputing – most people on these message boards are quite mature and do realize the importance of overall compatibility.

    Only Lori is NOT happy, she does not even want to be with this man, and would rather never have sex with him if that were an option. By what standard is this a good, comfortable marriage?

  8. 8
    Evan Marc Katz

    You’re making this about Lori. It’s not about Lori. She’s just the one who inspired the post. Plenty of people have good marriages that didn’t have fireworks. That’s all.

  9. 9
    Jane

    I am friends with several people who are having long term relationships. Some began with passion, some not. They don’t look much different after several years although, there seems to be more angst in the ones that began with passion because those folks didn’t really know each other very well– too busy doing other things.

    Passion, unless a whole lot of things meld in very specific ways, can be the source of a lot of pain. I don’t think the same can be said for comfort.

    There are no guarantees–and no guarantee you would find someone else that would ignite that spark and also want to be committed to you and your children. If it were all that easy we wouldn’t have thousands of people on the online dating sites and we wouldn’t need Evan to steer in this effort to find love. He can’t offer us any guarantees either—- just logical, unadorned good sense.

    I’ve seen some people make some really stupid choices for passion and be very sorry later. (uh, one of them would be me) Might the prince arrive? Sure. I wonder what the odds are……..

  10. 10
    Selena

    Maybe you should dig up these people and have them post?

    Something like:
    “Elyse and I weren’t what you might call ‘passionate’ when we decided to marry. We knew we both wanted a home and family though, and found in each other shared values and mutual respect.”

    “Now after 20 yrs. of marriage we are still happy as clams when many of our friends who married for passion have long since divorced.”

    “Sex? Well no. That was something we did in the early years in order to have our family. Once we conceived our little Timmy and Janie, we didn’t see the need.”

    “Sex really is overrated. Elyse and I enjoy having separate bedrooms, we both sleep more soundly.”

    :)

  11. 11
    starthrower68

    Honey @ #2,

    You made a HUGE point in your opening line; you are happy in your relationship because you are happy overall in your life.

    I think we sometimes go into these situations expecting the other person to GIVE us all the feelings we want to have, when really, those have to come from within ourselves. It’s not so much finding that person we want as BEING that person we want. I think that what we should really be looking for in our relationships is JOY. As Evan says, an intensely passionate relationship is usually fraught with tension and instability. It’s very dramatic knowing that you and the other person could split at any time. Comfort is good to have in a relationship, but I think sometimes comfort makes us very complacent and we don’t put the effort into the relationship that could make all the difference.

    I think it would benefit Lori, and others in the same situation to take a look at why they feel empty and unfulfilled. It may not really be the marriage. It might be a matter of doing and finding the things that bring you joy, be it a relationship with God, a favorite hobby, etc. Ronnie is spot on about having a heart of gratitude.

    So maybe finding a person with whom we experience JOY rather than passion or comfort might be the best compromise.

  12. 12
    Debra

    I liked all of Honey’s suggestions. You could also think about what things attracted you to your more passionate partners, and see if they would fit into your current relationship. For example, does a certain men’s cologne, way of dressing, hairstyle, etc spark your interest. Those could be good gift suggestions for your man (Honey’s suggestion of planning surprises for your mate) if he is open to trying new things. And maybe you would like a new makeover as well, to feel differently about who you are in the relationship. Sometimes, people just feel stifled and might not realize that they are stifling themselves.

  13. 13
    Joe

    I think a lot of people look solely to their marriage to make them happy “in life.” It’s like they forget the things that made them happy before they got married, or think they can’t enjoy those things any more because they got hitched.

  14. 14
    Evan Marc Katz

    Thanks for the sarcasm, Selena. Very constructive. So since you don’t seem to believe me, how about I post on behalf of those happy compromising people that you don’t think exist:

    “I always thought that fireworks were the most important part of a relationship. For years I had short-term girlfriends where I was so enamored that I couldn’t imagine being with anyone else. Unfortunately, those women dumped me because there were parts of my personality they couldn’t accept. And I really decided that I wanted to be with someone who loved me in full. When I met my wife, I wasn’t infatuated with her. I didn’t call her ten times a day. I didn’t tell her I loved her until six months in. Yet I have yet to meet a better human being. Nobody is cooler, more fun, more generous, and kinder than she is. Oh, and we’ve got a great sex life. In other words, I’ve hit the wife jackpot. Do we have the same sizzle that I’ve had in past relationships? No. Do I have a relationship with a person who truly understands the meaning of cliches like “unconditional love”, “partner in crime” and “’til death do us part”? Hell, yeah.”

    Feel free to pity me for being completely happy in my relationship. I can take it.

    Just don’t make the mistake of assuming that compromising means getting 0 on the passion scale. As I’ve said, if you get a 7 in chemistry and a 10 in compatiblity, it’s far superior to a 10 in chemistry (that FEELING!) and a 5 in compatibility.

    Evan

    1. 14.1
      Marie

      Evan, 
      Thank you so much for sharing this. I really needed to read this. I am with my ideal mate right now (personality-wise). He is the best person I’ve ever met and he is my best friend.  We get each other completely and are both very comfortable. We literally never fight, and are always happy together. Yet, I’ve been fretting about our “passion”. I’ve tried to talk to friends and my sister about this, but nothing has helped. I have also talked to him 3 times about us not always connecting in the bedroom. 

      What’s going on is that we are great sexually, but not incredible. Before him I was with a guy that I had THE MOST INCREDIBLE sexual chemistry with, and I had not gotten over it (still forcing myself to let it go). I kept thinking I needed to be with him, but the reality is… he is judgmental, moody, arrogant, and selfish. I tell myself this constantly, but I can’t get over how much we turn each other on, I mean it’s UNREAL! The passion is unlike anything I’d ever felt before, even a year after fooling around and sleeping together.  We started off as roommates and grew so sexually attracted to one another when we finally gave in, it was intense and explosive. Anyway… I thought I should be with him due to that passion, and although he admits he feels the intensity and it’s the best sex he’s ever had and then also tells me I’m everything he could ever want in a woman… he somehow said he didn’t see a future with me. I always wondered why he said that, it’s not like he gave “us” a chance to know that, and I don’t believe him anyway.

       

      1. 14.1.1
        marymary

        Marie
        You should believe him.  How can you have a future with someone “judgmental, moody, arrogant, and selfish”?  At some point in the future your parents will get sick, or his will get sick, someone will get made redundant, you’ll get ill, or pregnant, one of your kids will get into trouble.  Is  sex  going to help you then?
        Still, I get that you can have great sex with difficult people (or outright aholes).  I wonder if it’s a psychological interplay where the drama and emotion makes the sex more exciting.    I doubt that it’s sustainable over the long time without increasing the drama quotient , eg he goes from just being “selfish” to cheating or gambling away your house. 

  15. 15
    Carol

    A few lucky ones are able to get both, I am thankful I was one of those. Perhaps when you are very young and grow together it is easier because you aren’t so jaded. The intensity fades, but it turns into “compassionate love” and you realize that is more valuable that the chemistry ever could be. That doesn’t mean the sex isn’t still good and like anything you have to put some effort into keeping it good.
    Now I am widowed, I look for someone who could be my best friend, lover and share common interests, some chemistry too but not necessarily off the scale. Thank you Evan for giving me the tools to know the difference and never giving up!

  16. 16
    starthrower68

    Evan, I would submit to you that you have found JOY which is what I think people who believe they want fireworks are really looking for if the truth be told. They may not have yet learned the difference. I would also submit that those who have a more balance passion vs. comfort situation will tell you the slow burn is much better than the heady rush.

    1. 16.1
      Malcolm

      Excellent insight (!)  My impression is that we all have a really poor understanding of what our possible specific, differentiated emotions might be (Joy, Passion, Compassion, Contentment, Pleasure, Clarity, Gratitude, Sincerity, Peacefulness, Relaxation, Strength, Appreciation, Beauty, Intimacy, Bliss, etc.)  . . . how we value various possible combinations personally . . . and how we would recognize them manifesting in relationship.

  17. 17
    JuJu

    May I ask a personal question, Evan? Does your wife know she is in any way a compromise?

    I was also wondering about Lori’s husband if the man has any self-respect. :-/ She tells him openly of all her feelings (or, rather, lack thereof), yet he is happy just to have her in whatever capacity he can. (!)

    Granted, I am a woman, and I absolutely must feel desirable in a relationship, but is it really that different for men?

  18. 18
    Evan Marc Katz

    Juju and Selena,

    I respectfully submit that you are stuck in absolutist thinking.

    If you choose to compromise, there will be NO passion.
    If you make practical considerations, there will be NO joy.
    If you don’t hold out for every single thing on your laundry list, you will be consigned to a sad lifetime of longing.
    If a man thinks for one second that he is not absolutely perfect in the eyes of his wife, then he has no self-respect.

    These statements are patently untrue.

    What you’re failing to recognize is that EVERYONE who gets married compromises, in some form or another.

    Ask the passionate woman who find that her husband is a workaholic, or emotionally unavailable, or a cheater. You get one thing, you give up another. Anyone who tells you otherwise isn’t telling you the truth.

    So let’s not reduce my relationship, JuJu, to something as crude as “does your wife know she is a compromise?” That severely diminishes the intensity and joy of our marriage and reduces my wife to an object, which she certainly is not.

    But does she know that I gave up certain things to be with her? Yes. As I know that she gave up certain things to be with me. As I know that anyone who marries you, JuJu and Selena, is going to have to compromise on something, too. To think otherwise is both arrogant and naive.

    I respect your desire to hold out for the perfect guy, in the perfect, passionate relationship. I would request that you respect others who understand that life isn’t perfect and choose a different way of doing things. When Lori says she was unhappy with her compromise, she speaks for herself, not for all of us.

    So let’s get away from this irrational absolutist thinking, which suggests that compromise is a bad word.

    Because in marriage, it’s the ONLY word. No compromise, no partnership.

    Have a lovely weekend, y’all. I’m getting some sun.

    XO

    E

  19. 19
    Mikko Kemppe - Relationship Coach

    What a great debate!

    Evan, I think you are misunderstanding Selena’s and Juju’s points and perhaps vice versa.

    I think you are attributing the word passion a different meaning, which is at the heart of this misunderstanding.

    Let me illustrate by sharing a recent story from my own life:

    I am currently going through a separation. I was married for about two years. My wife is a beautiful person and I still love her very much. I would describe our relationship to have also been passionate in many ways. She would have made a great wife and mother. Yet, we are going through a divorce. Why?

    In my heart I believe it is possible to love someone, yet realize that this person is not the right one for you to share the rest of your life with. Based on my personal experience, I believe there is such a thing as being able to just know in your heart whether someone is a right person for you. However, to be able to just know is not as simply as it may sound. For you to have the ability to just know, certain preconditions have to be met. To fully understand what I mean by these preconditions, read my blog post that I selected below.

    But my point here is that there is a big difference in having a passionate relationship and having the ability to have a knowing in your heart whether this person is the one you are meant to share your life with. I think in the case of Lori, what she was trying to communicate is that although she loves her husband dearly, in her heart she feels like he is not the right one for her. This sometimes may or may not correlate with having passion or sex in your relationship. And I think this is where the confusion has entered to this debate.

    Evan, I completely understand yours as well as many others logic behind the idea of compromising to have marriage based on comfort rather than passion. And I think your arguments are well presented and very logical. I am fully aware of and completely understand that to make any marriage work you have to compromise, no marriage will ever be perfect. And to think otherwise would be na ve.

    At the same time, I know that for me, the one thing I cannot compromise is to do what I feel is the right thing to do in my heart, no matter how much I would try to rationalize it otherwise. And I think that is what Selena and Juju are also trying to point out.
    .-= Mikko Kemppe – Relationship Coach’s last blog ….How Do You Know You Have Found The Right One? =-.

  20. 20
    JuJu

    If you choose to compromise, there will be NO passion.
    If you make practical considerations, there will be NO joy.
    If you don’t hold out for every single thing on your laundry list, you will be consigned to a sad lifetime of longing.

    Not quite. Or, actually, not at all so. I don’t think one necessarily (or even commonly) rules out the other. I would just prefer to tie my life with someone I know I want to be with, and sex for me personally is, maybe, one of the three or four most important components of a romantic relationship, so I want to make sure the person I choose for life is someone I want to have sex with indefinitely, and who wants the same with me.

    I have been married to a man who wasn’t physically my type, and after only five years together I no longer wanted sex with him (he still wanted me as much as ever). Which didn’t mean, naturally, that I didn’t want sex in general – I did, just not with him. The man I would like to find now doesn’t have to be perfect at all, but from my experience I learned that he does have to be attractive to me beyond the initial sense of novelty.

    If a man thinks for one second that he is not absolutely perfect in the eyes of his wife, then he has no self-respect.

    Please don’t distort what I said. She told him that while he knows what it’s like to be intensely in love with a woman, she will never know what it’s like to feel the same for a man. She also told him hers is a life unlived. Theirs is a marriage that’s marginal at best (for her). I do believe my resulting question is legitimate.

    And I never did dispute that marriage is a compromise, and that no one will be 100% what you want (nor will I be anyone’s *ideal* choice). Although I certainly would not want to hear my mate harp on everything he’s given up on or settled for by choosing to be with me. I don’t want him to rationalize his decision, nor do I want to have to rationalize mine.

  21. 21
    Selena

    Sorry I hit a nerve Evan. I didn’t mean to be sarcastic as much as I meant to light-heartedly portray some marriages I’ve heard described elsewhere. I read some sites that are not devoted to dating as much as they are to troubled relationships. A common, COMMON, complaint is where one spouse has totally lost interest in sex and the other is that their wits end with frustration.

    Sometimes there seems to have been a bait and switch involved: the person seemed passionate at first, but cooled off in the months after the ceremony. In others, the spouse writing in admits things were never “that great” in the bedroom, but they thought the situation would improve after marriage. And sometimes they admit it didn’t really matter at first, but as the years went by, decades in some cases, the lack of passion came to be translated into a lack of love. Sometimes of simple interest in the other person.

    And inevitably these people are emotionally torn on what to do. They describe their spouse as “a great parent”, “we get along very well”, “my best friend” , “would be terrible to divorce”. But like Lori mentioned in one of her posts, that little something that was missing at the start, had turned into something very big. An elephant in the room.

    You may not have been crazy infatuated with your wife off the bat Evan, but re-read your post…you write about her PASSIONATELY. You do. As a person who interests you, and I guess you could call it a bonus that you have a great sex life. ;)

    This is not the same as advising people to consider marrying someone for whom they feel little in the way of sparks just so they can avoid the horrors! of being single over 40. Though perhaps that was a fear of yours? Another thing Lori wrote, that I’ve read other people say elsewhere, was about preferring to be alone rather than LONELY in a marriage. This is what can happen when ‘comfort’ wears off just as it can when passion does.

    Initially I thought your comment about fighting on the way to chemo was pretty lame. Now thinking about it, I’d LOVE to be fighting with someone on my way to chemo. Because it would show we were still passionate about each other, and life! Something I imagine I’d need going in for chemo. And other difficult situations.

  22. 22
    Honey

    @Juju and Selena, I’ve heard stories about sex fizzling in the way you describe as well, and think it’s important for folks to realize that someone’s sex drive during the first year or so of a relationship is not necessarily reflective of their actual sex drive. It is entirely possible for one person to have a higher sex drive in the “honeymoon” phase and then have a very, very low sex drive for the remainder of the rest of the relationship. This is one of the reasons I think it’s important to date for a long time before getting married, because this is something that people have not always been in long term relationships enough to even know about themselves.

    I know that her lack of interest in sex was one reason the BF ended things with his ex, and now he’s in a relationship (with me:-) where he is the partner with the lower sex drive (though I wouldn’t say it’s “low,” just lower than mine). While some of it is about attraction, there are things that affect sex drive in addition to attraction, and those things are just as important to know.
    .-= Honey’s last blog ….A Love Styles Exercise =-.

  23. 23
    Selena

    Whoa ho! So many staggering assumptions I scarcely know where to begin. Talk about absolutest thinking my friend.

    Compromise is more likely, certainly more palatable with some passion for backup.

    Since when did JOY and practical considerations become mutually exclusive? Not in my world.

    I don’t HAVE a laundry list, much less hold out for everything on one and drown in longing. There are dealbreakers, everything else depends on the individual.

    There is a man alive who thinks he’s perfect in the eyes of his wife? Really? On earth?

    I’m neither arrogant, nor naive and I think the concept of holding out for the “perfect guy” is ludicrous. There is no such thing as a perfect PERSON let alone guy.

    CLEARLY, Lori speaks for herself, but it was YOU who chose to make her words an example for your essay EMK. She mentioned some of her friends, but no where in her writing did I see she mentioned YOU or “the rest of us” whoever “the rest of us” is. And she is not the only person who’s written here after finding “settling” wasn’t quite all it’s cracked up to be. YOU KNOW THAT if you read your own blog.

    XO Selena

    1. 23.1
      Quest

      <<There’s no such thing as a PERFECT person let alone a guy.>> [emphasis added]
      lol!  oh you nutty kids.

  24. 24
    downtowngal

    Selena #3, “It seems that comfort can become less comforting over time as well.”

    So true. When you know you know. If you’ve never been attracted to the guy you never will.

    I think this becomes an issue at the point of deciding whether to date – or continue to someone based on shallow criteria – i.e. hair color/height/occupation, etc. And you have to figure out whether you’re adding neorotic ‘roadblocks’ preventing you from pursuing your heart, or if it’s real. By the time you get to wedding day, if it’s not there, it never will be.

    Your heart and gut never lie.

    People who are holding hands after 40+ years are comfortable with themselves and are selfless toward their partners. If you feel as if you’ve settled upon wedding day it won’t change.

  25. 25
    zann

    Lori: I’m gonna be brutally frank. Either get over yourself or get into yourself. You say you married the dude knowing you were doing it for reasons other than love — because the timing seemed right, or he’d make a good father, or to suit what other requirements you thought you needed to be an acceptable woman in the eyes of others (because heaven forbid you should be a “spinster”). But what you were actually doing was making yourself comfortable by using someone else, namely your husband. And now that you’re still not comfortable with who you are, within the acceptable sanctity of marriage, home & hearth, you believe it’s because this same guy isn’t shooting you to the moon between the sheets every night. You crave what you think other lucky couples have — sparks AND compatibility. Just who are these lucky, lucky couples, because I’d like to meet them and hear what they have to say about their constant contentment. Chances are they have their blah periods or times when they rack their brains trying to remember what it was about their spouse that made them lust for them way back when. OR they grow to despise in their spouse the very thing that made them seem so HOT in the first place. Marriage is a crapshoot and messy, and — you’re absolutely right — often winds up being very tepid at times. But ya know what? There’s a whole lot of women, myself included, who would be glad to have such problems. Instant chemistry is exactly that — instantaneous combustion not meant to last. When you’re in it for the long haul, sometimes you gotta break out the flint, do a lot of rubbing, and pray for sparks. Come on, Lori, you’ve HAD the full-flush hot stuff in the past with other guys — but is it just coincidence that you didn’t wind up marrying any of them??? No, silly, it’s because for one reason or another, they weren’t good long-term partners. When we feel unhappy with ourselves, the first thing we tend to do is point the finger at the “other,” and start looking over the fence… convincing ourselves that IF ONLY we had those glorious sparks, everything else would fall into place. Maybe you even have a particular dude you’re craving & you’re sure he could fill that void for you. But I can tell you — from the mouths of married women who’ve gone there, done that — it’s a fantasy, a delusion. As for your friends who say they’d rather be alone than in a non-sparks marriage with a nice guy — well, may they embrace that alone-ness, live long and prosper from within it. Meanwile, there’s plenty of women out there who would be more than willing to recognize these nice guys for who and what they are. But if you’re miserable now, you’ll no doubt still be miserable without your current husband. He, on the other hand, might actually wind up happier without you — because at least he’d be free to find a woman who not only thinks he’s good enough, but actually finds him to be damn good — and a nice, responsible guy to boot.

  26. 26
    Barb

    Stop talking with your girlfriends about your passionless marriages. It’s only going to make you focus more and more on the passion you feel is lacking and make all the good things move to the background. Put the passion you have for complaining about it into a pool dancing class or something like that. How passionate are you yourself? Do you dress a little sexy, do you laugh a lot, are you engaged with life? Shake things up. Comfort and familiarity is the death of passion. It’s easy to feel passionate in the first few months of a relationship … it’s a fantasy that you will feel the same passion after 20 years of marriage. There’s no one on this planet with whom you will experience this.

  27. 27
    lorihaah4

    Every post allows me to see the issue from so many interesting angles, all valid/valuable perspectives (well..maybe w/ the exception of Zann…ha ha) The fact remains (and I am speaking from my heart…and its a pretty big heart), I stay not because there is some unspoken, secret love of the ‘comfort’, but because i would rather feel the empty space than to hurt my husband and my children. I am NOT afraid to be alone, I am not afraid that i could not find a sexy man to date if single (im not yet 40 by the way and Im fairly confident id be a fun date), I only mentioned a few friends, but unfortunately I have know many/heard of many who live in quiet desperation as well…i simply want to show the other side of the settling issue, or of the index card “passion / comfort” – because if there is anyone who questions the walk down the aisle now….make sure you are really REALLY sure, because in marriage, the puddle between you becomes the brook, becomes a stream becomes the river becomes the grand canyon…and its pretty damn near impossible to bring that thing back together.

  28. 28
    lorihaah4

    Evan – i have read paradox of choice, and pretty much every other book i can get my hands on that you and several other relationship knowledge seekers have ever suggested – have you read the article from the Atlantic re happiness? http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200906/happiness
    pretty deep stuff there… long but worthwhile and it seems you are quite the reader yourself. i think another part of the whole issue is that we, as humans, (as raw as it sounds)… are still so fresh out of the cave – and what worked (p.e.a. etc) to keep us together to create/nurture babies, and live to the ripe old age of 40 50 or 60, just simply maybe doesn’t often doesnt work anymore?! The article suggests that the happiest in old age amongst us have really lived, that it is better to squeeze the lemons into lemonade of life. My BIGGEST fear..much bigger than of being alone, is that i am teaching my kids, leading by example, to aspire to mediocrity in life.. or maybe better stated.. to endure a stale ‘comfy’ marriage because thats what people do. And because so many people do so as per societal conventions, there is adultery, divorce, blah blah blah…. statistics are only a small percentage of the amount of people who actually stray… and from what ive read the statistic is pretty high – my guess, from what i have witnessed (MANY people share their personal stories with me, even strangers…im logical and compassionate and overall non-judgemental – tollerant/intollerant of what i allow in my life but non judgemental when hearing others lifestories) is that there are many seemingly happily married couples where one person is in fact very lonely… look at alcohol abuse, drug dependency, depression meds, etc. in the western world – it is out of control – too many people want to numb themselves of their pain.

  29. 29
    aj

    I had 9 great years until my mate died. No offense Evan but you are a newlywed. After atleast 7 years, lets see where you are at, young man! :)

  30. 30
    -NN-

    This is the same discussion that we always have – there are people who can have pleasurable sex without being attracted to their partners
    and there are those who find sex distasteful with a partner who is not sexually attractive to them.

    I know which one I am..
    I am rather without sex and single – than distasteful sex in a relationship. (because that it would be after several years, when my partner would get his O, and I would always be without)

    as simple as that.

    So if I thought sex is not something that I need in a relationship, I could settle.

    I would like to see for once that you are going to recommend that he starts a relatioship with a woman, whom he doesn’t fancy sexually ..
    (Because that is what you are always recommending to women..)

    It is easy, if you see plenty of members of opposite sex whom you fancy..
    I don’t
    - and I am not going to prostitute myself for rest of my life to have a relationship.

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