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. 31
    A-L

    In #20 Selena wrote, 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.

    I think this is the crux of the confusion/disagreement on this thread. We’re all defining sparks/chemistry as different things. In a different thread (http://www.evanmarckatz.com/blog/is-it-okay-to-love-someone-but-not-be-in-love/#comment-38318) I talked about a knock your socks off, house-shaking, fireworks exploding extravaganza chemistry and several posters (including Selena) said this wasn’t what they were expecting when they said they wanted chemistry. I’m guessing that when Evan is talking about a 10 on the chemistry scale, this is what he’s talking about. When he’s dropping it down to a 7, it’s probably what the chemistry people are actually asking to get.

    10 = a knock your socks off, house-shaking, fireworks exploding extravaganza

    7-8 = more intense, more connected sometimes almost spiritual in nature sex (from Selena at http://www.evanmarckatz.com/blog/is-it-okay-to-love-someone-but-not-be-in-love/#comment-38615)

    So if you feel little in the way of sparks, you’re not at a 7 on the chemistry scale, you’re probably a 3-4 at best, and quite possibly a 1-2. Nobody here is advocating for someone to marry their partner who they feel so little for in the way of passion. I think everyone would agree that it’s probably a recipe for disaster. But I think the pro-compatibility people are saying not to hold out for the house-shaking 10, because it’s unlikely to last (if it’s even found).

    1. 31.1
      niceguy

      A-L, you have hit the nail on the head. Passion and comfort are not two sides of an index card, they are sliding scales that exist side-by-side. I can attest, if there is zero passion, no fireworks at all for one partner, then there will be zero comfort in the long run.
      I am a gay man in my late thirties. Though my “husband” and I have not traveled to another state to get legally married, we intertwined our lives after a very brief courtship. I knew in the beginning, as did he, that an adequate “spark” was not there for me. He is handsome, funny, supportive, loyal, and kind; there is nothing “wrong” with him. He really is a great catch.
      We have a comfortable life in terms of money and resources, we are comfortable as friends/companions, we are comfortable together in business, but the absence of passion (on my scale) has torn our relationship apart. We stopped having sex early on because (I don’t have to tell you this) when there is zero passion, sex becomes an unpleasant thing that is to be avoided.
      I turned to porn and he eventually turned to others. I understood why he did it, but the trust still eroded. Things got worse, other people became involved, and the relationship became emotionally and physically abusive. He will literally start a physical fight in order to provoke me to hit him just to feel some kind of passion. We have so much “comfort” that neither of us want to end the relationship forever (we did break up for several months a couple of years ago).
      After everything that has happened, I would still trust him with my life, but I can’t trust him with my emotions. And of course: There is still no spark. We are on our fourth couples therapist (the first three couldn’t help to achieve any progress). I am a 7-8 on his passion scale and he is a 0-1 on mine. We have lots of “comfort” with lots of fighting, abuse, longing, heartache, and loneliness.
      I have read so, so many stories like Lori’s and like mine, and I know in my heart what the outcome should be. I don’t expect anyone to be perfect, I’m an adult, I have dated quite a bit in the past. I just want at least a +5 on the comfort scale and a +5 on the passion scale (a 7-8 on each would be AMAZING).
      Those of us who have tried literally *everything* to ignite a spark know how lonely and painful life is for ourselves and for our partners. We aren’t the childish “grass is always greener” people that we are made out to be. We absolutely live in agony, the guilt and sorrow are overwhelming at times. But the passion is still not there, sex and intimacy never improve, and the loneliness is maddening.
      Why did I continue in the beginning without a “honeymoon” phase, and why have I stayed all these years? It was a partnership that made perfect sense, a 10 on the comfort scale for both of us. Why have we been torn apart, our relationship left with fortress walls and battle scars? Comfort can’t exist without some level of passion. There are plenty of good, honest, caring people like me who don’t wish for fireworks like Independence Day or New Year’s, we just want a warm, steady flame. An eternal flame would be nice, but it is gut-wrenching to live constantly in cold and darkness and to watch our “lovers” do the same.

      1. 31.1.1
        Evan Marc Katz

        No one on this blog – least of all me – told you to be in a relationship with a 0 passion. Of course your relationship will suffer if you don’t want to have sex with only person you’re supposed to have sex with. Keep reading this blog, my friend. 7 passion, 10 compatibility makes for a nice life. What you have, frankly, isn’t even comfortable. Comfort is not fighting. Comfort is a safe sex life where you know how to please your partner. Comfort is no couples therapy. You dug this hole by investing so much time in someone you’re not attracted to. Time to be a caring person and take care of yourself – find another man. Your partner deserves someone who wants him.

  2. 32
    mic

    Passion can be unrelated to strong physical attraction toward, or chemistry with, someone. It can even be about a hobby. Someday, maybe researchers will track marriages according to initial passion and see how well they are doing years later, when looks have faded and sex drives likely have dropped.

  3. 33
    mic

    For the record, physical attraction/chemistry probably matters in part because of those blah (or worse) periods when personality compatibility feels limited. People, for example, look longer at others they find attractive, which at least helps to maintain some respect as opposed to completing ignoring someone.

  4. 34
    starthrower68

    I still maintain that intensely passionate marriages see days when both people don’t feel particularly passionate or don’t even like each other very much. That’s when one learns that love is a decision, as much if not more than a feeling. That is not to say that either passion or comfort are wrong; but we all get bogged down in the cares of life, and get weary from it all. That’s when you decide you’re going to give it some effort.

  5. 35
    mic

    Physical attraction also automatically tends to lead to better body language and more smiling. Food for thought about how the world works. FYI, there’s evidence from yearbook photos that happy-faced people do better in life.

    Another good area for research is the physical attractiveness of people who crave passion. It’s plausible that people of average or less attractiveness seldom are in that category and therefore sooner learn how to successfully handle relationships, which they might need to take more seriously due to having less to offer in one respect. Again, marital satisfaction is not linked to physical attractiveness.

  6. 36
    Jurate

    It’s a choice for sure! It’s a choice between being “myself A” and “myself B”. If you choose to be passive aggressive and blame the partner for that you are doing zero effort (not to please the partner, but make yourself enjoy him), there will be no joy, only misery. It is such a no brainer that I can’t stop being surprised why it is a problem for YOU. It is the problem for your partner: you are being passive aggressive. What happens in those passionate periods of initial infatuation is: “the high”, where internal motivation to invest into relationship peaks and you do invest all of yourself, then with time, that investment keeps you in. If have not made that investment in a “green field” of a passionate infatuation, do it in “the brown field” – now. Same, or even better effect. That said, I would gladly skip the infatuation, the passion… I have it in myself…

  7. 37
    Ruby

    The most interesting thing about this thread is how hard it is to define what a relationship should be. The dating advice out there is so contradictory. Some say, you must give up your list to find love, while others I have read actively encourage you to make a list of what you want and carry it around in your wallet (The Law of Attraction), and that perfect partner will be drawn to you.

    I hate to say it, but no one knows. To some extent, despite everything, meeting that special person is a bit of a crapshoot. That’s why that “best people marrying young” discussion in another thread seemed like such a fallacy.

    The truth is, some people find their soulmate at age 22. And some of those fine people get divorced 20 years later. Some would like to leave, but stay because of kids, finances, or fear. Some really want to start a family before it’s too late, and compromise on the choice of a partner in order to achieve that goal. I’ve met many divorced people who married because their partner (or their parents) wanted it or because all their friends were married. Some people find the love of their life when they’re 65. Although we hate to acknowledge it, some people never do.

    We all want to know, though, don’t we? We can’t control who comes into our lives, we can only make a concerted effort to meet potential partners, and determine as best we can how we’ll respond to them. But you can’t control it, can’t bend or shape your desires to suit your will. All relationship involve some degree of compromise. What might work for me might be anathema to you….how much passion do you need? And how much comfort? Can you find a balance?

    And that’s just physical chemistry. What about common interests/values/goals, and character? One of the best quotes I ever heard was from a friend who said to me, “Desire is precise”. As if it all isn’t complicated enough!

  8. 38
    downtowngal

    NN#30, excellent points.

    I really think that if there are sparks at the beginning you have a chance. This doesn’t mean this is your lifelong partner, that’s what the next few months-year are about, getting to know each other after the initial buzz wears off so you can learn more about each others’ values, etc.

    Sometimes spearks fly after the initial period, but I think that’s if one party is (perhaps subconciously) placing roadblocks. Like a friend of mine who couldn’t believe how much she liked this one guy who kept asking her out – once she got passed the fact that he wasn’t the educated banker she always sought after she was hooked. By their wedding day they were sure.

    People often marry for reasons other than love. Like a guy who finds the girl he had a fling with on the rebound from his ex got pregnant so he marries her (true story). Or arranged marriages, which some of my friends’ parents (Indian/middle-eastern) had. In those cultures the family plays a greater role in society than in our’s.

  9. 39
    mic

    Lori, how attractive are the women in your social circle that you mention above? Evan, what about the woman in the happy couples you know, relative to LA standards? It seems like a woman’s attractiveness and her eagerness to go for a passionate relationship are connected.

  10. 40
    Diana

    I barely know where to begin. :) In response to some of your comments, Evan, I do believe that a successful relationship is about compromise. If you are a truly successful couple, you learn as you grow (change), both as individuals and as a couple, as you weather life’s ups and downs and its many challenges, how to successfully keep your relationship thriving, all through compromising. Recognizing the compromising that has occurred does not deplete the joy, love, or passion in a marriage nor make anyone an object. Compromising between two emotionally and mentally healthy, strong individuals can actually bring a deeper joy, love or passion. After all, compromising is a selfless act. A couple will often compromise, at times, without even a glance. Every single day together is a constant balance, i.e. compromise.

    When I read the words “comfort, compromise, chemistry, settling, fireworks, passion,” and so on here, I often feel that the subject is not entirely clear, since every one seems to have a slightly different take. I find it somewhat bewildering when I read the view of others who have yet to experience a lifelong relationship, especially marriage because thoughts are being projected onto a future that has yet to occur. It is somewhat naive to believe you will know how you will feel after five, 10 or 20 years of marriage, with perhaps children as well ~ children will test your relationship in ways you cannot imagine or appreciate as of yet.

    Compatibility is what I believe to be the most important issue. I also believe there has to be the critical element of a mutual physical attraction; not spontaneous combustion, but a fire nonetheless. It doesn’t necessarily have to be at the beginning either. IMHO, the best kind of fire is the one that starts as a slow burn or a small spark, and is fueled by compatibility which often turns the fire into an explosion. Physical attraction is a funny thing ~ sometimes people become more attractive to us, as we get to know them, or vice versa. As the years roll by and the fire returns to burning embers, it will serve an even greater purpose because of the bond it helped to create to weather the storms ahead. Compatibility without physical attraction, or physical attraction without compatibility will not lead to a successful lifelong relationship.

    Oh it may appear that way, when you are looking over the fence, but appearances are highly deceiving. And everyone knows that a woman’s heart, in particular, is as deep as the ocean (to borrow from the “Titanic” movie), and one of the most complex things on earth.

  11. 41
    Selena

    A-L, #31

    First of all I don’t use scales on this concept (I went back and checked) – that’s you. And sometimes EMK.

    What I think happens on this blog is the words butterflies, fireworks, infatuation, chemistry, passion, “being in love”, are often used synonymously and indiscriminately when they DO NOT necessarily mean the same thing.

    Infatuation is based primarily on physical attraction and is largely hormonal. A blunt way to describe this is “fresh lust”. Which can give you that giddy feeling; aka: “butterflies”, “sparks”. Sex during the period of infatuation is described by some as “fireworks”. It’s exciting and intoxicating because it’s new. It’s a high. But nothing can stay “new” forever – newness wears off. And so does infatuation simply by getting to know the other person. And when that happens the individuals find they either just aren’t that into each other afterall, OR they realize they are falling in love. Something deeper than infatuation and based on more than sexual attraction.

    Which is not to say that people who have been together many years don’t still have “fireworks extravaganzas!”. They just don’t expect it *every* time. :)

    Chemistry – is that hard-to-define *something* that you feel towards some people and not others. It’s more than sexual attraction and you don’t have to look far into anyone’s life to see that is true. Review your friends, co-workers, relatives…there are some you “click” with more than others. Some who really “get” you, yes? Chemistry is something that is special, something beyond “get along well with”. I’ll venture when most of the posters on this blog are attempting to defend chemistry to EMK that’s what they mean: the difference between special and “get along well with”. If you’ve ever had it with a partner, the idea of being partnered to someone without it is pretty unappealing.

    Passion isn’t just sex either. You can have a passion for your work, a hobby, a cause, your children. Why WOULDN’T you want to have passion for your partner? Seriously. Good sex can be an outgrowth of passion, so can just enjoying spending time together. It’s the difference between being really happy when your person comes home and
    “He’s home, so what”.

    Feeling passionately about someone doesn’t automatically equate to conflict. EMK used the example of passion on one side of an index card, comfort on the other. The point was to choose one or the other. How about looking at it this way: both passion and comfort are on the SAME INDEX CARD. They are not opposing ideas, they are both parts of a whole.

    Being in love – without the quotation marks is simply a sense of loving another soul as you love yourself, a part of you, the person you see your future with. Your partner in life. “Being in love” -with quotations marks, as it has been used on this blog is meant to be demeaning. Trying to give the impression that it’s the same thing as lust, “butterflies”, infatuation, fleeting, trivial, unimportant. Maybe believing that helps some justify their choices I don’t know. It’s not a phrase I have ever used lightly.

  12. 42
    Diana

    Although, compromising is only selfless in certain instances.

    To Lori, I just want to say that while it may appear that your husband is not affected by the thoughts and feelings you have brutally bared for him, since his love and attraction for you remains, I sincerely hope that you do not find yourself and your children suddenly and unexpectedly without him. I sense that you take him for granted. He may continue to be the way he is with you based on low self-esteem, or his own fear of being alone.

    Men, good men, want to feel like they are your hero. They want to take care of you and make you happy. When this does not occur, and they feel like no matter what they do, you’re still not happy, they often shut down, withdraw, start to become harder to live with.

    I do not know you or your husband and life, so please forgive me if I sound out of left field on this. As for not wanting to hurt him, you may have already. And as your children grow older, they will be able to feel the stifling air.

  13. 43
    Cat

    How do you define passion? Sexual chemistry or just excitement (in general) about being with someone? Does anyone have the energy to be that excited about someone for 14 years of marriage and raise kids?

    Why does her husband have to fill her empty space? Does she have a passion about anything?? The passionless marriages I hear about usually seem to involve little effort from either partner to change it for the better… It’s far easier to complain to girlfriends than to actually do something! Why not start an affair WITH your husband? I prescribe a wig, a box of wine and a cheap motel (or whatever is so off track from your normal life) and you may find you don’t know everything about your mate Maybe he feels the same way that you do, that he settled (for someone with no passion for him!) How would you feel about that?

    Right now you’re using your kids as an excuse to stay in a passionless marriage. What happens when you’ve raised your kids, they’re off at school, and it’s just you and the husband you’re not in love with?

    And rest assured that if you dumped him, likely one of the friends who loved hearing you complain would snap him up in a heartbeat… (Not that it should be a reason to keep him, just something to consider.)

  14. 44
    Diana

    To Selena #40 ~ great post! I have experienced passion and comfort at the same time ~ amazing! I was blessed for many years for which I remain grateful. They do NOT have to be exclusive. I have also experienced the “I’m not ‘in love’ with you” words. At the time, I didn’t completely understand what he was trying to say. In hindsight, I believe what really happened was his inability to deal with new and serious financial issues that had developed. He needed space and time to figure himself out, and it didn’t truly have anything to do with me or us at all.

  15. 45
    Kenley

    As someone who ended a long term relationship with a good man who felt more like a best friend than a best friend AND a lover, I can sincerely say that when I ended the relationship, I truly wished that he would meet and fall in love with another woman who would love him just as much as he loved her. So, the people who seem to be suggesting that Lori should stay simply because he might be happy with someone else are completely missing the point, in my opinion. When I ended my relationship, many of my friends said “Good. We always thought you could do better.” I responded by telling them, there was no need to say anything mean about him and it was highly unlikely that I would find someone who would love me more or even as much as he did. And, five years later, I haven’t. But,I don’t regret for one minute ending it. Just because a man is good, doesn’t mean that he is right for you. I am sure many of the women reading this blog have ended relationships with good men who treated them well. But being treated well isn’t enough. Often times we focus on what women want to get from men in relationships, but there is another side that’s just as important. What do women need to give in a relationship and is the man open to receiving it. If a good guy doesn’t want the things a woman wants to give, that’s also a reason why a relationship might not work. He’s not bad and neither is the woman.

  16. 46
    lorihaah4

    Kenley – u stated exactly how i feel – i do want hapiness for him and to have him avoid suffering..it would only ENHANCE my life, my kids lives, his life and those around him if he found mutual, reciprocated love and caring. Diana – u are rite, which i what i fear – that my kids notice the silence..the lack of passion- we do not argue, i am kind, but in a sincere, polite way, not in a ‘i love when he comes home from work we can spend time together’ way. This is what i see so often in marriages lacking the passion or connection we ALL describe – in different ways – but i do think we agree that there is something undefinable that brings us to certain others. Without this marriages often deteriorate over time (from what i have witnessed).
    MIC – overall, yes, i would have to say that re the friends i know MOST about – all the females, overall, are all atttractive to very attractive and all are in good shape, they are overall fun and outgoing w/ ages approx 30 – mid late 40’s. The male friends are attractive to semi attractive, but ALL have an outgoing personality, successful careers, and a love of life. To those that think my husband has low self esteem – please put yourself in his shoes for ONE moment, have you never been guilty of hanging onto something you loved so much even tho you knew the love was not quite being reciprocated…i am sorry – but i have read Evan’s posts, i think most if not all of us have been guilty of that at some point in our life. It is hard to walk away from, and he is, i reitterate, a great guy, we don’t fight, i care for his children very well, he is fed, his house is kept clean, i keep myself in shape & quite presentable every day, we have common friends, the list goes on…Like Evan promotes, often life is a choice, a trade-off, maybe for him its worth the trade…? i just dont want to rip his clothes off, i dont want to make out etc… My guess is most of us can relate to why he stays if we were in his shoes, instead of judging.

  17. 47
    lorihaah4

    Cat – my self and the people i know, have met, and describe, are not sad lonely pathetic people sitting around crying – most are attractive, passionate about MANY things, volunteers, serve on boards, have jobs, go out, have friends, are coaches, some are doctors, dentists, lawyers, some are stay at home moms, some are wealthy, some are middle income, they are athletic (almost ALL), they live full lives, they may be your neighbors, YOUR doctor, YOUR attorney, catholic, protestant, jewish, agnostic, the lady down the street who looks like a great caring wife…. but many just married too young, or because according to society it ‘was time’ to settle. I am not trying to get you to drink the Kool-aid here… all i am trying to point out is my experience, and that the people i know who treated marriage as a ‘business decision’ and chose a mate accordingly, as a rule, end up feeling very lonely after a few years of marriage, even the ones, maybe MOSTLY the ones, with children. For those who are exceptions to the rule I HAVE experience with – – i admire you and aspire to feel the contentment of life that you experience, and hope that in my endless examination of self and others, i someday will live a content life with mutual love, and no longer have longing for intimate love and that my children, my friends children, and all of yours have the same.

  18. 48
    A-L

    In my #31 I didn’t mean to indicate that Selena uses scales on this stuff, but was just accrediting the quote to her (as those were her words, not mine; I just attached them to a scale).

    I do appreciate the various definitions from Selena in #40 since these definitions were totally not how I was viewing the terms that have been thrown about on this board. My question is, do most people agree with Selena’s interpretations? Because if we don’t agree on what a word means, our debate here will be running around in constant (useless) circles. Here’s my take on her definitions.

    Infatuation : I completely agree

    Chemistry : This was one that I had a totally different definition on (mine was more in line with the behaviors associated with infatuation). But using Selena’s definition, anyone I would want to be friends worth or hang out with, I would need to have chemistry with. Otherwise they’re just friendly acquaintances. Yet this is also coming from someone who prefers to have a small, close group of really good friends than a larger group of more casual friends.

    Passion : This is another term that I had associated with the behavior related to chemistry/infatuation. I understand what Selena is saying here, and if the majority of people go with this definition, I’ll roll with it. I’ll save my disagreements with what she said here for a different spot, as it doesn’t have anything to do with the actual definition.

    Being in love : I don’t see a difference between Selena’s unquoted being in love than with loving someone as your partner in life. For me, though, the phrase being in love indicates the infatuation/rose-colored glasses phase. Basically, in my personal life use the quoted/unquoted versions of being in love the same way, but will agree to use the terms here however the board decides.

    Being in love I don’t agree that this is a trivial part of a relationship to be demeaned. I simply think it’s one associated with the infatuation phase.

  19. 49
    A-L

    Mic brings up some interesting issues in regards to appearance and expectations. I think most would agree that a 9 is going to have a larger dating pool than a 4. So it would stand to reason that the 9 is going to have a better selection and find a better mate than the 4 (better in terms of appearance/wealth/common interests, etc). Basically, the 9 might be able to find someone who meets all of their desires but the 4 is going to have to compromise somewhere. Though it’s rather depressing, I think it’s probably true.

    And this is where I’m going to take up with some of Selena’s points in regards to passion (#41). Passion is an extraordinarily intense emotion that some people don’t feel at all, or only at certain times. Nor is it permanent.

    For instance there was a period of about 3 years or so that I was passionate and intensely involved with some civil liberties issues. I did petitions, I was at protests, I would organize meetings with our congressional representatives. Do I still care about those issues? Yes. Is it still a consuming part of my life? No. I love to sing, I love to dance, I love shelter dogs. Do I do activities related to all of them? Yes. But I wouldn’t say that I’m passionate about any of them unless I dedicated a huge chunk of my time to them (say 50-80% of my non-working free time).

    I can be happy that my partner has come home without feeling as though my entire life wraps around him. In fact most people here agree that one should have interests besides their significant other, thereby reducing the amount of time you spend focused on them.

    There are some people who can feel passion for something for their whole lives. But to me passion is sort of an elongated version of infatuation. It lasts longer than infatuation, but it’s not permanent.

  20. 50
    JuJu

    I think most would agree that a 9 is going to have a larger dating pool than a 4. So it would stand to reason that the 9 is going to have a better selection and find a better mate than the 4

    I think this is rather a simplification. The 9 in looks would NOT have such an easy time finding a quality mate if she is also a 9 in intelligence. And what if she also has a very successful career? How small is her pool of potential mates then?

    Granted, she would attract plenty of attention from all kinds, but it would be still very hard to find someone up to her standards.

    1. 50.1
      Tim

      Why do you think men who are 9’s in most aspects are having a great time dating and having relationships with women? How come theyre so content with their sexual/romantic lives?

  21. 51
    Evan Marc Katz

    The 9 doesn’t have a small pool of potential mates. In fact, she has the hugest pool of potential mates – namely, everyone. The problem is that she doesn’t want any of them because of her lofty standards. So the 9 stays alone, lamenting her lack of choices. She’s like the man who stays unemployed because he wants a million dollar salary – and then claims there’s no jobs out there. It’s a self-imposed prison, not a real one, based on arbitrary and subjective standards.

    Because, as you know, most people who think they’re 9’s aren’t really 9’s. And yes, this goes for men and women alike.

    You’ve just identified why it’s so hard to find love.

  22. 52
    mic

    There’s actually no evidence that more attractive people are more selective re personality traits and only mixed evidence re intelligence requirements. (Maybe because looks and intelligence don’t correlate much once particularly unattractive individuals are excluded.) They seem primarily more selective in terms of wealth and physical attractiveness and presumably related things such as “passion.” If they truly were more picky in a broad way, physical attractiveness and odds of getting married might not correlate much. To repeat, the marriages of the beautiful people aren’t any stronger. Most people know roughly where they stand in terms of physical attractiveness, though.

  23. 53
    lorihaah4

    I agree with Mic – and disagree with Evan here… i think i would say of my female acquaintances/friends who are CLEARLY 8’s or 9’s, and that is not just my judgement i have often witnessed peoples reaction to their looks, they ABSOLUTELY under-rate themselves and in the past, chose, as Mic said, better looking or more wealthy men who are often arrogant and cocky, or emotionally distant (one set of traits or the other) and they have put up with much more crap from these men than any self respecting person should. And i have seen men ask these women out that clearly have no chance at a ‘yes’, and yes, that is based on the mens looks and knowing my friends taste, and the men believe they have a chance. Not sure but from what i’ve seen it is the men who over rate themselves – most woman are very critical and hard on themselves for the most part. And truly, looks have nothing to do with it passion for another person – i dated three men who were easily 9’s, probably 10’s, two were insanely jealous and one was seriously lousy in bed. Of the two men i dated that were the most memorable and i felt the closest to love for that i may ever feel (and it wasn’t long enough to be crazy enduring love), neither was particularly great looking, but they ‘had a look’ as i would say, they were clean cut, sexy, charismatic, very funny to be around, sweet, but by most standards, average looking. Only caveat: I wasnt ready to commit when i dated them, so i never found out if this chemistry endured beyond the first year.

  24. 54
    downtowngal

    Kenley #45 said, “If a good guy doesn’t want the things a woman wants to give, that’s also a reason why a relationship might not work.”

    Kenley, in your own experience, what was it that you wanted to give that he didn’t want? Was it that the both of you were truly incompatable?

  25. 55
    Selena

    @ A-L #48

    Regarding chemistry and friendship: all friends start out as “friendly acquaintances” so how did you choose those few who became your close circle? Did you have a practical list of qualities you wanted in a friend and selected them on that basis? Or was it more that you just seemed to “hit it off” with them? “Clicked” as it were, and the friendship grew from there? There was something special about your friends that separated them from the all the other people you know in your corner of the world. You could call that chemistry.

    If there were nothing special to you about your small, close group of very good friends then you would not even have such a definition. You WOULD be able to hang out with anybody without seeking the company of anyone specificly. It wouldn’t matter to you.

    This is how I describe chemistry as something besides/beyond/other than sexual attraction. You feel drawn to some people and not, or not as much, to others. Some people become close friends, others remain casual friends, acquaintances. You can’t pin point exactly what it is – but you understand on an instinctive level that *it* is either there or it’s not.

  26. 56
    Diana

    Lori, I feel for you. It sounds like you’re not living, rather merely existing, at least in your relationship. I think your situation is all too common, and people choose to live that way for countless, deeply personal reasons. I do know what it’s like to try and hold on to something incredibly dear to you, even when the OP and the life you have loved, nurtured, created and cared for for close to 30 years is slipping away until it finally fades from view. In the end, all the advice or anonymous people peering in will not likely give you the answer(s) or comfort and solace you seek. As with all things in life, they lie within, even when we do not always want to see. Search your soul and heart, and find the strength to do what feels right to you, and then after you’ve made your decision, try as best you can to find the strength to live a life without regret.

  27. 57
    Meilssa

    @ A-L Post #49

    You have me questioning my whole life on that post… LOL

    I did a lot of good things when I was very PASSIONATE about Environmentalism and Global Warming. My passion allowed me to create a couple websites and do some things where I have a small “presence” online and serve as an inspiration to other people in this area.

    But the problem is… just as you described. I did all those things when I was deeply PASSIONATE about it and now I kind of feel like a big phony because I’ve lost 75% of my passion toward the cause. When I get emails of how I inspire people because they’ve been to my websites, it makes me a bit depressed because I know I don’t have that same passion and vigor and drive toward making a difference in the world that I once did.

    I know your just kind of thinking aloud with your thread… but I sure wish there were some answers to the dilemma of losing passion for things such as causes, etc.

    I am open to suggestions or other insights folks might have… LOL

  28. 58
    lorihaah4

    Diana – thank you – you thots are insightful. Melissa – I am guilty of the same in relationships AND in life… (losing or changing passions)… Maybe Evan or a reader has a theory for this? I find it to be true of many peoples lives in fact. Also, quite often, after living with someone for 5, 10 years, there little quirky habits – the same ones that seemed bearable in the first few years – become really freaking annoying and stand out like sore thumbs once the craziness of a new relationship, new home, then young kids, etc.. passes and you really realize who you married and the life choices you made… Hindsight is 20/20, and what seemed a good choice, maybe WAS a good choice at that time, but people change and relationships evolve, just as your ’cause of the month’ might change… thinking out loud… maybe some things just arent meant to endure forever and when it stops being fun and happy and productive for everyone involved, its ok to change your course? The question is, life is short… do you stay where you are, on a road well traveled, simple, where you know what turns & bumps to expect, but the route is uninspiring, or do you look to take the path less taken, where you have no idea what lies ahead but you get the chance to feel??

  29. 59
    JuJu

    Lori, don’t know if this will help you any, but my husband was also madly in love with me, and I also felt sorry for him. Because of that I left him in reality about half a year to eight months after I first decided to. But then I realized that I can’t stay with someone merely out of pity for them. I only live once – what about MY happiness?

    Thankfully, we had no children.

  30. 60
    mic

    What Lori wrote in #53 about good-looking men being “cocky” is supported by research. Women under-rating themselves – on looks? That’s supported by research, almost needlessly. Anecdotally, yes, women will put up with more from especially good-looking men. (John Edwards.) But it probably isn’t true that passion is unrelated to looks. At the very least, sheer ugliness would seem to prevent any sort of meaningful interaction that might become passionate.

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