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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  1. 91


    but that’s not marriage anymore. 😐

  2. 92

    @Curly Girl: It’d be mutual consent, but of course in reality she would be doing the “allowing.”
    @JuJu: Sure it would. We define our relationships, not everyone else.
    @A-L: Of course there would be discussion. Probably at length. Why would polyamory destabilize the relationship? I see it as an enhancement.

    1. 92.1

      It doesn’t have to be polyamory. It can be an open relationship, a relationship where the parties have occasional sex with people other than the spouse, or casual affairs (“friends with benefits”). The open relationship can be transparent, or “don’t ask don’t tell.”

      1. 92.1.1

        You sure can define things however you want, but it doesnt mean people would agree , if you are going to having relationships with other people te3n your “marriage” is meaningless and doent stand for anything special, as in pointless.  The whole point of getting married to someone is that he/she is the person you chose to devote and give yourselve completely to , well dating other certainly makes your marriage oxymorous. There  is no point why you should get married accept if you just want the legal benefits or else there is no other points.You dont have to marry someone to have comfort and intimacy hell you can have that serially without having to pull a pseudo marriage so you can chase passion with others and instesd just have them all at the same time with different people serially, things dont have to be forever to feel comfortable and intimate you know.

    2. 92.2

      You sure can define things however you want, but it doesnt mean people would agree , if you are going to havung r3lationships with other peopke ten your “marriage” is meaningless and doent stand for anything special

  3. 93

    @86: People weren’t less happy, and the depression rate was lower. But there are methodological quibbles with that, just as there are with the idea that people used to dress better 🙂

  4. 94

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

    I forgot to mention Evan- this is perfect- simple, good common sense that people forget when they get blinded by “chemistry.”

    1. 94.1

      I think this is a great first date question to pose….as in, “Do you feel generally satisfied with life?”   You might just get a lot of information….LOL 

  5. 95

    at 93- people definitely dresssed better! Give me Laura Ingalls Wilder’s wardrobe anyday!

  6. 96

    Juju (74)

    If you’re a 9 and all the other 9s you’ve been dating have treated you poorly, what do you think? Should you keep dating the 9s or should you branch out a little?

  7. 97

    Wow, Joe, quite a lot of assumptions you are making there!

  8. 98

    JuJu 97 & 74 – Joe – 96 –
    I agree with JuJu – there are certainly people who are both attractive and kind, I know several. And really – all this talk of 9’s etc.. and looks – its all such a personal issue – a man who is a9 to one may well be a 4 to my friend vice versa… It all goes back to CHEMISTRY – taking into account that most people are able to make a pretty decent call on if someone is attractive ENOUGH to date in the first few moments they meet them. When i was dated – i knew within the first 2 minutes if i could ever sleep with a man. As i have aged, my taste for what is attractive in a man have evolved as have I. And as i previously stated, there were men i had no AVERSION to their looks, but did not think were handsome enough to date, they were maybe 7’s, who were persistent at pursuing me, that i ended up being the MOST attracted to over the long term. These men were 6 or 7’s lookswise – but they acted as tho they were 9s or 10’s – very confident, self assured, but NOT COCKY, charming, cool, very charismatic – and that made them SEXIER than several true 10’s I knew – – so really – the rating system is inherently FLAWED – you have to just be sure you have CHEMISTRY OF PERSONALITIES from the beginning. Nothing is less attractive than men who are unsure of themselves or needy. So if your a 6, stop dissecting your looks, be comfortable in your skin, be happy with who YOU are, be YOURSELF…everyone else’s job is taken.

  9. 99

    Juju, if you look back, I was originally responding to Lori’s post which referred to her “9” friends being ill-treated.

  10. 100
    Katherine SOLOdotMOM

    What a great article! Thanks for sharing this. I already believed it… I think… but needed it reinforced.
    My current relationship is the most serious and at seven months it breaks records for any I have had in the four plus years since my divorce. I have often described it as “comfortable” not that I am not attracted to him… just we have four kids (between us) and busy lives and have learned to appreciate the stability of each other and the relationship – more-so than chemistry per se’.
    This nails it for where I am presently and confirmation is always a good thing.

  11. 101

    Now I know why I’m not married and why none of my relationships has worked in the long run. I used to not have a problem with ‘adapting’ to men who pursued me, hence were truly interested and were worth my time having feelings for. I didn’t regard this as ‘settling’ before, but now, after several failed/sexless LTRs, I do. I’m on the opposite track from other people – I didn’t come to seek comfort after passion alone proved inadequate. I’m looking for the passion that’s been sorely missing from all of my comfortable relationships. Now you’re telling me I’ll never have that? What a bummer!

  12. 102

    You know, I remember I once started dating this guy, who initially seemed quite promising compatibility-wise, and I kept telling my best friend how comfortable I feel with the guy. Well, after having sex with him, I suddenly thought to myself, that if the guy never calls me again, I couldn’t care less. That is not the way I am supposed to feel! It was then that I understood that the reason I felt so comfortable in the first place was because I didn’t really care what kind of impression I was making on him.

  13. 103

    this article by michelle langley hits the nail on the head

    When someone tells you “I love you but I’m not in love with you” that means that they are taken you for granted and are too comfortable in the relationship. they start seeing their husbands as “boring” and not exciting because he is too available, too predictable and shares too much intimacy. The men in their lives stop being so mysterious, and impressive. The “wow” effect is gone and the women lose respect/admiration/submissiveness towards their men because of too much familiarity.

    1. 103.1

      Valmont, I would’ve agreed when I was much younger. Now… well… read my comment re my marriage.

  14. 104

    Before I begin, Evan, you couldn’t be more right.

    It is about appreciating what we have and not pining for what we don’t have.

    After 20 years in a verbally abusive marriage, 5 years of disappointing post divorce dating and finally the best – Evan and Allison advice in the nick of time- I have met a wonderful man. Not perfect, but perfect for me. I sooo appreciate his loving way with me and can live with the imperfections. It makes so much sense, I do not see anything greener – just a different shades around me that do not draw my attention at all. I didn’t settle, I just came to understand that no one can be perfect (myself included) and its about how we relate and care for one another that is the most important. Those dating years helped me to appreciate this man even more. And that appreciation makes me love and feel more passion every day towards him because his heart wants to protect mine. Thank you Evan, I hope more folks can find contentment with their mates or new ones through you.

  15. 105

    I recently ended a 7+ year relationship (1 1/2 years of it married) to a man I have / had great chemistry and physical attraction with but between the increased overuse of alcohol and pot and the neverending 'disharmony' with my kids, he is no longer the person I need him to be.  A person I've known for many years recently had his marriage end and proceeded to tell me one day that he's had a crush on me for 20+ years and the next day told me he loves me.  We've spent the last several months talking and getting to know each other and while he is the PERFECT guy in respects to BEING the person I need him to be, I feel no chemistry or physical attraction – something I feel I need to take this growing friendship to the next level that he'd love to see it at.  We had a real 'date' recently and it went perfectly and (I'm not getting any younger – late 40's), I was okay with it moving to the bedroom in hopes that maybe that 'spark' could be found there.  It wasn't.  I feel a long term relationship has to have a balance of both – the compatability AND the chemistry (what this whole post was originally about).  I ended the first relationship as it was missing the one component for basically the same (but opposite in a sense) reason that I don't see this new relationship working – as much as I'd like it to.  I wish there really was such thing as a 'love potion' but,sadly, you can't MAKE those attraction feelings happen if they aren't there to SOME DEGREE to begin with.

  16. 106

    What a great debate!

  17. 107

    This is a very challenging topic, but an interesting one. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the individual and what they value. some may value comfort and some may value sparks. I personally have been in both types of relationships and I would choose sparks any and every day. Being with someone where i had no attraction and no chemistry felt like i was in prison. I moved states as an excuse, just to avoid having to hurt him! But this is my own experience.
    I would have to negate the idea that passion is sex, looks etc. Like others have mentioned, it is an ineffable quality. It’s something that just is or isn’t. It’s there or it’s not. You could put two complete strangers next to one another who look identical, sound identical etc, and for some strange reason, one may have more of a pull than the other.
    I would also have to disagree with the notion that passion is simply an outward expression of someone that is not happy with themselves or looking to feel something for themselves that they are missing. I don’t believe that this is related to passion whatsoever.
    Although feedback and rolling an idea around with people is sometimes useful in trying to get things straight in your own head, it can also do more harm than good. talk to people for sure, gain others opinions, never compare. But just remember that each and every one of our opinions is nothing but a projection. Your best bet, trust and listen to yourself, and by far, listen to your heart… always speaks the truth.

  18. 108
    Karl R

    CJ said: (#107)
    “Being with someone where i had no attraction and no chemistry felt like i was in prison.”

    If you have to choose between a relationship with zero passion or one with zero comfort, choose to remain single.

    My girlfriend was in a relationship which was passionate, but lacked comfort. As you would expect, fights were common. He constantly accused her of cheating on him with her male friends and colleagues. And when she was upset because her mother was dying of cancer, he told her to “grow up.”

    A relationship without passion may feel like a prison, but one without comfort feels like a continuous assault.

    We’re not trying to discuss the ugly extremes (where the decision is quite obvious). All of us want the fantasy relationship where there’s loads of passion and comfort. But most of us face a reality that won’t match our fantasies. However, we probably will be able to find a relationship that has some passion and some comfort (in varying degrees). Therefore, we’ll do better if we have some understanding of which of those will serve us better.

    CJ said: (#107)
    “some may value comfort and some may value sparks. I personally have been in both types of relationships and I would choose sparks any and every day.”

    My girlfriend is currently facing five different crises which are collectively taxing her time, energy, finances, emotions and physical health. I’m facing three which are taxing my time and energy. Since we’re both exhausted and under strain, it would be easy for us to start blowing up at each other … which would give her a sixth crisis and me a fourth.

    Instead, we have each other for support. This is particularly important for her, since she can’t trust her boss (a contributing factor in one crisis), and she feels like her two best friends have abandoned her (in the face of another crisis).

    The passion in our relationship creates an entertaining, temporary diversion from the problems … but it’s not providing solutions.

  19. 109

    I have a question, for EMK as well as the regular commenters. In a large number of comments/posts, I see chemistry getting a bum rap on this blog. Can someone tell me this blog’s definition of chemistry, because I think I’m missing something. Do you guys mean the spark/butterflies in your stomach thing, something along those lines?
    I’ve read a book recently (“Is He Mr. Right?” by Mira Kirshenbaum) that is all built around determining whether you have chemistry with a man, and the author’s advice is not to pursue an LTR with the person if no chemistry is present. However she defines chemistry as something determined by five specific conditions, which are, if I remember them correctly:
    1) being comfortable together/easy to get close
    2) trust
    3) feeling that it’s fun to be together
    4) mutual physical affection/passion
    5) mutual respect
    These seem pretty sound to me… Do you guys mean something else when you say “chemistry”? Thanks.

    1. 109.1

      I think when people talk about chemistry on here they are solely talking about #5.  All the other factors would be referred to as compatibility.

  20. 110
    Karl R

    Goldie said: (#109)
    “Can someone tell me this blog’s definition of chemistry,”

    I can’t remember ever hearing anyone associate trust or mutual respect with chemistry, even if they’re talking about the lack of chemistry.

    Different people interpret “chemistry” in different ways, but it seems to be most often associated with physical affection, sexual attraction and passion. It’s associated with “fun to be together” fairly frequently, and occasionally associated with “easy to get close.”

    It’s occasionally associated with respect, in the sense “If I don’t respect the other person, I feel no chemistry toward that person.” I’ve never heard anybody refer to a lack of chemistry when the other person didn’t respect them. In some cases, they’ll say the chemistry is great, even though the other person is showing them no respect, distancing themselves, etc.

    I prefer to avoid using the word, since it seems easy to misinterpret.

  21. 111

    Goldie I would say “trust” and “mutual respect” are separate from chemistry. I’ve had chemistry with guys because they were fun and attractive and sexy, but I couldn’t trust or rely on them when I was in a bind. On the flip side, I’ve had guy friends that are always helpful and there for me and there is mutual respect between us, yet no chemistry. Thats the rub.

  22. 112

    Goldie, the best definition of “chemistry” that I’ve read was in Judith Sills’ book, A Fine Romance. Basically, chemistry is a combination of liking and lust, and hopefully, it’s mutual. She writes that chemistry can be a help or a hindrance, depending on how you define it. If you define it as a magical and uncontrollable rush of passion, or you’re only able to feel it for the wrong people, then it’s a hindrance. But if you define it as a sense of connection, liking, comfort, interest, and sexual attraction, and find a number of people attractive, then it’s essential.

  23. 113

    Thanks guys. In that case, I vote for the golden medium, aka Selena’s #40.
    Since I’m new at dating, but not so new at working for a living, I’d rather comment on this part of EMK’s post:
    “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.”
    Yes, we have to compromise. But, only to a point. After a certain point, we have to draw the line. I’ve been through two periods in my life where I had to work random jobs – in college, and after my oldest son was born and I lost my job, and couldn’t find another one in my area in our small town. One thing I learned from that experience, is to never, if I can help it at all, take a job that I hate. Or a job that bores me to tears. I can go for a paycut, smaller company, less benefits, more stress, night shifts, far location, and it will still work out well if the job itself is something I more or less like. But I cannot do something that I do not enjoy doing whatsoever. It is a recipe for disaster. I put in ten times as much energy to do this job, because I pretty much have to force myself to do it; and I end up with one-tenth of my usual success and recognition, because, no matter how hard I try, I cannot get really good at something I cannot stand doing. Or at something that bores me out of my skull while I’m doing it.
    Now imagine that your job has feelings, and it knows that you don’t like it, that it bores you to death, that you’re only in it for the paycheck, and will probably give your two-week notice and walk out as soon as something better comes along. That’s what I imagine some of those “chemistry-less” unions to be. Not good for either side, IMO.
    With that said, my own Mom married my Dad because she thought he was good marriage material, even though she did not have much of “the spark” at the time. Over their 40-some years together, he grew on her. She suddenly developed feelings. They’re still together and happy, and both look very much in love with each other 🙂 So, marrying for the sense of comfort works, but some minimal affection still has to be there. She wasn’t head over heels in love with him, but she didn’t find him physically repulsive, either.
    I think it needs to be, not “passion vs. comfort”, but a little of both combined.

  24. 114

    I don’t think anyone is saying we should be in ‘chemistry-less’ unions, just that we shouldn’t be so blinded by passion that we miss the red-flags. Attraction and sexual compatibility is important, and I have felt that with a lot of guys..but AFTER I am already hot for a guy I always ask myself, “would this guy get out of bed/leave work and come help me if I was stranded on the side of the road with car trouble?” and that determines if we have a future.

  25. 115

    Something struck me as strange and a bit off in Lori’s original letter. It made me think that the real issue had nothing to do with either passion or comfort, but discontent from something else.
    Why do I say this? Because I’ve known my husband for as long as Lori has known hers. There were NEVER fireworks, but there were always respect, love, affection, laughs, good humor, good times, and a deep trust in each other. And I’m very happy and consider myself extremely fortunate. I don’t need or want fireworks; I’m busy enough as it is (or maybe I’m getting old and just can’t handle it). 😉
    So the fact that after 13 years, Lori doesn’t feel content with what she has, makes me think that something other than passion is missing from her relationship. Do they not respect each other? Is there not mutual trust? If she’s known him this long, she would have realized that respect and trust are much more important than fireworks. So the fact that she doesn’t mention these makes me wonder. Her descriptor “great guy” means close to nothing.

    1. 115.1

      Respect and trust are NOT more important than passion. I made the innocent mistake of moving in with a great guy years ago. He was super nice, very good to me, we got along great, etc., etc. but I had a sense that something “was missing”. I’d been married before, had been extremely infatuated with my ex-husband (short horrible marriage), so 5 years later when I met this absolutely great guy I thought WOW. But as I said I had a nagging feeling something was missing, but in a resigned way thought (wrongly) to myself “I guess it’s just different the second time.” It is not different. A few months later I fell madly, intensely, passionately in love with someone else and I knew that was what my soul was screaming for. I couldn’t in good conscience stay with the nice guy but we remained friends. I didn’t get to be with the one I loved with all my heart and I spent the next 10 years feeling very sad, wooden and dead inside. I got over him eventually but still didn’t feel really alive. Loving someone truly passionately is what has the potential for putting the most intense joy, fulfillment and ecstasy possible in a human heart and soul. I live by myself and don’t need the company of a “nice guy” per se. I’d only want to live with someone I feel totally passionate about. Life is very empty without that passionate love.

  26. 116

    It’s been my experience relationships based almost solely on sexual attraction burn out fairly quickly – long before they get to the “partner” stage. Really that’s what the first 3-12 months of dating is FOR – to see if there is more to it beyond sexual attraction. Unless you are the type to marry someone you’ve only known a month or two, this really isn’t worth a debate.

  27. 117

    EXCELLENT post Evan! What you wrote makes me think of the 80/20 Rule: people enter into a relationship hoping to get 100% of what they are looking for.  If they are lucky, they end up with 80%. Rather than being happy and content with what they have, they leave the 80% (comfort), in search of the 20% (passion) that they’re missing. When (if) they find it, they are still not happy because they realized that once the dust has settled, they were actually better off with the 80% that they gave up.

  28. 118

    I stubled upon this thread looking for my own answers to a similar situation.  I appreciate all of the comments, as I learn best from others.  With such wonderful insight, I find myself thinking one thing one minute and opposite the next after an insightful post.  I have decided to me, chemistry is about so much more than physical attraction.  I am 33, a single mom (but the dad is in the picture for our daughter), and have never been married.  I have to admit most of my relationships have been fairly passionate, some more than others.  As far as chemistry goes though, I usually can figure out if it’s there, that “thing” you feel that you can’t explain, fairly soon after meeting someone.  And normally, I move on if there is no chemistry.  BUt after having been in many recent relationships with lots of chemsitry, some comfortableness, but mostly rocky and unstable, I decided to give the current guy I’m dating more of a chance than I normally would.  That said, of course he is practically the perfect guy, everything a woman would want in a man, thoughtful, sincere, reliable, trustworthy, good looking, nice body, outgoing…you name it…Of course here’s the BUT…I just can not force myself to have that “feeling” about him, that indescribable feeling where you can’t wait to see him or talk to him or hear from him, etc.  It’s been 5 months and since month one I have been on and off in contemplating whether or not to continue the relationship…Of course he is in it 100% and has already asked about living together,  which I said I”m not ready for, has told me he loved me, to which I’ve replied, I know I love you as a person, I think you are an amazing person, but I’m not sure that “I’m in love with you”…I know that sounds cliche, but I don’t know how else to say it, and I want to be honest….He just keeps saying we will take things slow then, knowing I have some apprehensions (think he doesn’t wanna lose me).  Some people sounds harsh in response to Lori’s email, and it’s clear from her posts, she’s a good person with a good heart, torn and trying to do right by the people she loves and that love her (I too have my daughter in mind, as she has grown to really like my boyfriend, and yes, I should have tried harder to not let her get close to him at all, easier said than done when trying to work on having a LTR.).  IT is a very perplexing issue, and Evan first post really saddened me when he gave the example about the index card with Passion on one side and comfort on the other…I guess I remain hopeful that’s it not one or the other. And I think passion and chemistry are different, but for the purposes of this thread can be used interchangably…As I do when I talk to people about this “problem”…As lacking the passion or chemistry, however you want to word it.  At any rate, I don’t think it’s fair to my partner, I think he deserves more than I give to him, I think someone will have that “I can’t wait to see you” attitude about him that I do not…The comfort of the love, respect and on and on is such a nice change, yet I still find myself crying at times, knowing I’m still not totally happy, even with a guy who has all the qualities I thought I wanted, and maybe still do.  Do I feel selfish? Yes! Confused, wondering what’s wrong with me, and why can’t I appreciate all that is good in him? YES!  And some weeks I do just appreciate him and I’m content…and other weeks I”m trying to figure out what to say to break things off with him, but scared at what a great guy I would give up.  I don’t feel I would be “settling” to end up with him, as he treats me wonderful…I do however feel like I would be just being complacent, like the passive agressive some talked about. And I think I’ve decided complacent will probably not get me through on a relationship for very long.  To each is their own I guess, thanks for all the insight and best of luck to Lori, I think women often are so worried about everyone else being happy, they often forget themselves…but having children I know sometimes you have to make complete selfless decisions..but whatever you decide, I think your kids will be ok…as long as you and your husband can but the kids first whether it in a marriage or divorce.

  29. 119

    I’m always taken aback when I read statements from people desiring both passion and comfort in their relationships, when in reality they are mutually exclusive items from a time perspective.  All relationships devolve from passionate ones to comfortable ones, or they dissolve…there is no “both” to be had.  This is plain and simple logic…and no amount of believing you are entitled to both or could somehow find both will allow you to find this mix together.  This is an incredibly unpopular concept to most because for some reason we are taught we can have EVERYTHING, even if the basic concept cannot coexist together.  Allow me to explain:
    One of the key components of passion is excitement.  Excitement has, as one of its core elements, an amount of fear associated with it.  Fear of loss, fear of danger, fear of non-reciprocation, and so on. One of the other core elements of excitement is anticipation–a desire for something not yet discovered or had. 
    Now, let’s look at comfort (and security).  By definition, comfort is a LACK of excitement…because in order to feel comfortable, one cannot feel fear.  In addition, there is a lack of anticipation, which ties into the fact that to be comfortable, what you feel comfortable with does not contain an unknown quantity or quality to it and therefore there is nothing to anticipate.
    Ask yourself this: Would BASE jumping be exciting if you absolutely knew there was no (or little) chance you could be hurt?  Would it be exciting to watch racing if there wasn’t the chance that there might be a wreck and you knew from the beginning who was going to win?  Of course not…these things would be made into everyday activities like walking across a room.  Unexciting…”boring” even, depending on how you define that or if excitement is what you value most.
    I’ve heard lots of people talk about maintaining passion within their relationships, but when really talked to what I’ve tended to discover is that those people make the choice of commitment with this person, do become comfortable with this person (and therefore, the excitement/passion isn’t necessarily GENERATED by this PERSON or the RELATIONSHIP itself anymore), but become passionate about a LIFE with this person and facing LIFE challenges with someone at their side.  The passion (and therefore excitement) is derived from the unknowns and changes in LIFE, not from the partner themselves, with the commitment to facing those together holding the union together.
    Think of it this way; plenty of people have experienced something very exciting and had a passionate encounter with their significant other afterwards, even though the significant other did not actually CAUSE the excitement.  Its the same concept and I believe the mentality of focusing the excitement of LIFE into a relationship is what people are actually doing when they claim they are maintaining passion in their relationship.  They maintain a commitment to the relationship and focus the positive aspects of any excitement in life back into the relationship. 
    MOST people as it seems don’t do this–they look to their relationship to CAUSE them to feel passionate.  After they are off the internal drug-induced high of their initial relationship stages, this is a doomed cause and cannot succeed (unless you are one of the less than 1% of the population that seems to have a short circuit in that respect).  Once they start to feel comfortable with their partner by KNOWING them and believing themselves secure, that person can never CAUSE excitement–and if they DO, then you are no longer comfortable with them.  That desire for passion/excitement simply isn’t compatible with the concept of comfort.  EVENTS can cause excitement WITHIN the relationship, but not the person themself (if you indeed feel comfortable with them).
    All of this relates back to the whole concept that people look to their relationship to MAKE them FEEL a certain way.  Its an impossible quest and one that will always lead to disappointment.

    1. 119.1

      So maybe you should have written: “I’m always taken aback when I read statements from people desiring both passion and comfort in from their relationships, when in reality they are mutually exclusive items from a time perspective.” 

    2. 119.2

      I think your post is brilliant.  Your explanation of the situation makes the most sense to me of any I’ve read.  It also gives me some hope that my therapist’s assertion that if I make a concerted effort to experience fun and passion in other aspects of my life, even if those have absolutely nothing to do with my husband and I’m not engaging in those fun, passionate activities with him; that will somehow trickle back into the spirit of our relationship.

    3. 119.3

      You may know a kinky person very well but still not know whether he’ll choose the crop or the hairbrush, or keep to using his hand this time. Believe me, there’s plenty of excitement to be had even within the framework of safety. If one has the right partner.

  30. 120
    Doctor M

    Thank you! I just read this at the exact minute and moment in time that I needed it. An eye opener. Your words really reached!! OMG!!! A thousand thanks!!!!

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