Should We Give Up Passion For Practicality?

September 26, 2017

There are some pretty solid reasons…

Throughout my dating life, there’s always been something missing in each of my relationships. If I had passion, I didn’t always feel secure. If I felt stable, I never quite felt like the fires of desire were constantly burning.

Why is it so damn hard to find a guy who is kind, dependable, reliable and makes me want to drop my knickers as soon as I cross the threshold of the house? Who can support me emotionally, and add value to the life we share, but also make me long for him, be attracted to him and still feel the deep romantic desire to just be around him?

As I get older, and feel much more epically single, I wonder if it’s time to admit that we can’t have it all when it comes to our significant other. But which should we give up? Without passion, surely there’s not enough excitement to keep things going. But without the practical qualities such as commitment and security, will the flame burn out too quickly? Should we bank on longevity and just learn to live without the ‘zing’?

Quid pro quo

Passion for practicality sex and the city carrie Bradshaw

First let’s look at the scientific theories. A 1986 study by Sternberg into intimacy suggested that romantic relationships operated in a triangle, with points of intimacy, commitment and passion. Take the passion away and you’re left with high intimacy and commitment; perfect conditions for friendship, but not so much a committed couple. 

Contrastingly, more recent evidence suggests deep romantic love has a far greater relationship “weight” than passion, and is a much better predictor of longevity. Even though passion has a strong correlation with happiness, true compassionate love (that deep intimacy that grows after the sparks seem to fade) was found to be more important to being truly happy.

So then, both are important but practicality is slightly more important than the ‘zing’?

Love in the fast lane

Most interestingly though, too much passion can actually be a bad thing. Picture it: you’ve just met a guy and it’s love at first sight. You instantly desire him and as the weeks go on you crave his company, need his touch, the chemistry is positively electric. It would seem that someone with whom you just click this fast has to be the perfect person for you. But hold up, research has a little something to say about that, too.

According to a 2014 study, relationships that go from zero to 100 can be very dangerous territory for relationship success. Chemistry off the charts can lead to marriages filled with disillusionment when the deeper love phase sets in. Couples reported a spike in passion right after walking down the aisle but then a rapid decline in the two years following. What happened to the spark? Where is all the intense passion from the start? Even though the intimacy might still be there, coming back down to earth after being ten feet up in the air can be too sobering for some couples to manage.

The marriage track

If marriage is on your “to-do” list, there’s yet more evidence that passion might not lead you down the right path. A study conducted in 2016 suggested that couples who said they’d already discussed marriage reported higher levels of love, but lower levels of passion. Those riding the waves of heavy desire tended not to have not talked about saying “I do” at all. 

That’s not to say that those whose focus is more connection don’t have any passion, they do. Just not in the stratospheric high doses coming from the intense infatuation camp. So maybe balance is the answer?

The whole sex thing

Passion for practicality 50 Shades of Grey Sex

Ah that old chestnut. Is a sexless relationship really a relationship at all? Can you still have a satisfying sex life if there’s no burning need for skin-on-skin? Psychology says yes, but you could be doing yourself a major disservice. Getting down and dirty with your loved one as a way to up the intimacy factor actually leads to an increase in sexual desire, which, you guessed it, significantly increases relationship satisfaction.

When the reverse happens, and you’re doing the deed just to make your partner happy, those same rules of attraction don’t apply. Rather than the increased intimacy of those who have high passion, you can wind up actually being less satisfied in the relationship. And there’s only so many times you can create a satisfaction deficit before your relationship approval rating is down to 0.

So, what’s a girl to do?

Passion for practicality Amy Schumer confused

Which side of the coin you land on all comes down to you and what you value most. Ideally you’d have a relationship based in both passion and practicality, but we all know that’s not necessarily the reality. There is some solid evidence to suggest that love and a propensity towards empathy and kindness are stronger predictors of successful long-term relationships than sizzling chemistry. There’s also a level of volatility that exists in relationships that start with a big bang (literally).

On the other hand, consistent sexual desire can lead to increased relationship satisfaction over time, and no one wants to feel like they’re more best friends than lovers, til death do you part.

And don’t forget, the zing might not be there at the start, but it can grow. And if a potential coupling has a strong foundation of intimacy and commitment, maybe it’s worth putting practicality first?

Images via tumblr.com and giphy.com.

Comment: Would you choose passion or practicality? Which is more important to you and why?

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