Let’s talk about passion.
Passion – description:
Passion is the best engine we have. Anyone who has ever created something from scratch, or reached a goal, and did it because it was burning inside his or her belly, knows what passion can do. Passion also drives us to find and bond with one, special person. We call this connection, “body and soul.”
Passion is total, it’s rare, and after we’ve tasted of it, many of us spend long years remembering it, yearning to get just a little bit more of it.
Passion between two people elevates their physical connection into a completely different dimension, into magic. Two pairs of eyes reaching deeply across an oceanic gap, two souls dancing together. Passion elevates us from the mundane lives we lead and pushes us to be the most wonderful, kind, smart, beautiful people we can be.
Passion carries the knowledge that the moment we connect, will be the best moment of our lives. According to the Greek philosopher Plato, passion between two people is the need to find our true other half, separated from us by the gods.
Passion is not the same as sexual desire. It’s not only the need for physical contact, the desire to rub genitals. It results in a much deeper connection, an emotional one. Passion lasts longer when it is forbidden and secret, most commonly, in an affair. That’s why affairs are always perceived as being so incredibly exciting.
Buddhists say that desire is to want something, whereas passion is to refuse to live without it.
Desire doesn’t last:
The bad news is that desire doesn’t last. That’s why all tales of princesses end right after the wedding. Passion disappears a few short years after we become secure and comfortable with each other. Uncertainty and danger stoke the flames of passion. Familiarity, certainty, a life together, douse them.
I’ve described the evolutionary mechanism that pushes us to feel desire for others, in my Monogamy posts, here: The Problem with Monogamy. When this mechanism turns itself off, we can suddenly sit next to each other and keep our hands to ourselves, and even stop the constant kissing that can be measured in hours.
And then our life together moves on, and with it, our relationship. We become partners in the undertaking commonly called, “family.” In this enterprise, we sign a contract to carry out an enormous number of tasks, many of them Sisyphean, most, friction-causing.
True, this project produces many happy results, but it requires a 24/7 commitment like we’ve never known before. If fairytales continued five years into the marriage, we would be reading about the royal couple lying exhausted in front of the TV, worrying about running the kingdom, their palace mortgage, the intrigues caused by the extended royal family, and the baby princesses. Passion would have moved to another story.
And with less desire, we usually have less sex. And we begin to see the shortcomings of our partners.
So listen up, people, there’s no method to preserve passion. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to your face. Let’s look real life in the eye; passion will fly out the window after a few years.
Want more bad news? Here it is.
Society demands that once we marry, we forget about passion:
Yup. In most countries around the world, especially those who embraced the ethics of the monotheistic religions, monogamy is the rule. I call it compulsory monogamy.
Right after we were told about God, we were ordered to live with one person (or four wives, but it’s essentially the same idea), all our lives.
Why one person?
Compulsory monogamy was born out of necessity, when humans stopped roaming, hunting and gathering, and invented the idea of private property. That happened roughly ten thousand years ago, with the beginning of the agricultural revolution.
When we left the Savannah where everyone shared everything, and moved on to growing our food on our own piece of land, the need for an exclusive relationship that lasted a lifetime became inevitable. How could a man be sure that the children who inherit his land, his lifeline, are his own? The answer is, of course, that if his wife will never, ever have sex with anyone else, he could know. And why should a woman agree to this rule? Because that way she increases their chances of getting the man’s support and protection, which vastly increases their chances of surviving and thriving.
So the societal deal was struck. No more tribal sex with others, short-term monogamies, or any other arrangement in which all the children belong to the tribe. All that good stuff had to go. The move to a private land scheme couldn’t allow it anymore.
And who was called to enforced this new deal? The society rulers commonly known as the church. Beyond all the physical (death by stoning), social (ostracizing), economic (abandonment), and other forms of horrific punishments for anyone who was caught stepping out on the new rule, the powers that be created the myth that we didn’t need passion anymore, and that love in the marriage was the only right way. They demanded that once we moved from tribal and communal to familial and agrarian, we forget about passion and never look back.
As a matter of fact, we didn’t get even one shot at passion, because marriage became a business decision and marriages became arranged. After all, this was the most important economic decision a family had to make.
Today, even though most of us don’t grow our own food anymore, we still own private property and don’t share our resources – our money and the house we’re still paying for – with anyone but our immediate family. Different times, same principle.
So here’s the problem: we live in agrarian times but our brains still have the chemistry of passion we’ve had since we lived as a tribe. Modern age – tribal brain. And what does that brain tell us: follow your passion! If you don’t feel it anymore, leave the spouse, find a new person for whom you feel it.
To make things worse, up until recently, we felt shame if we met another person that made us feel those butterflies while we were already committed to another person. Today, we’ve grown to believe that we deserve this passion.
About seventy years ago, we came up with the strange idea that we deserve to be happy and self-fulfilled. Within our marriage, too. And recently, we started meeting a hell of a lot more people, some real, some online, and suddenly the rift between societal rules and our brains widened even more. And for people with a great capacity and need for passion – life has become a series of lies and secrecy. Or self-denial and suffering.
Thus, we’ve created an impossible world for ourselves: A smorgasbord of mouth-watering, passion-creating opportunities, and a ban on fulfilling it. Shit.
The simplest – and false – solution the establishment came up with, was to lie to us that monogamy was great fun and if we didn’t feel it – there was something wrong with us. Most couples’ therapists towed the line. You can, they told us, most definitely, preserve the passion. Have date nights, intimate conversations, they instructed. As if passion was an instant drink powder you could pour in a cup, add water and stir.
And why did they sell us this crap? Because they were all afraid. Terrified, in fact.
Imagine what would have happened if we refused to live by the monogamy rule? And what would have happened if everyone, god (literally) forbid, insisted on their right to following their passion? And we did that before birth control and DNA testing?
Most of the world as we know it would have imploded into utter chaos. The family unit, the basis of society for the last ten thousand years, would have collapsed. Fathers would stop working because they wouldn’t know whose children they were feeding, and mothers would not want these men, who brought in other children to share resources with theirs.
That’s the world we live in.
So now, after we’ve admitted to ourselves that Santa Claus and the tooth fairy have long disappeared, we still want to know, what do we do now?
We cherish what we have:
Okay, I know, no glamour in that. But we should remember that passion didn’t just dissipate without giving us something valuable in return. It was a great start, and it led us to love. It led us to the most nourishing relationship we’ve ever had, if we knew how to build it. It gave us most of what is good and positive and stable in our lives, a major promoter of good health, longevity, and professional success.
And what else can we do?
Here’s the good news: We have a passion-like, not quite as strong, but somewhat reminiscent, capacity to makes us happy. Sexual desire. Desire persists even when passion recedes. Physical, sexual desire makes us have happy sex, and it keeps us close to our already existing partner. And that capacity that we have, when nurtured and cherished, that can last for many, many years. As long as we admit – and remember – that it’s not passion. It’s a matter of expectations.
And this is the important idea to understand: unlike passion, desire doesn’t need as much uncertainty and newness for it to exist. Desire is the key that would unlock the door into a good relationship for years. Not as powerful as passion, but pretty darn good.
Since no one has discovered a better way to go through life as we know it today, other than monogamy, and while this is not sexy and thrilling as it could, or should be, desire offers a decent option. So it’s clear what we need to do: cultivate our sexual attraction and our sex, so desire could have a fair chance to last.
Desire can be played with carefully, with other people, after certain ruled are learned and adhered to. And that I will discuss in a separate post. It’s risky, but so is lying, hiding affairs, and breaking the single most important thing we have in our relationship – trust. I’ve written a whole book about it, coming out next year.
So remember, friends: passion lasts only a few, short years, but cultivated and nourished properly, desire could last a lifetime!
Lots of love,