.Every relationship goes through its ups and downs, and passion waxes and wanes accordingly. So much of life is routine, and it’s easy to fall into the habit of treating our intimate relationships like just another box to check. With everything else that demands our attention and effort, it’s easy to become complacent about our intimate relationships. We grow to tolerate treatment we don’t really appreciate, avoid conflicts we can’t muster the courage or energy to resolve, and ignore the glaring absence of passion. Under these circumstances, we can begin to relate to our intimate partners as platonic friends, business partners, or even roommates.
When passion is in noticeably short supply, how do we reignite the spark? First, we need to define what passion is and identify the conditions that provide for it.
What is passion?
Passion is a function of intimacy, and intimacy is a function of the willingness to be emotionally honest—no matter the potential consequences. Passion and intimacy are “intimately” related. Think about it like this. Sex is an important expression of passion in intimate relationships. It is the physical or sensual counterpart of a process that is first and foremost psychological or emotional in nature. When engaging in sex, we literally disrobe and stand before our partner naked, exposed, and vulnerable. When practicing intimacy, we figuratively disrobe and stand before our partner in the unvarnished truth. Where intimacy is alive and well, sex or passion tends to follow naturally and effortlessly as a logical consequence. It is simply an echo on a physical or sensual level of a condition that has already been met on a psychological or emotional one.
The spark of passion wanes when couples stop taking the necessary emotional risks to maintain true intimacy. The good news is it can be reignited at any time by recommitting to this process. Here are a few suggestions to reestablish intimacy and make way for passion once again.
Don’t be afraid to get angry
Who hasn’t overheard a heated argument between the couple next door, the couple downstairs, or the couple across the alleyway at one point or another? At such times, it’s easy to pity these couples. And while it is true that a persistent pattern of bitter conflict without resolution or denouement can indicate a failing relationship, it is also true that couples who are unafraid to get angry—even furious—at one another are exhibiting attitudes and behaviors that breed relationship resilience and genuine intimacy.
Intimate relationships often become stale precisely because we are reluctant to initiate a confrontation that might trigger anger. We fear that open conflict could irrevocably damage the relationship. The irony is that avoidance of open conflict often causes more damage to our relationships than the open conflict itself. When we avoid conflict, we avoid intimacy. This is because intimacy requires radical honesty about our thoughts and feelings—including those thoughts and feelings we expect, rightly or wrongly, that our partner will not appreciate hearing.
Intimacy is far more than sharing the easy stuff. It is also about sharing our more ambivalent feelings, such as disappointment, anger, grief, and despair. Too many of us grew up believing that we couldn’t give expression to the full range of our emotional selves and still be loved. In our adult intimate relationships, we have the opportunity to undergo experiences that offer us the chance to correct these grim, negative beliefs. Weathering an emotional storm together as a couple can signal to both partners that they are lovable even when they are angry or otherwise upset. It can also signal that both parties consider the relationship safe enough and trustworthy enough to accommodate the reality of our full selves.
If you still doubt that the occasional impoliteness of open conflict can serve the health of relationships, consider the benefits of natural storms: they bring rainfall to habitats that desperately need it; they turn atmospheric gasses into useful compounds that promote the growth of plant life; and they help the planet maintain its electrical balance, returning negatively charged energy to the earth. As in nature, “storms” are necessary and beneficial in our interpersonal lives, even if they are fierce and uncontrollable at times.
Come clean about secrets
Being in an intimate relationship does not mean we lose our right to private experiences, thoughts, and feelings. In fact, there are certain things that are actually unhelpful to share with our partner, such as lingering feelings of attraction to an ex or minor irritation at our partner’s idiosyncrasies. Sharing these things can often cause needless harm, and keeping them private serves the health of the relationship. There are still other things that we might choose to withhold from our partner not because sharing them would necessarily cause harm, but simply because we are entitled to our privacy. Dreams and masturbatory fantasies might fall into this category.
Then there are things that we might prefer to keep private but must share if we would like to have a relationship that is real and authentic. For example… Are you in debt? Did you or do you now have a substance abuse issue? Do you engage in potentially harmful compulsive behaviors? Have you changed your mind about having kids? If you are in a monogamous relationship, have you been unfaithful? Do you have a profound difference of opinion with your partner on an important matter? Although withholding such information might maintain a (superficially) tranquil atmosphere in the relationship, it comes not only at the cost of our personal integrity but of intimacy—and thus passion.
It takes courage to volunteer information that could jeopardize the fate of an intimate relationship, but it is the only way to preserve a chance of restoring intimacy and reigniting passion.
Consider couples therapy
If re-establishing intimacy is the key to reigniting the spark of passion, then couples therapy may prove helpful. Its entire purpose is to facilitate emotional connection and deepen intimacy between partners.
The kind of emotional risk-taking and truth-telling that build trust and cultivate intimacy are not always easy to do. Our fears and negative core beliefs often warn us that we may hurt ourselves or our loved ones in the process. Couples therapy can be helpful for couples looking to engage in emotional risk-taking and truth-telling in a safe and supportive environment, presided over by a neutral third party in the person of the therapist.
There are a number of effective treatments available to address interpersonal problems between intimate partners, including emotionally focused couple therapy (EFT).
Call today to schedule a 15-minute phone consultation or to book an appointment.
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