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Is Passion Sustainable in a Healthy Relationship?

Doisneau, 1950.

Doisneau, 1950.

Tea: Pomegranate White Tea
Music: Jose Gonzalez: Heartbeats

Quote: Before long, Tom and Polly were sitting side by side, enjoying the blissful state of mind which usually follows the first step out of our work-a-day world, into the glorified region wherein lovers rapturously exist for a month or two. Louisa May Alcott’s An Old Fashioned Girl

Or for some tough love:

Mortal lovers must not try to remain at the first step; for lasting passion is the dream of a harlot and from it we wake in despair. C.S. Lewis

Question:

Dear Erica,

In relationships, do you have to sacrifice passion for sustainability? Is it possible to settle down and have a healthy relationship with the same guy who makes you feel like the heroine in a romance novel?

Best,

Baffled in Brooklyn

My Response:

Dear Baffled in Brooklyn:

A tricky question. If you see my post Princes and Pomp from January, I advise my readers to be wary of missing out on the love of your life because you are looking for some idealized hero who does not exist. However, if there is no passion, it is hard to have a sustainable relationship. Sex and sustainability go hand in hand. Anne of Green Gables might not have thought that Gilbert was her romantic hero, but all that romantic tension made it clear to the reader they had some serious chemistry. Nearly all good relationships have that initial spark. However, romance novels deal with the first step of a courtship, and as both C.S. Lewis and Louisa May Alcott reflect in the quotes above, that “glorified region” is a temporary state, and from it we must move forward.

Nearly all romance novels end with the courtship, which rarely lasts more than a few months.  We do not see a married Jane and Mr. Rochester arguing over who forgot to buy the butter, or Elizabeth nagging Darcy because the carriage is looking worn and she wants it to be replaced.  In a romance novel, one never sees the effect of the daily squabbles on a relationship.  It is one thing to deal with standard roadblocks during a courtship(disapproving relatives, crazy ex-girlfriends, or if you are Jane Eyre, a crazy wife living in the attic), it’s another thing to deal with your husband or lover never putting his socks in the hamper(Will they ever learn?).

The tension and drama of “Will he call? Does he like me? Can we make it work?”, all those agonizing moments contribute to the excitement of dating. And as you settle into a stable relationship, you will find not only the heartache, but also the excitement caused by those moments fades. Passion does not disappear, but it does take a different more sustainable shape, and if you hope to feel like a heroine in a romance novel for the entire relationship, you are guaranteed to be disappointed.  For a look at passion in an old married couple, you should read Anne Tyler’s Breathing Lessons. The middle-aged couple, Maggie and Ira, bicker over all the mundane affairs of married life, but still have enough passion to make love at a funeral. One can only imagine what sort of tea they were drinking.

Yours truly,

Erica


Comments

1 comment

1 cL { 03.24.09 at 8:56 am }

I totally agree Ms. Erica.
I never thought it possible, but passion in a healthy relationship exist! yes, there moments of utter annoyance over small things, but if in the core of it all you still see that beautiful man you fell in love with and you can’t imagine a life without him, then everything else is tolerable.
-cL

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