How important is sexual attraction and romantic love in relationships? Popular culture is awash with the idea of passionate love. In the movies, television and social media passionate love is promoted as the only true relationship. There is a belief that we can base our long-term relationships on sexual attraction and romantic love. This belief often guides our decision of who and when to marry. The message is that strong sexual passion is love and that it’s critical for a long-term relationship.
The “true love” myth suggests that passionate love never fades. And it suggests the idea that you should only marry the person you are truly in love with. And the stereotyping continues, with the notion that if the love fades, then you should separate because it’s not ‘true love’. And finally the myth suggests that if you find the right person you will have true love forever. This type of love is based on the Hollywood model. The Hollywood model is there to sell movies and to appeal to western myths and values. If you base a relationship only on sexual attraction and passion, it sets the relationship up to fail. Passion will fade in time, but some mistakenly interpret this as an end to love.
Experts suggest that marriage should be based on companionate love. Companionate love is the source of true marital happiness. Marriages that are founded on passion are less successful than ones founded on companionship. Experts suggest it’s the combination of companionship, mutual respect, shared interests, and real enjoyment that leads to the most successful relationships.
John Gottman is an American psychologist and leading marriage expert based in Seattle. Gottman confirms that friendship and companionship are the most important factors in sustaining a long term marriage. The most successful marriages are the ones where the couples spend a minimum of five hours per week connecting. It’s not always about candle lit dinners. But simply it is more about taking the time to listen and connect. Gottman suggests turning towards your partner, not turning away. Gottman argues that marriage is kept alive when you let your spouse know he or she is valued in the daily grind.
Companionate love and passionate love aren’t mutually exclusive. And the most successful couples are those that have both. If you only have companionate love in your relationship it may be time to restimulate passionate love.
Christopher Swane - Relationship Counselling and Psychotherapy - Wellington New Zealand