When you first met your lover it is likely that you couldn’t get enough of each other. You spent all your free time together and if not together, you were probably thinking about one another – this is known as the Romance Stage. When you progress past this stage to a stage of more mature love, you experience a time of comfort, deeper intimacy, security and stability. Here you are settled, secure and loved and for a while you are content and satisfied. However, it may happen that you begin to look back and miss those intense, romantic and passionate experiences when you and your partner first met and started to build the foundations of your relationship. It does not need to be the case that these were last flushes of passion, romance and intensity between you both as evidence suggests that it is a combination of both passionate and companionate love, which is vital to keeping your relationship alive and successful.
Where did the passion go?
“My husband and I first met through an exclusive matchmaking agency. Being from London, the romance of dating in New York gripped me. We fell in love amongst the Christmas lights and the festive shoppers soon after the agency made the introduction, a move script writer couldn’t have written it better. Looking back, it seems like a lifetime ago, we love each other very much but I miss the passion and excitement we had at the beginning.”
– Seventy Thirty Member
When you and your lover first met, just being in each other’s company made you feel amazing and alive. At the biological level, the mere presence of your partner set off a chain of chemical reactions, most notably the rapid production of the hormone ‘oxytocin’, which is known as “the love hormone”. The production of oxytocin is a natural response to the experience, or even thought of, a pleasurable experience, such as being around your lover. Oxytocin therefore acts as a reinforcer, encouraging us to spend more time with our lover which is essential in the early stages of connection and bond formation. It is these connections which enable us to create concreate foundations to support our relationships through the latter stages.
At the psychological level, Self-expansion Theory (Sheets, 2013) and Self-expansion Model (2008) maintains that relationships enable self-growth and increase their sense of self. At the beginning of a relationship, passion for one another is generated as a consequence of each partner’s drive for self-expansion. This is achieved through continuously learning new information about their partner, sharing new experiences together and engaging in activities together which improves relationship satisfaction. This drive for self-expansion thus leads to an intense longing for your partner, euphoria when they reciprocate your attraction, and a preoccupation of your thoughts; in other words passionate love. However, over time there are less opportunities for self-expansion, less self-development created from their partner which results in a dip in passion being felt. This usually coincides with a reduction of the hormone oxytocin being produced. However, all is not lost, you can get the passion back!
Scientific evidence has suggested that if self-expansion within a relationship can be sustained then passionate love can also be sustained. So here are some ways that you can ensure that there are plenty of opportunities for self-expansion and therefore lots of relationship enhancing passionate love:
Quality Time: Set aside quality time to spend with your partner where there are no distractions competing for your attention e.g. date nights. This will give you the opportunity to truly be in the moment with your partner, thus enabling you to learn new things about them (e.g. how their day was, their thoughts on the meal you’re enjoying)- i.e. providing opportunities for self-expansion.
Value and appreciation: Spend time alone and recognise what you appreciate your partner for. Show your partner that you value them and appreciate them and what they bring to your life. This can be communicated verbally and non-verbally - remember actions often speak louder than words! This will surely then be reciprocated making you both more excited to be around one another.
Spontaneity: Being spontaneous and surprising your partner with gifts, notes or gestures of love can bring novelty and excitement back into your relationship. Try leaving them a love note on the fridge or a sexy voicemail letting them know you’re thinking of them.
Engage in new activities together and alone: Studies show that engaging in new activities together, which create laughter and levels of adrenaline increate prediction rate of passionate love and, subsequently satisfaction within the relationship. With this in mind be creative in your adventures. Although you would presume activities must be engaged in together, excitement on activities participated in alone will further support self-development within the Self-Expansion Theory and will be reflected into the relationship creating a deeper sense of passionate love.
Make exciting plans for the future: For example, plan your dream holiday or short break just for you two. Even if the circumstances aren’t right to actually get away at the moment, just going through brochures, talking about what you would love to do and what enthuses will likely excite and inspire you both.
It is evident that to keep a relationship alive, Psychologists agree that it is vital to retain a sense of self and develop that sense of self to allow the relationship to continue to grow and thrive.