How often have you heard people say, “I still love him/her, but I’m not in love anymore”? Very often this loss of passion is the result of falling into a “positive bonding pattern” through countless decisions to hide true opinions and feelings to appease the other person.
“Positive bonding patterns,” which feel good at first because they are comfortable and safe, are ironically detrimental for the long-term health of a relationship. Each person puts on an attitude of agreement to placate the other and to avoid bringing up painful points of view or differing opinions. Each accommodates the other beyond the point of reasonable compromise.
Positive bonding patterns usually occur because we don’t want to rock the boat. Anxious to avoid upsetting the other person, we keep difficult thoughts and feelings to ourselves and put on a happy face.
However, thoughts and feelings that are hidden in a relationship will grow and fester. Eventually, the positive bonding pattern will lead to a lifeless relationship or a negative bonding pattern, in which fighting, anger, and bitterness will consume the relationship.
If a woman, for instance, doesn’t like the way her partner physically touches her but never says anything about it, the physical relationship is likely to peter out. She might remain agreeable, but she will find ways of avoiding physical intimacy.
Likewise, a man who never reveals that he dislikes the way his partner treats him may suddenly leave the relationship after years of acquiescence, in search of the dignity and respect he craves.
If one person does not express his or her differing opinions, discussions are likely to become dull and one-sided, and eventually come to an end. Silent judgments intensify. The relationship becomes stagnant and predictable. Sexual intimacy loses its passion or disappears. One’s opinions and preferences go underground. One loses one’s passion for life, and ultimately, one’s sense of self.
Here are some keys to avoid a positive bonding pattern:
1. Learn to communicate effectively, so that you can be honest without being offensive.
2. Avoid pretending to think or feel something that you don’t in order to keep the peace. You’re less likely to develop underground judgments and resentments.
3. Resist becoming overly dependent on another person, and you’ll feel less need to mollify the other.
4. Minimize overreacting, manipulating, and controlling your partner into doing what you want and agreeing with you, and it will be easier for your partner to retain a sense of self, which is vital for sustaining a long-term passionate relationship.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD