Tag Archives: passion

Intimacy vs. Agreement:
“I better not disagree with his point of view, or he’ll get upset.”

"First Encounter" by Mimi Stuart ©  Live the Life you Desire

“First Encounter” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Guessing game: Cycle of fusion

People often mistake intimacy with a feeling of closeness and “being one” that comes from all-encompassing agreement and approval, similar to the feeling of falling in love. So in their quest for intimacy, they will anticipate the other person’s response to decide whether to avoid saying something controversial or to show a new side of themselves. If they foresee disapproval, they will screen themselves and limit their expression to what’s tried and true between them. Or they will pressure the other person into agreeing with them.

Unfortunately, too much self-screening and manipulation start the cycle of emotional fusion (co-dependence) and lead away from growth and intimacy in a relationship.

Agreement vs intimacy

People do not get to know one another intimately when they conceal who they are and what they think. When two people are always in complete agreement and busy soothing each other’s egos, their relationships become tedious.

Intimacy develops when people express who they are more fully, even when it does not lead to a feeling of oneness. People may say they want more intimacy, but in fact, real intimacy may be too much for many to tolerate.

Tolerating the anxiety of intimacy

To deepen intimacy, two people must get to know each other more deeply. They each have to be able to express who they are, what they feel, and what they believe. This requires being able to handle the possibility of not getting approval, and that can trigger anxiety. Thus, by developing a better tolerance for anxiety, you enhance your ability to deepen intimacy.

Of course there is some limit as to what you should express to others. You don’t need to share every thought and feeling. There is a point where consideration and discernment count more than blunt honesty and openness. You also don’t want to bore others by expressing every thought you have. It’s important, for example, to avoid expressing every criticism or self-criticism that comes to your mind.

Get comfortable with discomfort

If you get comfortable with discomfort, you no longer need to feign agreement, laugh at a poor joke, or dumb down your conversation to avoid upsetting another person. Your relationships will be based on stimulating thoughts, growth, and authenticity rather than sham consensus.

Respectful communication

Intimate relationships develop best when you express your honest opinions respectfully, and most importantly, when you really listen to another person’s message without shutting him or her down. This means not being reactive — sarcastic, angry, or cold — when someone has an opinion that you disagree with. When you attack someone aggressively for their ideas, you are not encouraging them to be open and honest with you.

Respectful communication is different from acceptance and approval. Good communication does not necessarily make the other person feel his or her opinions are validated, but it also does not make the other person feel rejected or attacked.

Learn to reveal yourself, your opinions, and feelings respectfully, and to listen with equanimity. You will find that, with the right people, you will truly get to know one another, and develop meaningful, intimate relationships that are much more fulfilling than those based on self-screening and validation.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Passion vs. Predictability: The Problem with Emotional Fusion.”

Read “Emotionally Volatile People: ‘He can be so charming and then so defiant.’”

Pursuing passions or partnership?
““You should spend more time with me instead of going fishing!””

"Long Drive" — Jim Furyk by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Long Drive” — Jim Furyk by Mimi Stuart ©

Should you push your partner to stop pursuing their passions?

People often push their partner to stop pursuing their interests in favor of spending more time together as a couple. The pursuing partner may genuinely want to spend more time together or he or she may be reacting to feelings of jealousy or insecurity. Feelings of insecurity in particular will cause someone to try to control the other person and become possessive.

Some partners find it uncomfortable to deal with their partner’s insecurities. So they prefer to accommodate them. Often it is their own anxiety in face of a partner who is upset that they cannot tolerate. As a result, when their partner pressures them to give up their interests, they give in quickly in order to avoid conflict.

Long-term problems of appeasement

When your partner appeases you, you may feel temporary relief. However, ongoing appeasement will create long-term problems. The result of repressing one’s own desires can result in a gradual deadening of the soul, growing resentment, boredom, and a loss of passion within the relationship.

When your partner continuously appeases you at the expense of their own interests, they will lose some of their passion for life and for you. Moreover, as appeasement becomes the norm, you will both feel increasingly burdened by an obligation to appease each other. As a result, one or both of you will become more and more vulnerable to the other person’s manipulation.

Long-term intimacy and accommodation

True intimacy evolves when you don’t manipulate your partner to accommodate your needs and desires. Long-term passionate intimacy requires that two people have a strong enough sense of self that each can spend time separately pursuing their own individual interests.

To sustain a long-term passionate relationship, you need to balance two primary drives — the desire for togetherness and the desire for autonomy. While everyone has a different ideal balance point, it is clear that the extremes of too much togetherness or too much independence each generate their own problems.

If you really love someone, you do not want that person to stop pursuing their passions and interests. Nor should you want to make that person feel guilty for pursuing them. It’s not much fun spending time with someone who feels stifled and held back. The very reason you love a person has a lot to do with their vitality and individual interests. So it is both wise and loving to encourage them to continue to pursue their interests.

Empower yourself

When you feel threatened by your partner spending time apart from you, rather than controlling your partner, find a way to empower yourself and the relationship.

1. Desire the best for your partner.

You will have a better relationship if your partner is happy. It reflects well on you and you will be more attracted to your partner if your partner is passionate about life rather than unhappy about it.

2. Be curious about your partner’s interests.

You don’t want to become a couple that has nothing to talk about. Don’t feel resentment about your partner’s fishing, golfing, or reading. Instead, ask about their interests, their progress, and other details. Find genuine joy in what they appreciate about their pursuits and passions.

3. Pursue something you enjoy.

Start pursuing your own passions. If you don’t have any, try out different activities, sports, or hobbies, or take some classes. The experience of trying new things will make your life richer. When you keep your life engaged, you enhance your life, which also makes you more interesting to be with. Taking on challenges builds a healthy confidence and joie de vivre. Even failed pursuits make for great stories. All of this will lead you to a more interesting and passionate relationship.

4. Make your time together more enjoyable.

Plan activities together that your partner will want to participate in. Spending some time together is important. Rather than spending that time complaining about your partner’s passions, think about pursuits that you can do together that may be interesting or pleasant for both of you. Talk to your partner about what your interests and passions are.

While it is important to spend some time together, couples keep their relationships alive when they do not spend all their time together. When you encourage your partner to pursue their passions, they will be grateful to be with someone who is truly loving.

Loving someone means respecting their autonomy and wanting them to be truly happy.

Alison Poulsen, PhD

“You never touch me! You’re not attracted to me anymore, are you?”

"The Kiss" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“The Kiss” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

So… what I really meant was…

“I loved it when we hugged and you kissed me the other day. I love your touch. Let’s do that more often.”

Complaining is very unattractive and ineffective. If you want someone to desire you, it’s better to be appreciative of that person and show your desire for him or her. Make sure your tone of voice and demeanor are full of love and self-confidence, not neediness and insecurity.

There is an enormous difference between expressing your desires in a self-empowered way and being needy. Being needy is a turn-off. Delight and joie de vivre are alluring. If you want more affection, have a sparkle in your eye when you invite your partner to be more affectionate.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “You never kiss me anymore.”

Read “Desire: ‘I’ve got needs, but she pretends she’s asleep.’”

Read “We broke up because of sexual incompatibility.”

Read “Sensuality: ‘I’m just not a sensual person.’”

Good Conversation:
“We don’t talk much anymore.”

“Why not?”―Einstein by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Good conversation has an edge. It opens your eyes to something, stirs your imagination, reverberates in your mind later in the day. Your mind has been sparked.

What if you start worrying that the other person will get angry or roll his or her eyes at you? Fear of someone’s reactions stifles your imagination and creative thinking. The possibility for a good conversation shuts down.

Intimacy means sharing your depth, vulnerability, and creative imagination. When someone is threatened by others’ ideas, intimacy vanishes. Conversely, when someone desperately craves agreement and support at all costs, intimacy also evaporates.

When we strive to balance two fundamental drives: our desire for connection and our desire for individuality, our sense of self becomes more resilient, allowing our conversations to become freer, deeper and more meaningful. It allows us to have exciting conversations rather than mumbled agreement between yes-men and yes-women.

When we feel some emotional autonomy, we lose the need to have our ideas constantly validated. We lose our fear of expressing an absurb or eccentric idea.

Emotional autonomy allows us to develop true intimacy in conversation. It allows us to resist manipulating the other person into agreeing with our opinions and supporting us emotionally.

Emotional autonomy frees up conversation. We can be experimental, edgy, and passionate about our ideas. Support becomes voluntary and thus more honest and meaningful. Conversation becomes more passionate, stirring and stimulating.

The first step toward meaningful conversation is to listen and engage the other person with presence, openness, and curiosity. The next step is to dance with the idea and give it a twirl in an unexpected direction.

Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee and just as hard to sleep after.

~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Positive Bonding Patterns: ‘We never fight, but we don’t talk anymore and there’s no more passion.’”

Read “Five Keys to a Great Relationship: ‘There’s nothing we can do to stay in love.’”

Read “Conversation and Active Listening: ‘It seems like I do all the talking.’”

Where’s the passion?
“I’ve toned down my dreams, achievements, and spontaneity so I won’t annoy my partner. Now we take each other for granted.”

"Salsa Picante" by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Consideration vs. catering to weakness

To have a fulfilling relationship, you have to learn to speak your truth and become the best person you can be without living in fear of your partner’s reaction. In a reciprocal loving relationship, each partner’s joy and accomplishments should, by love’s definition, make the other happy.

It is important to be considerate of your partner. However, diminishing yourself to cater to your partner’s weaknesses does neither you nor your partner any justice.

The moment you play into the fear that your partner will feel inadequate when you shine, you start down the path of undermining your joy and capabilities in a futile attempt to pander to your partner’s fears. Such pandering will only enhance your partner’s anxieties by accommodating them, and will eventually breed resentment in the both of you.

Dependence and predictability

All relationships involve some dependence. As dependence increases, partners fear that change might destabilize the relationship’s security. When people become highly dependent on their partners, they tend to limit intimacy and spontaneity. They try to accommodate the fear of their partner by maintaining the comfort of the status quo.

Yet, the status quo becomes increasingly tedious and tiresome over time. Predictability leads to taking your partner for granted. When partners take each other for granted, romantic desire fades to extinction.

Desire requires tolerating anxiety

It takes courage to grow and change in a long-term relationship. Specifically, you have to deal with the deep-rooted, subtle fear of being rejected or humiliated when stepping out of the confines of your comfort zone.

Desire requires appreciation for the partner AND the ability to withstand the tension in continuing to grow and flourish. People who tolerate little anxiety have a small window through which to experience desire. Routine and predictability become ways of avoiding anxiety. Unfortunately, they also become ways of stifling vitality, excitement, and desire.

Uncertainty and novelty

A healthy level of anxiety enhances desire by increasing receptivity, awareness, and focus. Notice how you are more alive and alert when you travel to exotic places. The new smells, sights and experiences enhance a traveler’s awareness. Uncertainty and novelty cause low-level anxiety, which increases anticipation and exhilaration.

You don’t have to travel to enhance the awareness and excitement in your relationship. Yet, you need to engage your creativity and change what you do on occasion. For example, make a special meal, have a picnic in a new place, invite different friends over for dinner, try a new sport or hobby, take classes on your own, plan a trip, or take dance classes. It doesn’t matter if any of these unfamiliar events turn into a disaster. You will feel alive, and you will have something to talk and laugh about.

You simply have to have the courage to risk following your own dreams, as well as doing new things together and with others. It helps if you can do so with an irresistible sense of adventure, humor, and delight.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Positive Bonding Patterns: ‘We never fight, but we don’t talk anymore and there’s no more passion.’”

Read “Our relationship is such hard work. The spark is gone.”

Read “I’m always walking on eggshells. I don’t want to upset my partner.”

Falling in Love & the Unconscious:
“I’m crazy in love. But friends say I’m setting myself up to be rejected again.”

"Marilyn Silver Screen" by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Romantic passion calls forth intensity, excitement, and focus of desire.

Intense emotions are generally fueled by psychological “complexes,” that is, heated reactions (positive or negative) to a person or situation reminiscent of a past experience that left a mark on the unconscious. A “complex” is a core pattern of emotions, perceptions, memories, and desires in the personal unconscious triggered by a common theme evoking past emotional experiences.

For instance, being in love with a smart and cold woman, who by coincidence is like your mother, may be driven by a projection of certain characteristics of your mother. Unconsciously, you hope to resolve your disappointment with that initial relationship by finally having someone similarly smart and cold be responsive and appreciative of you.

Does the fact that desire and even falling in love are possibly the result of a psychological complex taint their authenticity and beauty? Does one’s past experience of hope and disappointment with a similar type of person make a current love affair less authentic and meaningful?

Even if infatuation and love are complex-driven, they are no less real and important. The very fascination with the beloved reflects the entanglement of unconscious processes with falling in love. Falling in love involves projection, which is loaded with powerful affect.

Projection, however, is fraught with dangers. Consider the repeated disappointment a person will feel when the beloved becomes withholding or neglectful, just like his mother. What’s important in this case is that we don’t repeat our same ineffective ways of dealing with those who bring forth our complexes.

Emotionally-committed relationships are one of the best vehicles that can assist us in becoming aware of our unconscious and our complexes. They give us the opportunity NOT to repeat the past. But this takes awareness and effort.

Does passion driven by a complex fade when we become more integrated and whole? Does the fantasy of the “Magical Other” subside when we become more grounded and less neurotic? Perhaps.

If so, is it worth the cost?

We can hope for some progress toward wholeness, but few of us need to worry about losing our passion because we’ve become wholly-integrated and enlightened. So, we might as well enjoy the intensity of falling in love on our path to insight and understanding.

Even with great strides toward increased consciousness, the crazy feeling of infatuation might be replaced by the mindful intention to love — not a great cost after all for such a transformation.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Positive Projection: ‘He is so amazingly intelligent and articulate!’”

Reference: James Hollis’ “The Eden Project: In Search of the Magical Other.”