I once fell madly in love with someone 1,600 miles away. We met online and after a series of increasingly passionate phone conversations I impulsively booked a ticket for the 4-hour plane flight for our first meeting.
Over the next several years I got to know the airline schedules to and from that city by heart. It was an exhilarating, beautiful, sexually unstoppable – and sometimes stormy – relationship that lasted 4 years.
Another time, falling in love came like a stealthy cat stalking its prey. Slow but steady. At first I thought we would just have a nice friendship, but things slowly warmed up until we had a fuller, whole life, warm, companionship that was deeply intimate – and sometimes sexy.
Both can be wonderful.
The first is what most of us imagine when romance or a good marriage is spoken of. Everything from great literature, ancient stories, modern fiction and movies tell the stories of hot passion and outrageous romance.
We’ve come to the misguided assumption that the intensity of sexual passion is the single standard by which all intimate relationships should be measured.
Imagine that you have a parachute and know how to use it. One day, completely unexpected, you and someone else are tossed from a plane. Although you know how to skydive, and pull the parachute cord, the unexpected nature of it is scary and terribly exciting.
Falling head over heels in love is like that. You can’t plan for it. You do the best you can with the skills and tools you have at the time. You enjoy it, may struggle and you make some great memories.
Such relationships can be wonderful, might be very sexually passionate and can feel magical. Everyone deserves this experience some time in their life.
There isn’t always a happily ever after.
This radical falling in love often means important dating red flags are overlooked. There may be a big mismatch in values and beliefs about important things like finances, spirituality, how to handle conflict, etc.
By some estimates only a small percentage of marriages that last long-term remain sexually passionate, perhaps 5% or 10% of such couples.
For some there may not be as much companionship in such relationships. Yes, in the midst of a passionate love affair you could feel lonely.
Imagine you are taking a walk in the woods. It’s calm and relaxing. You meet someone there and walk down the path together, having a nice conversation.
You enjoy each other, but it’s just a relaxing walk in the woods, not a fireworks display. So at first you don’t think much of it.
You come back another day and see them there again. Gradually you become even more fond of each other and spend more time together.
You might sometimes explore off trail or even camp in the woods overnight, enjoying a bonfire together. But, mostly, it’s the warmth and friendly companionship that draws you together.
Though meaningful, these relationships are not talked about much. You can find examples of them if you pay attention and look for models among the couples you meet.
Often in these relationships, sex is not so exciting. The desire may be there, but it often takes some effort and work to keep it fresh and fun.
On the other hand, often the sense of companionship is strong and comes easily.
Because these relationships tend to develop more slowly and less dramatically, most people find it easier to be more thoughtful and make more conscious choices about them.
They have more time to think about and be sure they are getting into the right relationship with someone who shares their values and beliefs.
Some people will decline this sort of relationship preferring instead to hold out for a more adventurous romance. This may be to their advantage or their loss.
The stormy nature of the “adventure romance” is often not present in companionship romances. Conflicts are often easier to resolve. It’s easier to sleep at night.
Over time, however, these couples face the risk of boredom, sexually and otherwise. Everyone needs a balance of warmth and adventure in their life and relationship.
With conscious awareness, honest and clear communication and possibly outside help from a coach or counselor, this can be addressed. Left to its own devices the relationship can gradually fade into a place of staleness and boredom.
Can you have both in one relationship?
It’s easy to fall into “either or” thinking. Which of these two do you want?
Instead how about asking, what if I let go of the binary?
You don’t have to choose between yellow or blue. When you mix yellow and blue, you get green. The shade of that green color varies according to how much of the yellow and of the blue you put in it.
A better question than asking which you want, might be what’s the right mix of warmth and excitement for me at this time in my life?
Since relationships and people change over time, another important question is how can you bring the topic of the right mix of warmth and excitement into the conversation between you and the other person?
At different stages of life – or even of a given week – people will want a different balance of excitement vs. warmth. When you talk about it together, you can make modifications to adjust things so blend is right for where each person is at that time.
Another important consideration is that the most important thing affecting what you can and cannot have in your life is your belief.
What do you believe is possible for you? I’ve known 80-year-old people to fall into new, passionate love. I’ve also talked with 25-year-old people who believed they were too old to find a lifelong relationship.
Take some time to reflect on these questions, journal about them and talk with your partner, date or a mentor or coach about them.
Your comments below about them are welcome,
1. What are my beliefs and feelings about enjoying a relationship that comes along that isn’t quite what I was looking for versus waiting for something more ideal?
2. How are my beliefs, thoughts and feelings about relationships and romance colored by the way that literature and the media over-emphasizes Adventure Romance, and mostly overlooks the benefits of the slow and steady Companionship Romances?How does this affect my interest in people and how I navigate sex, dating and relationships?
Tip: Consider that one perspective is to live life in the present moment and enjoy what comes along. Another perspective is that if you get involved with someone you are not available for something else better that comes along. The issues raised below also affect this area.
3. Since no one person can meet all of our sexual, relational and emotional needs, what are the most important things for me to have in a long-term intimate relationship?
Tip: Consider things like companionship, financial stability, shared spirituality, healthy lifestyle, extended family or children, not just sexual passion.
4. Take some time to reflect on or journal about the fact that all relationships and people change over time. Those changes might include the desire for more passion and adventure, or more stability and companionship.
How best to navigate these changes in relationships and our priorities is affected by our beliefs about the purpose or relationships, about monogamy vs. open relationships, and our beliefs about how and when it’s appropriate for relationships to end or significantly change.
Tip: Knowing your own beliefs on these subjects and being willing to talk about them with your dates and relationship partner(s) is a vital and important step to smoothly navigating these issues.