Creating Long-Term Passion

I believe in passionate marriages, even as more and more books come out in support of the idea that monogamy is nothing but a political structure, I beg to differ.  Done right, making love to the same person for decades can be an exploration of depth and surprise that is literally mind blowing.  I know this is not the norm in our culture but I also feel it is important to bear witness to the wonder of love that works.

I love David Schnarch’s evolving treatise on this topic because it looks at the hard work of relating in a realistic and straightforward approach.  Unlike many writer/therapists he uses the couples who don’t succeed as role models as much as those who do.  What’s more, is that he is able to do that without judgment. His approach which he has coined Crucible Therapy is different from conventional therapy in that it emphasizes individual personal growth  rather than communication skills or compromise/ negotiation as the goal of therapy.

He calls relationships “people growing machines” and this he believes is what makes a relationship passionate over time.   He builds the foundation of  his newest book,  Intimacy and Desire: Awaken the Passion in Your Relationship around what he calls the Four Points of Balance in a relationship.  All of the dynamics in the relationship from its daily functioning to it’s sexual capacity is based on the couple’s ability to successfully differentiate from each other.

The first point of balance in intimate relationships is the development of the Solid Flexible self.  He defines this quality as the ability to be clear about who you are and what you’re about, especially in the face of someone else demanding you conform to their expectations.  This is where real independence is born,  when each partner in the couple has the clarity and courage to be themselves and not  be giving up themselves or what they love for the other person. This tendency in couples of becoming more like each other is actually what kills the passion in a long term relationship.  Allowing real differences to live between you is where passion is born.

The second point of balance is the ability of each partner to calm and soothe your self.  His term “quiet mind- calm heart”  is at the foundation of sound mental and emotional health.  It means that you are not relying on anyone else, including your partner to regulate your own anxiety or make you feel better.   Many relationship carry this unnamed expectation that is a silent deadly killer. It is impossible to stay passionate about someone that you have to parent continuously.  It is impossible to explore deep eroticism with someone for whom you are constantly having to hold up emotionally.

The third point of balance is the ability to stay to present and calm when your partner is dealing with their own emotional issues. This is the place where many couples abandon each other either by distancing from each other or by over reacting to the other person’s situation. The urge to fix someone is a common detractor that makes sexual intimacy a huge challenge for both partners. Developing what Schnarch calls “Grounded Responding”  in your relationship is the mature response that allows you to show up for your partner without taking responsibility for their issues.

The last point of balance in a relationship is what I have been promoting for years: Meaningful Endurance. This is the critical growth step for any relationship that lasts.  It requires both the courage to step up and face the issues in your partnership and the capacity to stay with them.   Many people are so terrified of heart ache that they run away from relationships that are totally workable.  Growing up in a relationship means being able to tolerate emotional discomfort and the uncertainty of growing together.  Being willing to endure the hardships that any relationships present because you understand it as a means to your own personal development is sexy.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Schnarch has taken his extensive studied credentials and made his most important lessons accessible to almost anyone who is committed to growing old with their lover. Don’t miss the conversation that I had with David recently about his book–quite the relationship Jedi.



Kamia C.
Kamia T2 years ago

Remaining monogamous and supporting the relationship respectfully and with joy is a CHOICE one has to make every single day. If you choose not to do that, they you will not succeed, but that's not because the concept doesn't work. It's because you two chose not to work at it.

jerry coleman
jerry coleman6 years ago

love is hard work to make it last is even harder but if it is worth having it is wworth working for

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener6 years ago

Hear, hear!

Chinmayee Jog
Chinmayee Jog6 years ago

Thanks so much for sharing! I think a fair amount of work goes into long-term relationships - there are so many couples out there who are together for all the wrong reasons, which often leads to one or the other person being heartbroken. True relationships take time and hard work...

sandra m.
Past Member 6 years ago

There has to be COMMUNICATION AND COMPROMISE on both sides.Each cannot remain on opposite ends in thinking,they have to come together somewhere in the middle--otherwise,it will be quite distant........even in sex,there's COMPROMISE--unless,you're assaulted!

heather g.
heather g6 years ago

Thanks for bringing that book to our attention. When one is presented with such simple and logical truths, and if one sticks to them, it makes partnership more workable.

Giovanna M.
Giovanna M6 years ago

I'm not sure why dr. Schanrch is appearing so recurrently lately here. Although this story was passable, the adio interview and other article were not of my liking at all: someone who speaks of "normal marital sadism", says communication deters personal growth and yet insists to grow you must negotiate (how without communicating, I wonder?) has a too different perspective of what a natural relationship is to my own.
Thanks Tom Mccurry for suggesting alternative readings.
Bernadette P. said it for me: a marriage (as any relationship) requires a daily contribution of love and work to it. And for it to really work, the contribution can not be unilateral.

Cyrille D.
Cyrille D6 years ago

Interesting article. I'll add the book to my "to-read" list. Thanks !

Treesa Math
tia Math6 years ago

relationship needs effort wen you build the foundation....and once that is based, relationship becomes effortless

Camila K.
Kamila A6 years ago

love the one you're with; unless they are antisocially disordered, there is always a lot in there that's lovable, as you continue to love what's inside of yourself at the same time---its unending discovery.