Dear Alison and Tony: If I didn’t ever have passion with my partner do you think I can ever really create it? Please do not post any personal details, as I think my wife might possibly be a fan of your site. My first wife was really crazy and abusive, and after we finally divorced, I vowed I’d never marry again. But during our lengthy divorce proceedings I met “Susan” at work. I wasn’t really all that attracted to Susan, but I was sort of interested in her friend Carol. I think the girls felt a little sorry for what I was going through, and every Friday they’d invite me to TGIF drinks. Carol got a boyfriend, so I just enjoyed her company after that, and Susan was just the one who was “there.” But one night Carol got stuck late at work so only Susan showed up for drinks. To my surprise, I really enjoyed her company, and drinks turned into dinner and then (after a very late night), we had sex. Susan seemed really enthusiastic about us continuing to date, so I went along with it, although I wasn’t quite ready to commit to a relationship. Susan pursued me and it was fun, and easy. We quickly ended up moving in together and then we got married, because that was what Susan wanted, and I didn’t want to disappoint her. Susan is a good person, but I realize that I got involved on the rebound and I really didn’t consider the fact that I wasn’t really in love with Susan. Even worse, I can see she’s really not in love with me, either. We don’t have any real passion left (if we ever had it, it was fleeting). Susan isn’t interested in my interests, but she has plenty of her own. She’s always busy with her friends, her work, and hobbies, and rarely spends any time with me. Our sex life has dropped off to nothing, and when we do have sex it’s basic and boring and I know she just wants to get it over with so she can text her friends, watch tv or do something else. I feel lonely, and empty, and although this might sound funny, I just want to feel appreciated. Instead, I feel like I don’t even exist in her life. I’d leave, but I’m not sure I want to be a two-time loser in the game of love and have to start over with someone new, or be alone. If passion is gone or never really was there in the first place what can you do to fan the flames of desire? What do the two of you think?
Tony’s Take: As I have mention on Leather and Lace Advice, the major problem with a rebound relationship is we don’t see those elements lacking which our previous partner fulfilled, well we only see those they failed to fulfill. This, when coupled with the need for emotional separation from the old partner (which only starts after they are finally gone) and which will take a minimum of six months plus one month for every year of the relationship, will give you an idea of where your heart and head were at when you started the relationship with Susan.
One item you are overlooking is that people “fall in love” over a 6 to 18 month period, followed by a cooling period where the relationship settles into a less intense level. The original heightened state can be recaptured by directly rekindling the romance.
As I see it, you are as much or more at fault in this situation as Susan. You expect love to be all consuming when it can also grow out of appreciation for the person you are with. You are punishing Susan for her not being the conception of what you wanted to fall in love with, but as soon as you found the special person she is, you immediately overlooked it. We grant you that she wanted you and was blind to your less than total dedication to the relationship, but you made a definitive choice by asking her to marry you and then by marrying her. You had reasons why you thought it would work, so you now now need to concentrate on making them real.
We constantly express our adoration to the one we love, which kindles their warm feelings towards us. We verbally and physically caress our partner to make them feel loved and appreciated. Sitting there and trying to justify your indifference based on her indifference, is a self fulfilling prophecy. Additionally, many people are reflective of passion. The more love and passion you put in, the more you get out. The more caring and touching, you put in, the more you will get out.
If a woman is going just through the most basic of motions, providing you with sexual release, then by definition you are doing it very very wrong. If you cared about Susan and her passion and her fulfillment, then by the time it was your turn for she would make it the best that you ever had.
You have a wonderful, willing woman. She has a life which she will gladly share in part with you which would also enrich your life. Also, she is to be treasured because although she enjoys being with you, she can entertain herself, which gives you alone time (which which many of us need).
My advice is to look on this woman and realize that if you handle it properly, there may be no better woman in the world for you. But, if, as say you want passion, you personally need passion, because you cannot go on as you are. If you cannot find it with the one you are with, then you will have to find it someplace else. Otherwise you will make two people miserable, until it is to late to enjoy life.
Alison’s Take: The dictionary definition of “Passion” is any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, such as love or hate., or more appropriately for the purposes of this column, passion is more likely defined as a strong amorous feeling, or sexual desire or lust. If you didn’t have this in your relationship to begin with, it will be impossible to create it now in a genuine form. You can’t fake love or passion. It has to come from the heart and the soul. So, if, as you say in your letter, you really don’t love Susan, there isn’t really much of a chance that you are going to find passion with her. But that being said, there are couples who choose to stay together even though they really aren’t passionate about or with one another. They may have some affection, but there’s no intimacy, no passion, and they are merely friendly roommates who have a shared history. Mostly, their lives are lived separately, as you are describing yours with Susan. When couples find themselves in this type of situation, often, they choose to stay in it — at least for a while, and maybe for a long while. But eventually, for many of then, the intense need for that missing human connection, the urge to be held and nurtured and appreciated, and the need for intimacy and passion, becomes so acute that one day they realize the emptiness of ” just comfortable” just isn’t enough. At that point, the relationship becomes nearly unbearable and they will stray and perhaps, sever the relationship entirely.
Obviously I don’t know what Susan thinks about the situation, because you are the one who wrote to us. But it sounds like she has busied herself with work, friends, hobbies and other things , and it might be just to fill the void that the true love and passion she didn’t get from her partner would have satisfied. Whether the life you lead right now is fine with her is something you need to know about, for if Susan is also dissatisfied with the relationship, changes can and should be made. Both of you will either need to make some compromises to continue to live together, or you will be separating. Sitting down with Susan and talking to her, being honest about your feelings no matter how much it might hurt her, is the first step. Because only then can she process your reactions to her, which she must know by now, are “noncommittal.” If you feel as though you can’t do this on your own, suggest an impartial third party — a couples counselor who can mediate and keep emotions under control.
If you have decided that you want to stay with Susan, and she, with you, there has to be some sort of connection between the two of you. If it’s not true love and passion, at least you can fan the flame of sexual desire, assuming you are reasonably attracted to one another. Sex will connect you, momentarily, in a physical way, if not an emotional one. And it will be up to the two of you to try and re-connect as a couple by doing things together, and trying harder to be interested in each other as people. If you can’t do these things, staying together will be difficult to impossible, and your life will be increasingly depressing and empty. Living in a loveless marriage is one of the most lonely states a person can be in, for you’re not free to pursue the love you want, and you’re not getting it from the one person who should be freely and joyfully offering it to you. Marriage is a partnership. A good one makes each partner strive to be a better person. A good one makes you happier to be alive. A good one allows each partner to know, deep down, that there is at least one person in the world who won’t let them down, who wants them and loves than more than anyone else, and shows it, body and soul. Otherwise, in my opinion it would be far better to be a “two time loser in the game of love” than to suffer the sadness of being stuck in a marriage in which you don’t have passion, or feel appreciated, loved, or nurtured.