Passion: It's only one part of love


Published: Wednesday, March 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 28, 2006 at 11:01 p.m.
Dear Jan: I met the man I'm dating about four months ago at a party. His eye contact was almost hypnotic. I am a 34-year-old professional woman but felt like a college girl.
A week later, we met for coffee. After some conversation (and ogling), we headed to my place to look at vacation pictures. As he passed a picture back to me, he slowly and softly kissed me. I melted. . .
We see each other a few times a week for the most wonderful sex of my life. I daydream about him so much that it affects my work.
I don't know if I love him or his ability to send me to heaven sexually.
- Confused in Long Branch, N.J. Some of you are thinking, "Yes, that's love, and I want it!" Others are thinking, "Yeah, right, only in a movie would somebody mistake that for love."
What the young woman described is passion. It's not love, but it is one part of love. We don't want to dismiss it or run from it. Nor do we want to blindly enter its throes or base a relationship on it!
The other parts of love are intimacy and commitment. Without those parts, we have infatuation! And even if you don't confuse infatuation with love, you probably know how titillating it is. It is the part that seizes your senses, teases and pleases you . . . the part that feels too good to be true.
And while it is not too good to be true, neither is it true love. Don't mistake it for something more - or less - than it is. If you recognize infatuation, and you are honest with yourself, you can choose consciously how to act on it . . . or not act on it.
Don't treat it like love unless you can add intimacy. Intimacy is the connection you and your partner feel based on what you know about each other. The more compatible you are, the more you connect, and the more emotionally naked you are, the more deeply you connect.
If you have a high level of intimacy and passion, commitment will follow. When it does, you have "perfect love," as defined by Robert J. Sternberg, professor of psychology at Yale University.
When commitment does not follow intimacy and passion, something is missing for you or your partner - whether or not you can point to exactly what or why it is. Trust what your heart knows. Don't try to justify his lack of attention or her lack of desire.
And beware of commitment alone. It is no more "perfect love" than infatuation is. Without intimacy and passion, commitment is empty and likely stems from neediness.
You want passion, intimacy and commitment. And you can have them - all three of them. You can also settle for less.
When you have what you want in a relationship, you know it. You have clarity. When you do not have what you want, you know that, too. And if you don't admit it to yourself, you are likely to feel confused.
We try to kid ourselves when infatuation is so gratifying that we can scarcely peel ourselves away or when commitment is so rare that we are afraid to pass when it is finally offered - by somebody, almost anybody.
You can have "perfect love." You can share passion, intimacy and commitment in the way you have always wanted to share them.
When you are tempted to settle, don't. When you refuse to sell yourself short, your self-esteem goes up. You realize more of your value; you share more of it with others. You are more attractive.
You can have heavenly sex. But don't start or stop there.
Jan Denise is a columnist, author of the book "Naked Relationships," speaker and coach based in Ormond by the Sea. E-mail her at jandenise@nakedrelationships.com, or visit her Web site at www.nakedrelationships.com.

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