Sunday, January 4, 2009

Keeping the fire of Passion and Love alive – Risk and Trust

by Russ Hardesty, PhD

Take a breath; hold it and allow your lungs full opportunity to extract life’s essential oxygen. Imagine, becoming so attached to that breath that you refuse to let it go. In a similar way, we often hold on to the passion and experiences of our early romance thinking that it will sustain the relationship for ever – like in ‘happily ever after’.


Sleepwalking through life

Taking your relationship for granted, like holding your breath, can be one of the greatest challenges to keeping passion and love alive. When creativity and questioning diminish, it’s as if there is nothing more to discover about self or partner. Accepting the status quo is like failing to make deposits in the checking account while continuing to make withdrawals. Risks to explore new dimensions of a relationship are often frightening. ‘Status quo’ seekers live life with little risk-taking. They are living unconsciously or sleepwalking through life.


“Build your wings on the way down”

Pulitzer Prize winner, Anne Dillard remarked, “If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go into business, because we’d be too cynical. Well, that’s nonsense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.”


Building your wings on the way down is creating your relationship as you go. Rather than sleepwalking through life, you acknowledge to your partner that you want more in the relationship. You want change. You want a chance for it to be different and great! You jump off the cliff. The danger is losing your attachment to your idea that love is static and always remains the same, a euphoric fairy tale sort of love. The danger is losing your attachment to this person altogether.


When you and your partner jump off the cliff there is risk but there is also new opportunity to realize your capacities for love and attachment. If you are going to have a passionate relationship you need to be prepared to take risks. In the beginning of your former relationship you risked attachment to your partner without knowing the outcome. When you jump off the cliff and are free falling through space, you are saying goodbye to your old ways of attaching to your partner.


Saying goodbye is like letting go and may be accompanied by feelings of grief and loss. One cannot know what life or relationship can be without your old attachments until you let go of them. The goodbyes are a way of acknowledging change in the relationship. In letting go you are saying hello to new ways of relating to one another. Hellos invite new energy and passion into the relationship by acknowledging the undiscovered. On your free fall downwards you can begin to build the wings of a renewed and more satisfying relationship.


Failure is inherent in risk.

Our lives are filled with risk taking opportunities. The place we seem most unwilling to take risk is in that relationship with our life partner. Asking for something different or making a declaration of change often dies in the mortal fear of ending the relationship. Yet failure to take the risk and ask for something to change can quench the fire of passion. Willingness to risk failure requires trust, most importantly trusting oneself. Too often relationships are built on trusting one’s partner in place of trusting self. This pattern is a sure formula for ‘status quo’ and the demise of passion.


Trusting partners hold each other accountable for their potential and their agreements. Only lack of effort or half-hearted attempts should be up for scrutiny. Finger pointing and blame will destroy passion and desire in a relationship quickly. Partners that trust themselves as well as each other do not personalize failed attempts. Their reward is open communication and vital, passionate relationships.


Action Steps:

Goal: Identify things that you have wanted in your relationship but never asked!

(Use good judgment and don’t begin with areas that are known areas of conflict)


Note: if you aren’t currently in a relationship or have a partner not willing to participate – complete your part of the action step to assist your vision and intentions.


  1. Identify 5 pleasing things you have wanted in your relationship that you have never asked for and rank in importance from 1 to 5 (1 most important).
  2. Encourage your partner to do the same.
  3. Exchange the list and put an “x” by those items on the list that you or your partner are not ready to do at this time.
  4. Act on one unchecked item each day, regardless of how you feel about it.

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Reader Comments

"...My spouse and I have been married for 32 years and I've experienced our relationship from giggly in bed, to passionate in bed, to mad in bed to "sleeping" in bed...As we grow older the intimacy definition changes for me. Intimacy also for me is just sitting quietly, or driving for miles quietly or walking just hearing our footsteps crunch the leaves, holding hands. My usual struggle in intimacy is in my head - I have to intentionally stop my daily to do list, my past and future stuff and live in the present moment..." Pam

it's ... smaller things to celebrate that create the real passion

“We have found that passion ebbs and flows but we set a goal for our relationship a number of years ago that is working for us. At least every six months we do something that will create a lifetime memory. For us, we love to travel, so it's been pretty easy to find something big to do that will create that lifetime memory, but sometimes it's the finding of smaller things to celebrate that create the real passion.” Steve Rae


What'll arouse passion more than the feeling of being forgiven?


“The "typical beliefs that people have when the “fire” seems to have gone out of a relationship" I believe are a) that you feel your partner should have changed or should not have changed and b) that you feel you should change or that you should not have changed.

Acceptance of yourself and your partner leads to forgiveness. What'll arouse passion more than the feeling of being forgiven?” Brian Massey



A word from Russ Hardesty

The realm of relationship is mysterious; filled with magic, surprise, excitement, passion, intimacy, loss, disappointment and creativity. I am fortunate to have a life partner who is at once a mirror, teacher, lover, nurturer, student and companion. In this place of mystery, I continue to grow into a mature, loving and free man. I welcome feedback, suggestions, and comments – which is a gift to me! Thanks for joining the expedition! Russ