Yesterday covered the basic Passion-Attraction Model and some caveats. Today let’s look at how the P-AM models passion and attraction in a single relationship. (Tomorrow we’ll look at it multiple relationships).
I find that the better I can visualize many ideas, the more clearly I can think about them, so this model’s illustrations help me understand my feelings in a relationship. Then I can plan and act to improve myself and understand others in relationships.
The Passion-Attraction Model in one relationship
As we’ll see, the P-AM can explain a lot of about one’s feelings of passion and attraction in relationships.
Less passion and attraction
Some people evoke less passion and attraction in us. The P-AM represents less emotion with a lower peak, as illustrated by the red curve relative to the reference blue curve below.
Some people excite our passions and attraction faster. Those feelings may fade faster too, as illustrated by the red curve relative to the reference blue curve below.
Feelings could rise at one rate and lower at a very different rate although I don’t illustrate that effect here.
Recall yesterday we talked about Other Feelings like trust, companionship, intimacy, and so on relevant to relationships besides passion and attraction.
While the P-AM models passion and attraction rising and falling, Many Other Feelings may increase your whole life. The graph below illustrates how Other Feelings contribute to your overall emotional reward.
These Other Feelings lie outside the P-AM. I illustrate them here to show how parts of your life outside passion and attraction can factor in. Even when passion and attraction have nearly faded from a relationship, the emotional reward from Other Feelings may have grown to make the relationship more rewarding than ever.
In the above graph, the Other Feelings increase your emotional reward monotonically, though sometimes faster and sometimes slower. There is no guarantee your Other Feelings will always improve. Even if they do, you may have to work hard for it.
As with Other Feelings, Other Events affect your emotions, including passion and attraction. The graph below illustrates how Other Events affect your passion and attraction.
In the example below, some Other Event boosted the person’s passion and reward. That event could be
- starting a new company
- winning a sporting event
- reading a great book or web page that changes one’s perspective on life (like this one)
- or something like that.
You can imagine that the partner of this person would suddenly experience an exciting jolt of passion they hadn’t experienced for years.
- losing a job
- the economy faltering
- somebody close dying
- a pet dying
- or something like that.
You can imagine that the partner of this person would suddenly experience a loss of passion, deflating the relationship.
Building to last
You don’t have to accept that your passion and attraction will forever decrease. As I wrote in earlier, you don’t find passion, you create it, meaning through your behavior and beliefs you can increase your feelings toward someone.
Since increasing passion and attraction takes time, especially when another person is involved, I refer to these contributions as long-term. They include things like
- building trust
- knowing little details your partner likes but rarely shares
- overcoming anxieties together
- sharing vulnerabilities
- knowing each other’s preferences in more and more areas
- and things like that.
As we will see when we look at the P-AM in more areas, we’ll see how such foundations that take a long time to develop can give long-term relationships advantages over short-term ones.
The graphs so far smoothed out how relationships go. We know from experience that relationships and their feelings of passion and attraction have their ups and downs on smaller time scales and less predictably than the overall cycle illustrated in the basic model.
The graph below illustrates the random, short-term ups and downs you feel in your passion and attraction for someone. The ups and downs might come from
- forgetting things important to the partner
- daily life events
- spending a lot of time together
- and so on
The time scales of these ups and downs could be hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, or any time scale.
The ups and downs that affect passion and attraction also affect other feelings, as represented in the graph below. These ups and downs result from the same causes of the ups and downs to one’s passion and attraction.
I expect these ups and downs create much of the uncertainty and anxiety in a relationship. Smoothing them out with these methods would promote stability.
Getting to know a partner helps you smooth out the ups and downs you feel for them. The green line in the graph below illustrates how your ups and downs might decrease over time compared to the yellow line, whose ups and downs stay constant in amplitude.
- improving conflict resolution
- anticipating short-term problems through experience
Alternatively, someone who wants the most excitement possible and is willing to risk a relationship’s stability might do the opposite of smoothing.
Since in the graph above the amplitude of the noise on the green line decreases in time, it’s highest on the left of the graph. Note the high green point at the far left. Chance alone led to a point of high passion and attraction.
What might lead to outlying points like that? You might expect them to arise from things like stormy fights, making up afterward, alcohol, and the like. The risk of getting such high points from avoiding smoothing things out is that you increase your chances of getting equally low points.
On the other hand, if you sense you are near the peak of a relationship’s passion and attraction, the lowest your passion and attraction will go below the peak, even for high amplitude noise, would still be well above average. But the noise peaks combined with the overall cycle peak might reach levels impossible to reach otherwise. In other words, purposefully doing risky and wild things near the best times of great relationships might give you rewarding once-in-a-lifetime experiences, risking only mediocre but still rewarding experiences in the process.
Again, neither the P-AM nor I recommend acting wild and crazy and risking you relationships. The model only suggests such strategies could work. Only you can decide whether you want to act on them or not.
Wrapping up the model in one-relationship: A reasonable goal
We can now combine several of the effects modeled so far to find a reasonable goal if we want a stable long-term relationship. Besides a high peak and long duration, we’d want the green line in the graph below:
- Unlike the blue line, the green line doesn’t decay to zero
- Unlike the yellow line, the green line has ups and downs, which one seem too inevitable to ignore
- Unlike the red line, the green line’s ups and downs smooth out over time.
In other words, the green line has a long-term foundation to keep passion and attraction up later in life and it smooths out the rough edges over time.
I hope today’s graphs and discussion help you visualize your passion and attraction emotional cycles in relationships and help you plan your behavior and understanding to improve your life and relationships.
Since few of us have only one intimate relationship in our lifetime, tomorrow we’ll look at your personal growth from the perspective of the Passion-Attraction Model.
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
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