I’m starting a new series today on a new model, this time on passion and attraction. Everyone I showed it to told me it gave them useful insights, so I expect you’ll find value in it too. I’ll apply the model mainly to intimate relationships, but you can also apply it to anything that evokes passion, attraction, or both, like hobbies, jobs, sports, and so on.
So what does a science-trained, leadership-minded, self-awareness and emotional-intelligence focused guy have to say about passion and attraction?
I’ll start by showing this picture of my Passion-Attraction Model as a taste of things to come, for now without explanation, except that I expect you’ll find life-improving insight from a fresh and simple perspective.
I find visualizing things makes understanding complex things easier. This model shows one way I visualize how passion and attraction evolve over time. Later we’ll see the consequences of how those feelings change.
I also showed the graph early to show something (I hope) visually appealing and intriguing before some caveats I have to cover to avoid later potential misunderstandings.
Qualifications and caveats
First I’ll clarify a few points people always ask me about before they come up.
It’s a model, not the real thing.
Before emailing me the model leaves out important information or disagrees with how you see things, please note this series presents a model of something, not reality. I’m not telling you how to think or how things are, just giving you an alternative to how you think now. If it improves your life, enjoy it. If not, you can let it go, but I recommend understanding it if you care about passion, attraction, and intimate relationships.
I’ve written about models at length in this blog. My most relevant and informative posts on models in general are “Models in General” and “A model that all models are flawed but inevitable.” They go into more depth on models and will help put the Passion-Attraction Model in context.
For thoroughness, I’ll note here my working definition that a model is a simplification of something for a purpose.
Simplification means models throw out information, which sounds problematic, but since our minds can’t comprehend everything at once, we can’t avoid simplifying. Any alternative way of looking at something throws out information too. All models, in that sense, have flaws. But, like a subway map that throws out street information to clarify subway routes, useful models can achieve their purposes more effectively for having less information.
Having a purpose means the only measure of a model’s value is how well it serves its purpose.
The Passion-Attraction Model’s main purpose is to help visualize and think about one aspect of the human emotional system — passion and attraction — and thereby help you live your life better. A side goal is to be easily communicated and understood.
Like any model it may be useful for some purposes but not others, or for some people but not others, or for you at one time but not at another. If it doesn’t work for you, you don’t have to use it.
Your experiences or goals may differ.
When I explain the Passion-Attraction Model you may find it inconsistent with your experience of passion and attraction. Or you may have different goals than its purposes help with. In those cases it may not help you. If you find it consistent with your experiences and goals, I expect it will help you in life and relationships.
Even if it doesn’t fit with your experience or goals, it may fit with your partners’ and help you understand them. Or you might be able to change it to make it work better for you.
Personally I find it useful for understanding myself better and communicating this part of relationships to others.
It models your feelings, not your behavior.
Note that the P-AM plots how you feel, not how you act in the moment or long-term strategy. Knowing your feelings, however, as a major part of self-awareness, helps guide your behavior and strategy.
Relationships involve more than passion and attraction. Focusing on them doesn’t mean the other parts mean less.
When talking about relationships, if I ask someone if they’re hungry they don’t think I forgot about their other motivations and feelings. For some reason if I bring up passion and attraction they consistently remind me there’s more to relationships than just those things.
So let’s explicitly note that relationships involve many things beyond passion and attraction. By only treating passion and attraction this model and I don’t mean those other things are less important. They are often more important. The all affect each other. As you’ll see I’ll meander among perspectives you could call reductionist, holistic, both, and neither.
I’ll refer to two main classes of other parts of relationships often so for easy reference I’ll call them: Other Feelings and Other Events.
Relationships evoke many other feelings than passion and attraction — more than I can mention, but love, hate, caring, support, anger, trust, intimacy, anxiety, and many more come to mind.
When I refer to “Other Feelings,” I mean these other relevant emotions.
Many things will influence your relationships — more than I can mention, but age, jobs, marriages, biological clocks ticking, kids, friends, family, the economy, school, and many more come to mind.
When I refer to “Other Events,” I mean these other relevant events.
The basic Passion-Attraction Model
I’ll close today’s post with the basic P-AM in slightly more detail than above. The next few posts will explore it and its consequences more.
This plot illustrates the most basic elements of the passion and attraction many people feel when they feel passion and attraction for someone. Again, it doesn’t apply to everyone in all cases. As a model it illustrates a general case, avoiding details like a subway map showing no street-level information, making it more useful.
The horizontal axis shows time. Sometimes this cycle grows and fades in days or even one night, sometimes over a lifetime. I don’t quantify the time axis in order that this plot could apply to all time frames.
The vertical axis shows the amount of passion and attraction one feels at a given time. Since I don’t have an objective unit to quantify feelings, I don’t quantify that axis. (The scientist in me prefers to deal with at least in principle measurable quantities so I’ll note that in principle one could record many people’s reported feelings toward someone to whom they feel passion and attraction on a numerical scale over time and plot averages. Perhaps researching this model could earn an enterprising student a doctorate.)
EDIT: While writing this series, I came across this plot of a man’s texting behavior with his now ex-girlfriend on Reddit’s Data Is Beautiful page in this thread. It looks like someone found an interesting way to create data to check the model against nature.
- Declines, and
- Fades away over time.
Passion and attraction don’t always rise and fall just as illustrated. Sometimes those feelings die in a moment. Sometimes they plateau for a long time or even rise for one’s whole life, never declining. If you’ve experienced these four stages, though, or know others who have, this graph and those to follow, however schematic, will likely yield useful insight.
We’d like relationships where our passion stays high our whole lives. I haven’t witnessed relationships that worked that way, though I’m sure some exist. In any case, the Other Feelings like trust, understanding, intimacy, and so on tend to increase with time, so the sum of all your relationship emotions will often increases overall even if the passion and attraction alone decrease.
Likewise Other Events come into play too, like your job, your partner’s life events, biological clocks ticking, possibly marriage, possibly kids, possibly the economy, and so on. Their effects on your emotions may dwarf your passion for one person.
Also, passion doesn’t “just happen.” You feel passion in relationships in proportion to what you put into them. As I’ve written before, you don’t find passion, you create it with your behavior and beliefs. You also contribute to how high the peak gets.
As simple as the basic model appears, it has a lot of flexibility. Tomorrow we’ll look at variations on the basic model and what they show.
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