What can we learn from the Passion-Attraction Model?
Understanding the Passion-Attraction Model and its consequences can help you understand yourself and your partners, on your own and in relationships if you feel it describes you well. (If you don’t, it may not help you, though it may help you understand your partners if they feel it describes them.) It can help you navigate your emotions and relationships and choose your behavior and partners.
You don’t have to adopt it verbatim. Like all models, it has flaws and oversimplifications, but so does any other model you would use to understand your emotions in relationships. Understanding this model may help you create a better one for your purposes.
The Passion-Attraction Model suggests strategies for your life and relationships. Here are some of the more effective things it suggests you can do to make your relationships enduring and stable. You probably know most of them as effective guidelines. Now you know them in the context of a visual model.
Know yourself and your partners. Understanding your emotional system helps you understand many parts of your life. This model helps you visualize how your emotions evolve, clarifying understanding and reducing confusion.
Create long-term sources of passion and attraction to keep the tail from decaying to zero, especially things that short-term relationships can’t do, like knowing small, subtle things that make your partner happy, knowing what excites your partner, giving, dressing how your partner likes, and so on.
The tail, by the way, is the passion and attraction that remains after the peak is over that decreases if you don’t work at it, but rarely fades away to zero. I should have put it earlier, but this graph illustrates tails:
Increase the tail by creating other internal sources of stability and comfort, especially Other Feelings that short-term relationships can’t create, like understanding, support, trust, intimacy, vulnerability, etc.
Increase the tail by creating other external sources of stability and comfort, especially Other Events that short-term relationships can’t create, like sharing resources, having children, living together, public vows, etc.
Be aware of how external things beyond your control can affect your relationships, like the economy, aging, your jobs, your friends and families, etc. Their effects may dwarf the effects of passion and attraction.
Reduce uncertainty in your future with a partner by reducing the noise. Relationships have short-term ups and downs. Things like knowing how to resolve conflict more effectively, anticipating predictable problems, etc.
Communicate — both to understand and to be understood. You can never communicate or understand perfectly so you have to do the best you can. Sometimes that means listening more, sometimes talking more.
Be aware of the system. Being human means having an emotional system that feels passion and attraction to others whether you want to or not. Feeling attraction means feeling motivation to move toward someone even if you committed to someone else.
Understand your partner, even when you disagree. Understanding doesn’t mean agreement or support. The model applies to you as well as someone else. You know how passion and attraction feel so, no matter how much you don’t like something your partner did, you can still understand their motivation and communicate that understanding. You will influence them better if they know you understand them.
Avoid creating unrealistic expectations. If you choose to commit or become exclusive, be wary of setting expectations that you or your partner won’t still feel passion or attraction. Unrealistic expectations can ruin a relationship that could otherwise handle unforeseen events.
Be personally prepared for loss. If your commitment or exclusivity gamble doesn’t pay off and you or your partner finds someone exciting more passion and attraction, you or your partner may have to learn to accept the loss. If the losing person loves the other, they might take comfort in knowing the other will be happier. Painful as it sounds, doesn’t love mean wanting happiness for your partner?
You may not want what others do.
- The model suggests exclusivity creates more stability at some times, non-exclusivity at others.
- You may not want stability. Someone who can successfully create new relationships might go from one to the next and experience peak after peak of passion and attraction. Or maybe you want to experiment, try new things, and learn.
- You may not want intimacy. Others may find greater joy in other parts of life — jobs, sports, hobbies, travel, etc — than from intimate relationships. Only you know what creates what emotional reward in you and your ability to create it.
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