The Happy Couple [Preview]

The key to keeping the magic alive in a marriage, experts say, is finding ways to promote the positive

Promoting Passion
Like gratitude, feelings of passion can strengthen our bonds with others. Many people equate passion with a desperate longing, suggested by song lyrics such as “I can't live without you” and “I can't concentrate when you're not around.” But such unbridled or obsessive passion is not conducive to a healthy relationship, according to work by social psychologist Robert Vallerand of the University of Quebec at Montreal. On the contrary, obsessive passion—a type that seems to control you—is as detrimental to the relationship, making it less satisfying sexually and otherwise, as having no passion.

A healthy passion—a voluntary inclination toward an activity or person that we love and value—does provide benefits, however. In recent studies using the Romantic Passion Scale, a questionnaire that measures harmonious and obsessive passion, Vallerand found that harmonious passion helps couples relate better, in part, by enabling them to become intimate with their partner while maintaining their own identity, which helps to foster a more mature partnership. Their intimacy enables them to continue to pursue their own hobbies and interests rather than subjugating their own sense of self to an excessive attachment to the other person. (Previous research by Vallerand and his colleagues revealed that harmonious passion for activities leads to cognitive and emotional advantages, such as better concentration, a more positive outlook and better mental health. No one has yet studied whether these benefits spill over to our romantic relationships, however.)

You can cultivate healthy passion by joining your partner in a pursuit that both of you enjoy, Vallerand suggests. Engaging in exhilarating activities with another person has been shown to boost mutual attraction. Avoid serious competition because the point of the outing should not be winning but enjoying time together. Another tip: write down and share with your partner some of the reasons why you love him or her and why your relationship is important.

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