The 2 Most Dangerous Points in Every Romantic Relationship Revealed

dangerous coupleEveryone knows what happens to passionate loves: It fades. You start off with fireworks, breathless declarations of love, wild monkey sex every single day. And it only lasts 12 to 18 months. As comedian Aziz Ansari describes it in his new book Modern Love, "If passionate love is the coke of love, companionate love is like having a glass of wine or smoking a few hits of some mild weed." But not everyone makes it to companionate love.


"Wait, wait, wait," you're saying. "Did you just cite a book on relationships written by a comedian? Isn't Aziz Ansari that 'treat yo self' guy from Parks and Recreation? Why would anyone take his love advice?"

These are all good questions. Yes, Ansari is that "treat yo self" guy. But he wrote Modern Romance with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg, and it's actually a pretty well-researched book. So we decided to find out what this 32-year-old, never-married comedian has to say about transitioning out of passionate love and into companionate love.

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Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt describes two dangerous points in romantic relationships. The first happens when you're at the peak of passion and make rash decisions based on that high, like moving in together too soon. The second point is when that passionate love starts to fade. "This is when you start coming down off that initial high, and you start worrying about whether this really is the right person." 

At that point some couples break up, "without ever giving companionate love a chance to bloom." And that seems to be the key. Companionate love isn't something you just grimly hunker down into. It's something that blooms, which means it grows.

Companionate love isn't an end point. Check out Haidt's graphics on passionate and companionate love. I've recreated it crudely here. The red is the passionate love and the blue is the companionate love. There's a reason why I never became a graphic designer.

compassionate love companionate love

What I love about this graph is that companionate love grows slowly over time. As Haidt put it to Ansari, one way to think about a satisfying marriage is to take the view that "the best life is about building a story." He continues:

Some of the greatest joys of life come from nurturing and from what's called 'generativity.' people have strong strivings to build something, to do something, to leave something behind.

In a lot of marriages, you get to a point where you don't feel like you're building toward anything. You fell like you're treading water, or you're sliding backwards, even. But that doesn't last forever. You keep pushing forward, you keep trying, and if you're both sincerely engaged, you realize what you were feeling was growing pains, and you're stronger than ever.

Where do you feel like you are on the passionate/companionate chart?


Image via jazzikov/Shutterstock 

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