- The intensity of passionate love drives the desire to spend time together and propels relationships forward.
- Feelings of passionate love may fade, but behaviors endure.
- Actions speak louder than words so be supportive, helpful, warm, and let your partner have some "wins."
When you’re falling in love, the mere thought of your partner brings a smile to your face and a flutter to your stomach. You feel downright giddy.
That’s passionate love.
It feels amazing. But it’s more than that. Passionate love motivates us to spend every possible moment together. That connection propels the relationship forward. We hope it never ends.
Then life gets in the way.
Following that initial honeymoon period, passionate love naturally fizzles over time (Sheets, 2014). Those excited feelings simply get less exciting. You may feel like you’re falling out of love. That can leave your relationship vulnerable.
Feelings may dissipate, but behaviors endure.
Read that again because there’s a key lesson there. We habituate to feelings (e.g., the thousandth time you ride a rollercoaster isn’t as exciting as the first). While we can’t control how powerful our feelings are or how quickly they may dissipate, we can control our behaviors.
For our relationship’s benefit, it’s essential to learn which relationship behaviors coincide with passionate love. If we find those, we can help maintain passionate love longer.
The Behaviors of Love
To see what behaviors make passionate love so beneficial, researchers checked in daily with nearly 400 dating and newlywed couples over a two-week period (Mizrahi et al., 2022).
First, the easy part. As expected, study participants who endorsed statements like “I want this person physically, emotionally, mentally” and “I would rather be with this person than anyone else” experienced more passionate love. Those feelings were associated with feeling more committed, attached, and linked to their partner. Passionate love makes relationships better.
Passionate Love Benefit 1: The researchers found that individuals who felt more passionate love, also viewed their partners more favorably (i.e., thought they were better people). In other words, passionate love helps us see more of our partner's good traits. That’s super helpful, because as couples spend more time together it becomes increasingly easy to focus on the negatives. You know, the stuff your partner does to annoy you, their bad habits, personality quirks, etc. Purposefully focusing on the positives (i.e., having a positivity bias), short-circuits the negativity. The positives are there, we just have to take the time to notice them.
Passionate Love Benefit 2: When you like someone, it’s easier to want to do nice things for them. That was true in the study as well. Those who had more positive views of their partner were more willing to do things that helped the relationship. Pro-relationship behaviors are the little things partners do to help their relationship run smoothly, avoid problems, and counteract conflict.
The funny thing about passionate love providing these key benefits is that early in a relationship (when passion is naturally high), all of this is less necessary. Early on, everything seems perfect anyway, so being positive and helpful is easy to do. The tricky part happens later on. As the relationship matures and those strong feelings fade, passionate love’s two benefits become increasingly important.
Make This Work For You
Here’s how to use those behavioral benefits to give your relationship a boost:
See Your Partner More Positively. Look for your partner’s good behavior (it’s there, promise!):
- Give your partner the benefit of the doubt. Assume the best.
- “Today, my partner did something so we would enjoy spending time together.”
- “Today my partner showed physical affection to me.”
- “Today, my partner did something to have fun with me.”
- Look for their good traits, focusing on qualities that demonstrate warmth/trustworthiness (“understanding,” “supportive,” “considerate,” “kind”), their mate value (“adventurous,” “outgoing,” “sexy,” “attractive” “successful,” “dresses well”).
- Generally, see the relationship in a “glass is half full” way. Be optimistic.
This approach helps overcome our natural negativity bias, where we tend to focus on what’s wrong (Rozin & Royzman, 2001).
Pro-Relationship Behaviors. As they say, actions speak louder than words. Here’s what you can do:
- Help your partner out. Bonus points if they don’t even know you’re helping.
- Let your partner win. You don’t always have to get your way.
- Being thoughtful and considerate toward your partner.
- Do things that show your partner how much they mean to you.
- Be warm, kind, and affectionate.
- Go out of your way to “be there” for your partner.
- Specific ideas: surprising your partner with their favorite meal, hiding a love note that they’ll find during the day, doing one of their chores for them, ask them how their day went, and really listen to them, let them pick the show you’re going to watch, and buying them a special treat at the store.
The Take Home Message
Passionate love feels good, but that’s not what makes it so great. The power of passionate love is that it encourages us to think about our partner and relationships differently. Specifically, more positively. Early on, that’s easy. The key is to be more intentional about engaging in these behaviors as our relationship develops and matures.
Mizrahi, M., Lemay, E. P., Maniaci, M. R., & Reis, H. T. (2022). Seeds of love: Positivity bias mediates between passionate love and prorelationship behavior in romantic couples. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 39(7), 2207–2227. https://doi.org/10.1177/02654075221076002
Rozin, P., & Royzman, E. B. (2001). Negativity bias, negativity dominance, and contagion. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 5(4), 296–320. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327957PSPR0504_2
Sheets, V. L. (2014). Passion for life: Self-expansion and passionate love across the life span. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 31(7), 958–974. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407513515618