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Many gay men in both short and long-term relationships report concern when the romance and passion in their partnerships decline or "dry up", leading them to question themselves and fear for the future of their relationships. An unfortunate consequence of this is that many men break up with their partners prematurely at this point, have affairs, or turn to some form of addiction to cope under the mistaken notion that something is defective or wrong in their relationships. This article is the first in a two-part series and will describe how this phenomenon is a normal occurrence in healthy relationship development and how you can assess your own "relationship red flags" that could reinforce a passionless relationship with your boyfriend or partner.
WHAT IS PASSION DROUGHT?
"There's no more passion or excitement in our relationship. It used to be so hot, but now it's distant and empty. I feel like we're drifting apart." "I'm so bored in this relationship. We do the same things all the time and it's gotten so mundane and stale." These are but a couple of examples of passion drought, that time in your relationship when the chemistry and intrigue between you and your partner diminishes and more effort is required to sustain the "heat" that initially drew you to each other. But as you will see, this is a normal and expected part of all intimate relationships; it's not necessarily a warning sign that something's wrong as it is more about the fact that you're experiencing a "growth spurt" in a relationship that is maturing.
In their book "The Male Couple: How Relationships Develop" (1984), D.P. McWhirter and A.M. Mattison pioneered a model on gay couple development that conceptualized six stages that gay couples can progress through as their relationships mature and grow. The first two stages are pertinent in explaining the decline of passion that occurs, a phenomenon called limerence they cite.
Stage 1 is called "Blending", also known as the honeymoon phase. This is the period of time in which you first meet each other and begin a dating relationship. Romance and that "high" of exhilaration and euphoria are at their peak during this phase, which typically lasts about a year. You and your partner think about each other constantly, can't wait to see and spend time with each other, and have lots of energy for shared activities and sex.
Then Stage 2 hits, called "Nesting", and this typically occurs during the second and third years of couplehood. This is marked by a strengthened commitment to each other, but it is also characterized by the power struggle. Here, the intensity of passion and attraction becomes replaced with conflict and more awareness of your differences, as individual and relational issues surface. These issues are no longer distracted or disguised by the force of initial chemistry. However, what may seem like relationship dysfunction is really growth in the form of each partner developing a sense of self as an individual and as a partner in a couple. Upon resolution of this phase brings the rewards of deeper commitment, growth, and intimacy. It is a normal and necessary developmental stage of being in a relationship, though more attention and effort will be needed to cultivate and sustain that passion that seemed so natural in the beginning.
BLOCKS TO PASSION
While this is indeed a natural state of all relationships, there are some additional factors that could be at play for a lack of passion in a relationship. What follows are but a few possible symptoms underlying passionless relationships. These can be subtle and hidden, or overt in the sense that they can amplify the conflicts in the power struggle phase.
·changed or misplaced priorities; the relationship comes second to some other influence
·lack of time available to attend to the relationship; lack of quality time spent together
·buying into the stereotype that long-term gay relationships don't last
·internalized homophobia, low self-esteem, and low confidence
·unresolved childhood issues being displaced into the relationship
·infidelity and/or developing attractions or feelings for another person other than your partner
·hidden resentments, hurts, and misunderstandings not being expressed
·communication break-downs and poor conflict negotiation practices
·verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse of any kind
·difficulties with trust and closeness; intimacy fears including fears of rejection, abandonment, engulfment, and being vulnerable
·codependency; attending solely to your partner's needs at the expense of your own; lack of a separate sense of self or identity
·lack of personal vision for your life and lacking goals; confusion about who you are, what you stand for, and what you want out of life
·weak interpersonal and assertiveness skills; feeling your needs aren't valid
·routine and repetition of daily living with minimal change or newness being introduced into the relationship; brings about feelings of stagnation and boredom
·life stressors, adjustments, transitions, crises, or losses
·emotional problems, substance abuse or other addictions, or sexual dysfunction
·being in the wrong relationship; genuine incompatibility
·failure to completely grieve and "let go" of a prior relationship
Add your own to this list and assess where you stand on these issues.
The important first step in bringing more passion into your relationship is to set the foundation first, and by addressing the above issues, you'll be well on your way to preparing for increased intimacy. Any of the above items can sabotage your efforts if not attended to. It might be helpful to ask yourself these questions as well as you evaluate where you and your relationship are:
1. What's missing in my relationship? In what ways am I unfulfilled?
2. How am I contributing to my own unhappiness?
3. Have I discussed my concerns with my partner?
4. Do I like my partner? Have I taken the time and devoted energy to really knowing him?
5. Am I projecting onto my partner what I want him to be as opposed to who he really is? (Remember, you cannot change your partner! You can only be responsible for your own behavior)
6. What would my ideal relationship with my partner look like if I woke up tomorrow morning and it looked "perfect"?
In Part 2 of this article, intimacy-building strategies and passion-building activities will be offered to help bring more aliveness to your relationship. In the interim, begin removing the barriers to intimacy that you may have that may be undermining the resources your relationship has. Even if your relationship is vital and passionate now, any number of the passion blocks or issues that exist in your life can compromise the future of your partnership. And have faith, remembering that there can be no growth without conflict!
© Dr. Brian L. Rzepczynski, The Gay Love Coach